Interview: Nathan Bell

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“I had an unusual childhood—I’m the son of an immigrant’s son, my grandfather came here from Ukraine and established a life.  I think the farther removed you get from the immigrant experience, the less you realize how lucky you are,” says Nathan Bell, who uses his skillful songwriting to champion the plight of the working man.  “My father is a poet and a professor, the first in his family to go to college.  He was always kind of a working guy who happened to be a writer. When I was young, he taught me that if I had work to do, I was lucky.  Despite the fact that I was raised by a university professor, he was the guy who was proudest of me for going to work.”

And work he did; Bell started earning money doing odd jobs at ten years old.  As with many who have musical aspirations, he ollowed his passion to the Music City; “I showed up with a publishing deal, I had a top-notch producer.  We made a record, and it never came out.  I always joke that we were like a bad ending to The Bachelor, I feel like Nashville should’ve given me a rose—we were not suited for each other,” he says with a laugh.  “People who made it back then were much more open to ideas of changing their work, and that wasn’t me. It’s a business, and if you come into like I did, as a writer, you either change to become a business man, or you part ways.  There’s a phenomenal amount of bullshit you have to put up with in the music business.”  Frustrated, Bell put down his pen and his guitar altogether in 1993. Overcoming his lack of a college degree, Bell found himself in a management position in a major telecom corporation for the next 15 years—until, he was, as he puts it, “shitcanned” from his cozy corporate job.

But, as they say, everything happens for a reason.

In 2008, Bell dusted off his guitar and took the cap off of his pen once again; on May 20th he will release I Don’t Do This For Love, I Do This For Love, his third in a trilogy of albums.  On the record, which Bell says is more like a pack of wolves than a collection of songs, he sings about laborers economically displaced by the the rebirth of cities they’ve worked to build, or the familial camaraderie experienced by men who toil in the Kentucky coal mines together.  Bell has expertly crafted thirteen stunners detailing hardship and pride, and in the process, has become the bullhorn for a neglected population.   “The people who work hard every day have no voice anymore.  The only time they have a voice is when they’re being used as an expendable commodity to drive stock prices up. That shouldn’t be how this country operates,” he declares.  “In my songs, every person is weary, but optimistic.  I think that’s what you’ll find when you talk to the people who go to work every day, they fundamentally believe it’s going to get better.”

“It’s men and women—white, black, Latino, and immigrants of all cultures who are keeping America going. So I sing about them.  And, really, these are my people, people who work,” he adds.  “My job is that of a witness; who knows if it makes any difference at all? It’s the only thing I really know how to do.”

Purchase I Don’t Do This For Love, I Do This For Lovehttps://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-dont-do-this-for-love-i/id1062448468

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Susan Hubbard

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