Nathan Colt Young: Keepin' it Country
Nathan Colt Young, yes sir, that is his real name, not a stage name, created to appeal to the country and western crowd that he sings and plays for. This multi-talented performer comes by his country music sound naturally, as he was born and raised in the small ghost town of Delhi, Texas, which as the crow flies, is 35 miles southeast of Austin.
The Young family homeplace is just about as Texas country as you can get, a dozen or more miles to any settlement; trees, rolling hills, and pastures abound. The property is the site of an old cotton gin from the early 1900s, with some of the outbuildings still standing (barely). Pulling through the gate, into the yard of a shaded comfortable house, Nathan is standing beside his gently used pick-up truck wearing his boots, jeans, plaid shirt, and summer straw hat. After a firm handshake, he says to follow him up to a special spot where we can talk.
Driving up a single-lane dirt road, skirting the puddles and passing a /Y (Slash Y) brand-type sign, we climb a gentle hill and park under an elm tree. We are in front of an oblong tin building with chicken wire stretching, on both sides, the length between the roof and a three-foot tin wall creating a hilltop breezeway. It is a former commercial chicken house that Nathan has converted into a rustic “Man Cave.”
There are beer signs, music signs, concert posters (some with NCY on them), photos of Johnny Cash and other famed musicians. Some worn, yet comfortable furniture, stools, and tables make the perfect setting to interview this 29-year-old man on his love of music that harkens back to a time of sincere song presentation.
YOUNG NATHAN YOUNG
Doug and Diana Young are the parents of Nathan and Kayla Michelle (songwriter and author, who wrote her first children’s book Billy the Goat & Yis Barnyard Friends, illustrated by Nathan). Doug was a welder who traveled the world with his job and was exposed to many types of cultures other than the Texas oil patch. The widening possibilities for his children led to his belief that they should follow their dreams, and from his experiences in the rough and tumble oil patch, knew that Nathan should pursue something other than welding.
Doug’s jobs took him away from home for extended periods of time. Once when he was home, he walked down the hall hearing a piano plunking out a tune. Nathan who was 8 or 9 years old, was playing what to his parents sounded like classical music. At the time they didn’t question where he learned but later came to find out how. Nathan was raised in the time of Dish television reruns and VCR tapes; among his favorite videos were the old school versions of cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry. These were the originals which used symphonies performing classical music (Beethoven, Mozart, etc.) that the story was written around. Nathan would listen and reproduce the music on the piano. At the age of nine, he began taking lessons to accelerate his learning.
His family didn’t play music like some do, so the only music in the house was an old radio that stayed tuned to KKYX (Country Legends) out of San Antonio. Growing up he would listen intently and began mimicking the singers. Then he came across the movie Pure Country (starring George Strait) which had been released when Nathan was one year old. This movie proved to be the catalyst that made it clear to him that he wanted to be an entertainer but wasn’t sure what path to take to achieve it. After all he could sing, dance, act, draw and play multiple instruments.
He found a pink guitar lying around the house (probably his sister's) and began attempting to play it. Having no teacher except himself, he made little progress. A neighbor later gave him a regular six-string guitar which is hanging on the wall in his music vault. So now we have a pre-teen young man who unknowingly is versed in classical music on the piano, and the country sounds of the 1990s.
Nathan also found out that he loved to draw, at first he started with a stick figure and then started putting meat on the stick, as he describes it. He now paints and sketches all manners of subjects.
At church functions he demonstrated his singing and dancing skills which were admirable for such a young fellow. He often sang with the choir at the Delhi Baptist Church on Sundays when he was a young man. Junior and high school in Lockhart comes along and Nathan joins the marching and wind ensemble bands from the 6th grade to his senior year playing alto saxophone during marching band season and the baritone sax during wind ensemble.
The theatrical productions at the schools and a small theater in the Lockhart square called The Baker Theater got his attention and he participated in numerous plays and shows. His parents, seeing his interest in music and theatr, took him to New York City to see Broadway productions. In four years, Nathan saw over a dozen musicals and theatre productions.
During his high school years karaoke was on the rise and he began to sing at several venues in the area every Friday or Saturday night, learning stage craft and working on his voice. Today, one of his crowd pleasers is The Auctioneer Song, which he slipped into while being interviewed.
After graduating from high school, his parents asked him what his plans for the future were. With all the subtle grooming toward the fine arts and his parents being prepared to send him to a fine arts school, he shocked them by saying he wanted to go to college and major in welding technology. Nathan wanted to be a welder like his father since he has known how to weld since he was 13 years old. They said, "If that’s what you want to do, well, okay.” Those of you who aren’t familiar with welding, modern welding is a highly technical trade that takes a lot of education in metallurgy, knowledge of different gases, safety, and different methods for different kinds of metals. Nathan attended Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde majoring in Welding Technology.
LEARNIN' FROM THE BEST
While Nathan was at college, sitting around his dormitory being bored, he looked at his guitar sitting in the corner. He could play a few chords but didn’t really know the ins and outs of picking out a full song. Using YouTube, Nathan began learning how to play the many songs he loved by repeatedly listening intently to artists such as George Strait, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Chris Ledoux, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard to learn the phrasing and music of his idols. Nathan realized his parents’ generation love of music saying that he believes he has an “old soul.”
While he appreciates some of today’s newer “country” music and performs Texas/Red Dirt songs, his heart still lives in the past. He frequently watches old comedy shows such as The Three Stooges, Abbott & Costello, and The Marx Brothers. His favorite comedian is Red Skelton who ends his show with a saying that Nathan has adopted as his personal motto: "We are all put here for a purpose and that’s to build and not to destroy." As Nathan write his songs, he keeps that in mind.
Speaking of writing songs, Nathan gets his ideas from driving down the road and seeing a particularly beautiful vista or a situation where people are working together. Nathan also writes to provide his unknown listeners with the confidence to overcome personal obstacles and life situations, a kind of a country version of Dr. Phil he says. Nathan also rearranges known songs to make them his sound as if they were his own.
ON HIS OWN
After college he went to work with his father in the oil field down in South Texas, then Nathan fell in with a band that needed a lead singer and he was accepted; which proved to be another learning experience, this time in the business side of the music. Years later he decided to strike out on his own. Nathan started gigging and building up a band of his own along with his bass player, Ken Terry, who has been with Nathan since day one. Ken has been his right-hand man, road buddy companion, soundman, and a great person to Nathan for many years. Nathan began playing at local venues and began branching out with audition packages containing a bio and samples of his songs that he could give to potential venues.
As with most rural areas, word-of-mouth was the most fruitful promotion and soon the Nathan Colt Young Band was playing town festivals, private events, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and traveling to the International Chili Cook Off atTerlingua in far West Texas. He has even played at the “Grand Ole Opry of Texas”: Luckenbach Dance Hall.
After a couple of years on the road playing from venue to honkytonk bar, his fiddle player had to move on. To show how respected he was as a band leader, she recommended another veteran fiddler to replace her, Sean Orr (TPN April 2019). Sean auditioned and was hired on the spot. Sean is a full-time musician so it was agreed that he would play when he can, this arrangement has worked out fine for the last four years.
When Sean is unable to make a gig, Nathan secures another master fiddler, Keith Junot. Keith has been fiddling since Moby Dick was a minnow, following in his father’s footsteps, Ed Junot, the celebrated Cajun fiddler, and they have played in a who’s who of country and Cajun bands. At times, when the moon is right, both Sean and Keith join Nathan on stage for a powerful night of country music. Speaking of Cajun, Nathan and his father, Doug, went to a Cajun festival and were intrigued by the button accordions being played. Nathan promptly went out, bought one and has integrated that facet into his show. Nathan has a number of great musicians who play with him off and on, like Dayle Frerich, who played drums for Nathan for three years until his passing in October 2017.
On April 9, 2016 Nathan released his first album named Makin’ Memories, a six-track album, and in December 2018, he released his latest six-track album This Ole Bar.
Word of Nathan's excellence spread and he has opened for many numerous headliners such as Rick Trevino, Johnny Rodriguez, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Kevin Fowler. One of the reasons for his popularity is as a fellow musician commented, “Nathan has a strong and solid voice that doesn’t weaken throughout the night. His voice also has a wide range which enables him to sing many different artists songs while 'Keepin’ It Country'.” But then again, backstage he has busted out into an opera voice, thanks to Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Karen Kurtz, a regular at NCY dances, likes Nathan’s performance of good dance tunes. "I especially like I Wish You Were Here Tonight and Making Memories, both written by Nathan. He also does a great version of The Auctioneer. With Keith Junot on the fiddle and Sean Orr on lead guitar you know it’s gonna be a great dance He’s getting more versatile by playing the accordion and saxophone also" Karen said.
As Waylon Jennings wrote and sang, "Somebody told me, when I came to Nashville; Son, you finally got it made." Every young country musician aspires to “make it big in Nashville.” Nathan is no different. One day Sean and Nathan were talking about Sean’s years of playing near Nashville and it was decided that they would go to Nashville, with Sean as a guide.
In January 2019, they made the trip to “Music City” Tennessee (not to be confused with Music City, Sweet Home, Texas). Nathan verbally painted a picture of Sean and him walking down Broadway, the main drag in Nashville, with their instruments on their backs, looking for places to play as so many hopefuls have before them. Sean suggested getting a spot at The Bluebird Café, a famed listening room where Garth Brooks and Kathy Mattea first sang their songs in Nashville.
The competition to perform one song there is limited to only the most determined and only on Monday nights with a limit of 25 aspiring songwriters. To get the opportunity to pitch a song, Nathan had to, during a certain time (11am-noon) call a number repeatedly, until someone answered, and was given a number for performance order to sing that night.
Nathan's perseverance got him in and that night sang his self-penned I Wish You Were Here Tonight (the first song he wrote). Sean said that the tough audience welcomed Nathan quite heartily after his performance. In the next few days, they played a another open-mic place, Douglas’s Corner, and did the tourist thing. They returned to Texas with Nathan having an idea what the Nashville scene is all about.
As mentioned earlier, Nathan enjoys the theatre, both watching and performing. Continuing on in that vein, he enjoys attending Renaissance festivals in full garb (costume). His favorite is dressed as a fictional character he created and named Captain “Wild” Bill Bowlegs, cousin to the legendary fictional character movie pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. He attends a festival known as Sherwood Forest Faire, outside of McDade, and another festival north of Houston, the Texas Renaissance Festival.
One day at Sherwood Forest Faire, Nathan was having fun in his full garb and admiring an Irish band that was playing. During the band’s break, Nathan walked by the band and began squinting in his best pirate squint at one of the musicians in Irish garb. The musician stared back at him for a moment and then they called each other by name. “Sean!” “Nathan?!” The musician was Sean Orr, who frequently performs with a Celtic band at the festival. Needless to say, a large time was had by both of them.
Nathan’s talents have been described as a “Big Fish in a Small Pond” and soon hopes to break out into the larger sea of music. Nathan Colt Young is a regular at Sweet Home and at Watterson Hall and invites you to come participate in a real Texas dance hall experience at these two venues, as well as others, such as Schroeder Hall, where he'll be performing on Sat., Dec. 7. Check the TPN and polkabeat calendar, as well as his website, www.nathancoltyoung.com and Facebook page under Nathan Colt Young for upcoming shows.
Nathan wants to thank all of his followers and his family for supporting him in all aspects of entertaining his fans.