Nathaniel Rateliff opens up about his alcoholic days and personal struggle which led him to his new LP
Nathaniel David Rateliff is a songwriter and singer whose music takes on the folk, Americana, and vintage rhythm blues. Rateliff got a lot of attention with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, the soulful R&B combo he formed in 2013. Rateliff has not had the easiest life and had struggled with a severe alcohol addiction before he was able to get clean and make music.
As reported by Rolling Stone, Rateliff said, "The last three years have changed me so much," as he reflected on his journey to success. So far he has a gold debut album, many worldwide tours, a hit single SOB which he introduced with the Night Sweats about alcoholic desperation, to late-night America on The Tonight Show in August 2015.
"I feel like I have a different responsibility than I had three years ago – to my craft, the people around me and now an audience. My job is to be totally honest, to be open and available to the people we perform for. At some point, all of this moves beyond ourselves. Now we're part of this shared experience at a show, listening to music together. It's a thing that I hope reaches people that way."
Rateliff shared details of his early life in Hermann including the extremely strict Christian upbringing that he had. "Strict in the sense of "Yes, sir," "No, ma'am," "Please" and "You're welcome." At the same time, we'd be driving down a gravel road. Dad would stop and say, "We're going swimming." We'd strip down to our underwear and jump in the creek. He definitely had some problems, but he was a sweet, caring guy."
"We were too broke. Whenever we had a vacation, we went camping, because it was free. My dad would hunt while we were doing it. Once I thought he was walking back with a turkey. He was trying to fool everybody. It was actually a [tree] stump. It wasn't turkey season. But he would have shot one, poached it for sure. He hunted a lot of squirrel," he shared.
He also spoke about the death of his father when Rateliff was only 13-years-old. "We were already really close," he said about his mother. "My dad loved my older sister. I was the one who got the short end of the stick. So my sister was devastated when my father passed away. It was a freak accident on his way to church. My mom was the worship leader, the bandleader. My dad, sister and I all played in the band. He was on his way to church. We were starting the service, and he didn't show up. The hospital called the church. By the time we got there, he had passed."
When Rateliff was younger he revealed that he battled an alcohol addiction which cost him many important things. His addiction fueled his hit single SOB which he had written with the Night Sweats.
"I was in London [on a tour]. I was drinking a lot. I had it pretty bad. It was over a liter of booze a day – by myself. I remember waking up one morning, and I had an email from my wife. She just said, "Don't come home." I couldn't figure out why. I couldn't remember this thing that had happened. When I got that email, I knew I fucked up, because I'd been drinking like crazy. And I just quit.
"I had really bad delirium tremens. We were still trying to do interviews. My manager at the time put me on a train. I didn't have a phone or anything – he put a note in my pocket. "If you find my friend and he's having problems, call my number." I was so hungover that I had to have a drink. I thought this happened to old men. I thought this was what grandpas do. It was horrible.
"I wrote the song years later. Some of it, I was talking about my relationship. But I was also talking about excess, trying to get a grip on things," he shared.