On The Loop: Ethan Nathaniel - Local Wolves


From a small home studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ethan Nathaniel sat with his cat, telling me about his art and the quiet that came from making music in his house. Nathaniel is a quiet man all around, his music often the same. Slow luminescent soundscapes, his folk voice amplified through an echo feature under warm piano. He holds each note with a long resonance—Nathaniel’s music is the type for falling asleep, or waiting out the rain in an equally quiet place. 

Nathaniel has been making music for years, his oldest releases dating back to 2018. When asked about his beginnings with music, he told me about his childhood which intersected into a conversation about North Carolina, and the many ways its landscape built his sound. The land around his music has been featured in both his production and his music videos—which often featured low-rolling fields, and black and white trails, or slow wind. When asked about North Carolina’s music scene, he emphasized how collaborative it had been. Often, Nathaniel would work with his close friends or other creatives in the city. He highlighted that while the music scene in Charlotte felt small at times, it was filled with diverse forms of art, music and cinematography. The majority of Nathaniel’s work is home-recorded, in a studio with a bed for his cat, many posters, a life-size cut-out which starred far into the screen from the back of our call, and a sprawl of music equipment. Mid-conversation, we had abandoned our interview for a moment so he could show me trinkets and objects around the space. In many ways, Nathaniel was what I had expected from his art. Though, there was a humor to him that a listener can only really see in a few sharp twists or coy lines in his lyrics. His projects are often created with months of preparation, his 2021 EP even known to have taken two-years to produce. When asked about his pressure surrounding timelines, he emphasized an interest in focusing only on the art. He carried an ability to be calm and unfazed by my curiosities about pressures for fame within the music world. Nathaniel’s focus was only on producing great art, the cost of time was no concern. One of the benefits of a small and loyal fanbase, was that he had the freedom to take his time and make work both he, and his listeners would feel fit his trajectory. No need to stress over appeasing major labels or fighting for a spot on any top-chart, the ability that being a smaller musician, primarily smaller folk musician gave him, was the chance to put authenticity before anything else.

When discussing more about the ideas of fame becoming some form of automatic goal as a musician, he shared that this wasn’t a worry he’d had for his music in quite a while, leading to a candid conversation about our differences in ages and life stages—how fame can drive us when we have yet to produce much art, but the more we make, the more the desire for fame dissipates. That’s the hope at least. Within his personal life, Nathaniel cited his partner, friends, family and cat as driving inspirations during down-spells of momentum. Stating that nature, film, and art helped to move the wheel when needed. Nathaniel is continuing to think about his next path for music, with the official deluxe version for Sidelines, his 7-track release from earlier this year finally hitting streaming platforms. Aside from hosting an album release party in Charlotte during early July and hunting down new places to perform, he is taking things one day at a time, spending much time with his cat.

Words: Avery Nowicki

Photography: Isaiah Pate

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