Some musicians wear their influences on their sleeves. Others actually name important acts in their own material.
Nate Leavitt does a little bit of both on his upcoming EP with The Elevation, Someone Send a Signal, due April 22.
“Relieve Me” features a snarling electric guitar sound and ornery Leavitt solos that both come right out of the Neil Young playbook.
“I like the idea of using small amps — and a few them — cranked up,” the Boston-based Leavitt says. “And I love Neil Young — the acoustic side and the Crazy Horse side.”
Then there’s the ballad “When I Was With You,” a look back at a lost love in which Leavitt mentions artists and songs that mattered in the relationship. In the first verse, Leavitt sings, “Do you remember hearing Roy Orbison/I sang ‘In Dreams’ to you while you cried/I’ll never listen to that song in the same way/Like I did when I was with you.”
That’s not a random reference or scenario.
“The person I was involved with at the time — I literally did sing ‘In Dreams’ to her while she cried,” Leavitt says. “Those are some heavy memories.”
Leavitt has spent most of his career as a lead guitarist and backup singer for such New England bands as Delta Clutch, OldJack and Parlour Bells. Although he’s been writing songs for a long time, he only stepped into the lead-vocalist role a few years ago. In 2014, he released the solo album You, Me and the Silence.
“Most of my lyrics are extremely personal and literal,” he says. “I do drop some metaphorical stuff in there, but the majority of it is straight ahead and to the point. It’s just what it is. I found that was the only way I could comfortable as a singer and a lyricist was to be brutally honest.”
Coincidentally, “When I Was With You” and “I Can Breathe Again” feature arrangements that are similar to another Orbison hit, “Running Scared.”
“We just wanted to have them grow and build up,” Leavitt says, “where things are added in each verse and chorus, and toward the end, all of the instruments are charging.”
During the charge in “I Can Breathe Again,” Leavitt plays an extended solo that “goes off into this soaring, twisted place” that he likens to the end of Prince’s “Purple Rain” or Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”
“It’s a totally self-indulgent moment for me,” he says with a laugh.
— By Chris M. Junior
Nate Leavitt on tour (schedule subject to change):
• April 15: Bowery Electric — New York
• May 6: Q Division Studios — Somerville, Massachusetts
• June 18: Standing Sun Live — Buellton, California
Photo by Johnny Anguish