Successful TAXI member Nathan Nasby
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Penticton, B.C., Canada, but when I was 6 we moved up into a remote logging area in the mountains in B.C. Most of my growing up happened there. It was a pretty cool way to grow up as a kid with the wild outdoors as my playground.
I’m envious, that sounds awesome! Where do you live now?
Deloraine, Manitoba, is home now. It’s a small town on the Canadian prairies.
Are you married?
Yes. My wife and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary.
Congratulations, do you guys have any kids?
We have five kids, three boys and two girls.
Wow, that’ll keep you busy! Do you have a day gig?
Aside from the five kids :), I’ve been very fortunate to do music full-time for the last five years. At the beginning, most of my work was as a vocalist and lyricist but in the last two years I’ve been doing a lot more production work, as I’ve gotten more involved in music for film and TV.
How did you choose music as your passion, and when did that happen?
Some of my earliest memories were watching my dad up on stage playing bass and singing in a band. I always knew I wanted to do music professionally, so I’ve spent a good deal of my life performing in bands or musical theater. Five years ago, my wife and I agreed that it was time for me to pull the plug on my day job as an IT specialist and pursue music full-time. It really was a make or break leap as I had no clue how to make a real career in music.
Well, it seems that you’ve gotten a clue or two along the way. Do you have a genre or style that you prefer to work in?
My style has evolved over the years. It’s been a very diverse background that I’m thankful for now as it has allowed me to work with a much broader cliental in the industry. I grew up singing with my siblings doing a lot of a capella four-part harmony. When I hit my teen years, I did a lot of Punk and Rock music. I also spent four years in musical theater doing a lot of the classic Irvin Berlin and Rogers and Hammerstein productions. All through those years I also played fiddle and stayed connected with traditional Celtic and folk music as well. It’s been exciting in recent years to see such a strong appreciation in the music scene for Singer/Songwriter, Indie, and Folk music. If I had to nail down a personal preference for a genre, that’s where I’m happiest performing and writing.
Who are some of your main musical influences?
That list would be all over the map. Cliff Richards was a huge vocal influence growing up. The Funk Brothers, Nat King Cole, Will Smith, Robert Plant, Lindsey Buckingham, Alison Krauss, to name a few. In more recent years I’ve been influenced by artists like John Mayor, Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran, Joshua Radin, Adele.
Yep, all over the map, but it sounds like a great map! Do you do songs and instrumentals, or both?
Both. I used to work almost entirely on songs, but I have always enjoyed the power of an instrumental’s ability convey emotion without the use of words. Production music for libraries has also driven me to increase my output of instrumentals.
Where do you do most of your recording?
I have my own recording studio at home so that is where I do most of my work.
Tell us about your studio – what is your main gear?
I’ll record with everything in reach :)! I used to do everything in the box [all electronically generated], but I’ve found that in producing a lot of Indie music, it’s become a bit of a thrill to see what kind of music and sounds I can get out of whatever I have around me. For actually capturing the sounds though I don’t have too sophisticated a setup. I tend to use my Lauten Atlantis FC-387 microphone for most of my vocal work, but pull out my Royer and Peluso mics as well sometimes. My Shure SM-57 has been getting a lot of time recently on guitars or whatever I like for the sound I’m capturing. I have a few Neumann mics I like as well. I have a simple Steinberg UR824 Audio interface that I run my inputs through. Most of my mixing and post happens in the box, and I use a variety of plug-ins depending on the genre I’m working in. I try to keep things simple and focus on writing good songs. Hopefully that takes up some of the slack on where my gear falls short.
What was your goal for your music before you joined TAXI?
I think I was pretty naive before joining TAXI. I don’t think my goals developed much beyond just wanting to make a better living at music. I had a growing family and thinking of a road career was difficult, so I wanted to try to understand the film, TV, and advertising music markets.
Has your goal changed since you’ve become a member?
I don’t know if my goals changed, so much as my understanding of how things work developed. I still want to make my living at music. For me, over the last couple years working with TAXI, it feels more like the veil has been lifted. The music industry isn’t just this mystical system that relies on luck for achieving success. All of my new-found understanding from my peers, the pros, and resources at TAXI has certainly helped me narrow my focus and find the markets that are best suited for my music.
You sent us a letter a little more than a month ago, and in it you explained that even though you’re only in your second year of TAXI membership, you “realized that [you are] doing this full-time as a career, all as a result of TAXI.” You also told us that your success is coming from more than making submissions to our Industry Listings and getting callbacks. How has TAXI helped you outside of the normal process of submitting to our Industry Listings?
It has been a steady gradual process, but over the last two years there have been so many amazing doors open for me through TAXI that came outside of the typical submission and callback path. This all grew at the point that I was considering getting back into a more stable career outside of music. Collaborating with other TAXI members has landed me deals with music supervisors and publishers. Doing projects for other TAXI members has been a great sideline, and has opened other doors for keeping a steady stream of even more projects coming my way. TAXI’s convention, the Road Rally, has undoubtedly been an incredible source of work and connections. I’ve signed with several production music libraries as a result of relationships built at the Rally. I know without a doubt that the private client work that I do in my studio outside of TAXI has exploded as a result of the noticeable increase in my writing and productions skills. The high bar and learning resources at TAXI have pushed me well beyond where I had settled before joining TAXI.
Our members often tell us that TAXI has helped them delve into genres of music they never even thought about doing in the past. Has that happened for you?
Absolutely! What writer/producer isn’t tempted when they see a cool listing for a particular genre that they haven’t worked in? It pushes you to try something new, and for me, some of those experiments in uncharted territory have lead to multiple songs signed and new doors opened.
Is it that you see opportunities in our Industry Listings and those inspire you to stretch your wings, or have you collaborated with other TAXI members that have pulled you in previously unexplored directions?
A bit of both. Sometimes the chance to have a song get directly to a music supervisor pushes me to shoot for something new. Sometimes just the quirky nature of a listing draws me in. A lot of the time it’s another TAXI member who is looking for something in my particular skill set and wants to collaborate.
In your recent letter to us, you said, “Were my forwards and returns from [TAXI’s] listings a waste of time and money? Absolutely not. TAXI is the only place I have ever plugged my music and gotten any real answers and feedback as to how to improve and get my music to the place where it would be noticed by industry professionals.” How were you able to use the feedback from our A&R team in such a positive way and not feel the sting of “rejection” some other members feel when they’re given feedback?
Haha, you know, just reading the phrase “Sting of rejection,” brings on the wave of emotions I think every artist who tries to make a go of this industry has felt. I remember about having a conversation with my wife after being a TAXI member for about 8 months. I think I had just come off of about 17 straight returns, and I told my wife I thought I was going to quit submitting. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard, and it still stings every time I get a return. Thankfully my wife is smarter than I am and told me to stick with it. I really believe it takes a while for most artists to allow reality to chip away their ego until they can properly assess where they are at and see what they need to improve. I know for me I wrote and produced in a vacuum, and when I took those first steps to attempt selling my music to the industry I wasn’t really prepared to hear that my songs were dated, and my productions weren’t broadcast quality. At first it all seemed so nitpicky and deflating. Thankfully I had some support that encouraged me to keep at it. Now the same information that I detested before feels more like empowerment. Yeah it’s still hard, but every bit of information makes me feel like I have the edge in a very competitive industry. Going to the Rally cemented what I felt from the forums and website. The industry pros really do work at TAXI, and if they want to tell me what I can do to improve, I know it will make my music better.
You also said this in your letter: “If I look back at the music I was writing and producing before I was a TAXI member compared to now, to me, it is amazing. I really believe it’s the entire package that TAXI presents that works. I think that, had I just gone to the [Road Rally – TAXI’s free convention], and not gone through that testing ground of submissions and feedback from the listings, my music would not have improved to the place where making those connections at the Rally would really count. On the flip side, if I had only ever spent my time and money submitting music to the listings and never attended the Rally or reached out to the member community I would be shaking my head thinking TAXI is a waste of time.”
Could that combination of TAXI benefits work for anybody, or do you have to be super-talented or gifted to begin with?
I believe that success is a choice available to anyone who works hard and has an attitude of perseverance. Talent or gifts can speed up the process, but I think the combination of TAXI resources will work for anyone who has a good work ethic and attitude. Everything is there—the professionals, the community, and the opportunities.
Do you find that having specific opportunities and deadlines helps you stay focused and more productive?
For me deadlines are one of those factors that can help turn an amateur into a professional. Learning to work under pressure, and with a deadline taught me to become efficient and productive. It’s easy when music is a hobby or a sideline to not treat it like the business that it is. I also learned that being prolific in songwriting and music production, in this industry is one of the best ways to turn my work into a real career.
In your letter, you also said, “I’m so grateful to the members who pushed me to sign up and get involved.” I’m glad you took their advice! Hundreds of members have told me they’ve tried to convince friends of theirs to join as well, but they rarely do. Why do you think people are resistant to using TAXI even though they have personal recommendations from friends and tons of evidence showing that it works?
I think the volume of companies out there that are scamming artists have made a lot of people skeptical that there really is an online resource that actually does want to help them succeed. I can’t speak as to why some people can’t see the benefit, but to me it was a no brainer. The fact that I could Google TAXI’s CEO and see his credentials were backed up with years of experience in the industry. The fact that I could communicate with members who were successful and making a living through TAXI, and the fact that there was so much transparency and that I could attend a free conference and meet industry veterans that all vouch for and support TAXI was more than enough proof. That didn’t mean it was easy, but it did make me see that if I didn’t succeed it wasn’t because the resources weren’t there. It was that I didn’t take advantage of them.
Do you think it’s a good idea to use TAXI’s Custom Critiques and the feedback from the Peer-to-Peer section of our Forum to make sure each song or instrumental is as good as it can be before you start pitching it?
From the very start of my TAXI membership I used the Peer-to-Peer section of the forums, and it made a huge difference in my production. What I see now in retrospect is that when you are starting out, you don’t always have the ear to hear what you are doing wrong. The suggestions from other members were huge in helping me see where I needed to improve. The Custom Critique service from TAXI is a service I really regret not using sooner. It wasn’t until my second year with TAXI that I started submitting music for a Custom Critique, and the service is worth far more than the $20 submission fee! You get so much more information from a custom critique that it’s an excellent way to push a song to its potential, whether you are working on a song for your album or for a future pitch.
You’ve developed a great group of friends and collaborators since joining TAXI. Assuming that you collaborate by sending digital files back and forth on the Internet, does that mean all members who want to collaborate need to be equally skilled at using home recording gear?
I’ve worked with all different skill levels in my collaborations with other TAXI members. One huge credit to the TAXI community for how willing everyone is to help out regardless of where you are at. The attitude of mentorship that exists seems to perpetuate the feeling of giving back for the help another member gave to you. I’m humbled by the amazingly talented and celebrated people I’ve met through TAXI that have worked with me on a song. I remember that when I get to work with someone who is not as far along as I am, and do what I can to share what I know and help them along. It’s a very unique community for such a highly competitive industry.
How has collaborating helped move your career along?
Collaborating with TAXI members has been the single biggest factor in advancing my career. So many amazing opportunities have come from collaborations and I have learned so much. TAXI collaborations have led to many of my library deals and industry introductions. It’s also been instrumental in teaching me how to work with a variety of different people with different skill sets. To me, music is about connecting with people. If we view our relationships and collaborations as an extension of our ability to connect with people, then I think it has a positive influence on how we create music.
Do you still feel creative now that you’re making music with a purpose in mind rather than just waiting for the muse to show up and inspire you?
I remember a discussion I was having during a songwriting workshop over a decade ago. The instructor told me that songwriting was 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration and that most songwriters had that backwards. At that point, I was still doing music as a hobby and hadn’t interacted with the industry at all. I recall telling him I thought that was wrong :)! Now after working in the industry for the last few years, I think viewing music as a business and approaching writing and production with discipline and structure has unlocked a much higher level of creativity for me. Even more importantly, it has created an immense sense of satisfaction that my creativity is relevant to a market and listening audience.
Any last words of wisdom for your fellow musicians?
You really have to find the balance between staying true to who you are as an artist and allowing the constructive criticism you get to let you make the right changes to your music. Don’t ever let that voice inside tell you that you aren’t good enough to succeed in this industry. I think there’s a couple things people do to succeed in this biz. They need to look for successful people and study what they did to get there, and then they should join TAXI to find those successful people to learn from.
TAXI TV episode with Nathan performing live at the TAXI office: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qriJ5ENrUVU