Recently I chatted to Nath Smith, a Southampton/Bournemouth based rapper who has been climbing the ladder of music (and as we discovered, TV!) success since his debut track ‘Fly Away’ in 2019. Over the last few years, Nath has been featured on a charting compilation album and has absolutely smashed his recent spotify streams! Together, we spoke about inspiration, the toll of lockdown, and just generally how passionate Nath is about making music!
Firstly, congratulations on your incredible Spotify stats; 80 countries, 21,000 streams! How did that feel?
Pretty good! I think that was probably the best year that I’ve had considering I only released two songs and I took a bit of a break from music for a while so to get that many was pretty cool I guess! It was a very good feeling to see that!
How did you get into rap and what artists are you inspired by?
With my music, I struggled for a few years to find my sound because I like a lot of genres. I’ve always been a massive fan of Loyle Carner, he’s one of my biggest inspirations and motivations. I’ve been listening to him since I was in college and I’m always in the top 0.1% of his listeners on Spotify wrapped! That kind of Chilled UK Rap was something that when I heard it I was like ‘Why haven’t I tried this?’ It was always the genre I listened to the most, I like a lot of Knucks and Saint.
Do you have any advice for people who are currently trying to find their sound?
Just don’t be scare to step out your comfort zone and try something you’ve never done before, because it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work, it’s not that deep. There’s songs that I’ve released and then taken down because I was hyper-critical of it and a perfectionist but just step out of your comfort zone and if it doesn’t work you can just go back to what you were doing before!
You mentioned being a perfectionist, how do you get over that when putting your work out there?
I rely on my mates. Whenever I’ve got a new song I’ll individually ask my mates what they think because I know I’m too critical. If I’ve got a song that’s done I won’t stop tweaking it.
It sounds like you’ve got a supportive team behind you…
Yeah, they’re class! We’ve got Steven, we’ll shout him out! We’ve got Joe Hammond, Lauren, Charlie, my producer Kyle Hollow, and my photographer/videographer Bradley Norman who goes by ‘Big Red Media’. He is incredibly talented and always at my beck and call! They’re all diamonds!
In 2020 you were featured on the ‘Sounds of Southampton’ compilation album, how did it feel to be recognised so early on in your music career?
Yeah that was incredible! It was Tyrone and Warbz who put that together. I did a gig with them years ago in 2019, supporting Deano who’s now got tens of millions of streams worldwide and we kept in touch. We got No.1 Rap album in the UK on the week of Christmas and No.9 overall album on iTunes, and the album was about 32 or 37 on the Official Charts. Although I was only on one track, it was so cool to see so many people from Southampton come together and create something that massive was unreal!
So after 2020, Covid hit and it became quite common for artists to take a break. How did you navigate lockdown as a musician?
It was tough because at the time I was living with my mates in Bournemouth and when Covid hit they all went home, so I was living in a 5-bedroom student house on my own, working from home, never really left the house, and music was one thing I depended on staying with me, but because I became so dependant on trying to force something out, everything I was making was just shit. I was writing my song ‘Rewind’ in the height of lockdown and I just decided to take a break from everything. I left my phone at home and went down to the beach and ended up sitting there for 2 hours, and that cured my writer’s block. I went home, picked up my guitar and came up with the riff to ‘Rewind’ and everything came back. I ended up writing the song in two hours and recording it that same day – It was tough but I needed to relax and stop stressing over music.
Well you spoke a bit about the writing process there, is the beach somewhere you take inspiration from a lot?
There was a lot of inspiration when I was in Bournemouth, the beach gets referenced a lot in my songs, but every song is different and has its own secret meaning. When I started out with ‘Fly Away’ with Young Harri, I wrote about moving away to Bournemouth, and then ‘Rewind’ was about being in Bournemouth but it not being everything I thought it would, and then ‘Found’ was about finding my style.
The lyrics from ‘Found’ were very honest about getting back into writing..
Yeah, during ‘Rewind’ I was recording and releasing and I was active on social media but there was no new music for about two years. I wanted to get back into music but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was making countless beats but I didn’t like them, then I was sent a track and it just happened naturally, everything came back again. I love that song so much and there was a bit of hype when I came back; it was pretty cool to get messages and comments.
‘Found’ was a great comeback! Was it important to you to reference your previous songs in the track?
Yeah. The idea for the title was the first thing I came up with. I had this idea for the hook: ‘Fly away / Got lost/ Hit rewind/ tryna find the sound and I’m found’ I thought it was important to get it in there; I’m still me but I’ve been through that and now I’m here.
Your second release of 2022, ‘Peach Tea’, was played on Radio Solent’s BBC Introducing, how did that come about?
I think someone just sent me a link and I sent in ‘Rewind’ but they never got back to me, then I saw someone do it on Instagram so I submitted ‘Peach Tea’ and then I got an email saying they were gonna play it, and I was just like ‘Oh, shit!’ That was quite a weird week actually because I had just been on a TV show so I had loads of mates come over for that on Tuesday and then I got the email and everyone was back over on Saturday.
What TV show were you in?
Oh God! It was The Singles Table for ITV. I got a DM from a casting director and I thought ‘Yeah, I’ve got nothing to do that day.’ One thing led to another and I was filming in Doncaster. I felt quite uncomfortable watching that back, with my music I can listen back cause it’s me, but this was the first TV thing I’d ever done whereas everyone else had done shows before, but if I was asked to do something again I’d 100% do it!
Would you ever do a TV talent show?
I did Britain’s Got Talent when I was 14 and it was a very Ed Sheeran-esque, singer/songwriter kind of thing. I had done a lot of busking in Winchester and my Auntie said I should send in a video, they invited me for an audition but I didn’t hear back. In 2019 I got invited to audition for Little Mix: The Search but it got cancelled ‘cos of COVID. I got scouted for that and it was so different to BGT and doing a public audition. You don’t queue outside or anything but you get invited, which kind of upsets me about the music industry. You go back 20 years, music was about 99% talent and 1% marketing, whereas now it’s heavily based on marketing. If you’ve got financial backing you can make it, but it makes it harder for people who don’t have that financial backing but do have the talent. A close friend of mine, Nikkita Holden, does my marketing and she’s insanely clever at it, she’s also so talented and is blowing up on Spotify at the moment! I’m in music for the music and not the marketing or the money, for me that’s not what it’s about. I’m in music ‘cos I love it.
You’ve had a very exciting 2022, what can we expect from you next?
New music, for sure! I’m working on two songs at the minute, the first one is called ‘MVP’ and will hopefully be out in the next few months. There’ll be a few songs that are quite different with a different sound, they’re kind of a Chilled UK Jazz Rap.
Have you got any gigs in the works?
I did do a gig in November at Heartbreakers in Southampton, and the second I got on stage I was like, ‘this is what I live for’. They got a sneak peak of ‘MVP’ and went mental, so I’m definitely pushing music in 2023, big time! They’re may be a festival but it’s still all up in the air. I did Wickham Festival in 2017, but the biggest one I did was South Central in Portsmouth where I was meant to be on the second smallest stage. The night before my name disappeared from the line-up and I thought they’d sacked me, but I was actually on the main stage! That was huge! Seeing a crowd of 10,000+ and you being up there is nuts, so that is something that I keep in mind when I struggle with the music, then everything just seems worth it!
It was great to talk to Nath about his passion for music and the exciting journey he’s been on to find his sound. It seems like he’s got an exciting career ahead of him and we can’t wait to see what Nath does in 2023!
You can listen to Nath Smith on Spotify here: