From field to stage

Vegetable farmer winters as musician


In the summer, Nathaniel Talbot is but a humble farmer of organic vegetables, tilling his vegetable plot on Whidbey Island. When winter comes, he can turn his attention to another passion, performing music.

“I feel lucky to have both,” Talbot said. “I wish I could have two separate full-time parallel lives where I could do both to the extent of my curiosity and to the extent of what they are worth in pursuing. It is a constant source of inspiration, but also kind of (stressful) with time management to try and figure out how to do both. It is better than having nothing that you love to do.”

Working the earth gives Talbot much needed time away from the music scene, allowing him to recoup his creativity, he said.

“I guess it is kind of a double-edged sword. I feel lucky that I can spend a vast majority of my time thinking about farming and not exhausting my creative music brain, which I feel helps replenish my enthusiasm, commitment and creativity toward music. I go through huge dry spells. I will go in the summer for two or three weeks without even touching my guitar. Then, when the fall rolls around and the daylight gets really short and the work weeks start to wane, I am just revving to play as much music as possible.”

That annual cycle dictated by the changing seasons keeps Talbot from getting burned out by either profession, he said.

“My friends who do music full-time, it is a constant struggle to carve out enough time for yourself to not think about music,” he said. “I am glad that I don’t have that issue. I get that time carved out more than I bargain for with the farm.”

Talbot said it is nice to have that seasonality.

“I feel like we are evolved to kind of respond to the seasons and to change our habits and our workload with the seasons,” he said. “Most people can’t really afford to do that. In the Northwest it is like go, go, go during the on season and everybody wants to be outside and work. During the winter, it is kind of the time to get creative and broody and lock yourself in a room. I feel lucky to have the seasonality.”

Performing at Life Care Center

Talbot will perform at 2 p.m. March 12 at Life Care Center of Port Townsend, 751 Kearney St., as part of the Arts to Elders series funded by the Northwind Arts Center. Admission to the show is free.

“I have followed Nathaniel’s career for at least a dozen years as he wandered, intentionally, from one genre to another, learning from his peers and leaving an indelible mark in each,” said Matt Miner, series organizer. “He is equally at home on lead electric guitar in a hard rock band, sharing vocal and instrumental harmonies in an acoustic trio, or spilling his heart out in an intimate solo singer-songwriter performance. The latter is the Nathaniel Talbot we’ll hear at the Arts to Elders show. His approach to the guitar, in both rhythm and chord structure, is original, and meshes perfectly with his personal and passionate way of singing.”

Talbot’s lyrics are earthy and original, Miner continued.

“Nathaniel knows how to weave stories of his life as a Whidbey Island farmer into his musical presentation,” Miner said. “Between his enthusiasm for his agricultural mission and riveting performance, there will be something for everyone.”

Talbot is looking forward to the performance, he said.

“I feel like we spend way too much time as musicians chasing this fleeting sense of stardom and this very vapid superficial idea of recognition online,” Talbot said. “That is what I feel compels so many artists to keep going, keep creating. It is just like this ever shortening creative cycle where people have to repost and re-write and re-edit videos, and it is ever diminishing returns on this shallow feedback system.”

For those reasons, Talbot said he relishes the chance to play for folks who simply love music, not fame.

“Opportunities like this to go and play for people who are completely outside of pop culture and social media, and really to connect with people who don’t get out much and get much art and culture in their life, who will probably appreciate music more than anyone else in the world, I am excited to do that,” he said. “I should do it more often. We all make tons of lame excuses as to why we don’t do this kind of thing.”

Fifth album goes electric

Talbot released his fifth album, “Animal,” in the fall.

“It is more electric. It is with a full band,” Talbot said. “All my other stuff is way more folksy and much more geared toward technical finger-style guitar stuff. This one is way more stripped down as far as the guitar parts, but also filled out with the full band. It was a little bit of a change in pace for me.”

Making the change from a mellower folk sound for the album was a throwback to Talbot’s college years, he said.

“I always played acoustics in concurrence with my rock band, but bands come and go and are less reliable, and you always have your own music to fall back on when a band isn’t there,” Talbot said. “I had just gotten into the routine of playing my own stuff during this time when I wasn’t in a band, and then that kind of took off for me and then I went for like 10 years almost exclusively playing in this folk bracket and doing house shows.”

That audience is older and the vibe more intimate, Miner said.

“It is just a different community, a different intention and a different listening intensity,” he said. “It was great and served me well and I still play a lot of folk, but I was just kind of craving getting back and communing with other people and getting people to dance and playing clubs.”

Talbot said he enjoys crafting music with others.

“I feel like that is really what excited me most about music, is the collaboration and building community around it and having a group of friends that can meet up once a month and rehearse and create,” he said. “I had just been missing that with my folk singer-songwriter gig.”


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