Scales & Ales Podcast
Nathan Wright of Count Tutu – Singer, Songwriter, and Groove Machine | Tulsa Podcast
- You perform with a band called Count Tutu, and you have described yourselves as “THE SOCIALLY CHARGED T-TOWN GROOVE MACHINE.” Tell me, what does that mean for you and the group?
- Some have characterized your music as funk, some have called it afrobeat. You guys have a phenomenal 10 or 11 person band! You all are certainly a groove machine that makes people want to dance. How would you describe your music?
- Nathan, how long have you been playing music and how did you get into music?
- In an article from the Tulsa Voice, it mentions your relationship with Ryan Tedder. The article quotes some mentorship he gave to you saying “I’ve got a good, privileged life, and every day I don’t spend a little bit of time helping people with less privilege than me, I just feel like an asshole.” Tell us about how you met him and how this advice has shaped the way that you and Count Tutu have created music.
- I’d like to talk briefly about one of your songs. One of the songs that many people will recognize from Count Tutu is “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” Can you break down a little bit of this song for us?
- What are you and Count Tutu working on right now?
- Nathan, I’ve seen the songwriting process change quite a bit from musician to musician. Walk us through your songwriting process. How do you get your ideas into a fully-finished song?
- When it comes to performing, Count Tutu puts on an incredibly entertaining show. You have 10 people, Branjae is an incredible performer. Where have you guys performed around Tulsa?
- Do you have a particular show that has been a highlight for you? And Why?
- Many musicians find that one of the hardest things about being in charge of their own career is booking shows. Are you going around reaching out to venues to book shows, or have you guys reached the level where everyone is already beating down your door? Walk us through that process and any advice you have for musicians getting started.
- For other musicians or bands that are working towards achieving success like you…it’s taken a while to get to where you are now, what have you learned along your journey that’s been the most important?
- What about something that is the least important that you should not have spent time on?
- If you want the listeners to take one action as a result of listening today, what do you want them to do?
My name is Marshall Morris and today we’re speaking with an incredible musician from right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Center of the Universe. Mr. Nathan Wright. How are you my friend?
Nathan Wright: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on.
Marshall Morris: Yeah, absolutely. Now you perform with a band called Count Tutu and you’ve described yourselves as “The Socially Charged T-Town Groove Machine.” Now I’ve been to a couple of your guys’ concerts and that’s exactly what it is. People are up grooving and moving. It’s a lot of fun. What does, what does that mean for you and the group?
Nathan Wright: Well, that’s kind of a fun thing that we landed on a Count Tutu happen for a few different reasons. One of them was that I’ve been writing music since I was 15 and I went through a couple of year period where I was a little bit dry. What are the things I was producing? Just wasn’t, they weren’t compelling. Uh, they, they weren’t, they didn’t feel high quality. Uh, and there happened to be a whole lot of political unrest just a couple of years ago as many of us and probably your listeners know and remember and uh, you know, I started to use that as kind of an outlet for creativity. Meanwhile, one of my good friends had moved to Chicago and started playing with the Chicago Afrobeat Project and he kind of introduced me to a style of music called afrobeat, which originates from Nigeria and it’s attributed to stay with D and a drummer. He played with me and Tony Allen and uh, then that converged with my friend Mike Cameron, who a jazz guru around Tulsa. Met Up with me one night, uh, at a Taco shop back when it was still open in downtown Tulsa. So it’s middle of the night after some drinks.
Marshall Morris: Yeah.
Nathan Wright: Hey, do you wanna do you wanna start an Afro beat band? And I said yeah. And so yeah, we just started putting it together. You had connections. I had connections and we kind of just magnetized a bunch of musicians and uh, so it’s a lot of different sounds, but it is primarily built on political and social frustration or kind of the, the uplifting sense that we need to get people together. So that’s, that’s really what it is for me.
Marshall Morris: Did you guys look like you have a ton of fun up there? And I’ve seen Mike perform around town and every time every show it looks like you guys are just having a blast up there on stage. What makes afrobeat so much fun?
Nathan Wright: There’s something really live about it. Uh, there is a progressive element that’s very interesting in a way that you don’t hear as much in a lot of American music. It’s starting to catch on, you know, pop music is integrating a lot more, uh, Central American rhythms, for example, in ways that maybe it’s kind of transparent to a lot of people, but, you know, we’ve got some really amazing percussion players or just percussion minded people and our band. And I think that, you know, I think a lot of people want to see something that’s alive and moving, uh, I kind of feel sometimes like it’s a musical train, like it’s just heavy and big and it, it’s a good time.
Marshall Morris: The Count Tutu band can grow, it can be as big as 10 or 11 people that you guys have performed with is how do you go about putting together a band like that? Is it ever evolving? Is it a growing organism? Does it have players that change on an ongoing basis or do you say we need these 11 people to put together the band? Or how did, how did tell me about that process of just putting together the band in the first place?
Nathan Wright: Oh, we actually have a pretty long history. I mean we’ve only been together almost three years, but we have a pretty long history of switching out, tag teaming, a lot of different things. We had a horn players on call whoever was available. Some of our prime horn players didn’t even live in Tulsa and uh, you know, and then there is just, when you get that many people, you get people that have different schedules and different types of trauma happened or different opportunities pop up. It kind of got frustrating because it started, we had maybe a six month period last year that was really difficult to actually get through because we spent just an enormous amount of time of rehearsal time catching people up on stuff they didn’t know instead of progressing. So we have come out of that. We’ve split with some people that we really love in favor of some people that are very available for us and very committed and uh, you know, we still love them and we still invite them to play with us every now and then we are down to nine members and we’re trying to keep it that way and we’re trying to be consistent.
Nathan Wright: So that’s where it stands right now.
Marshall Morris: You talked about, um, your, your previous experience of music. How long have you been playing and how’d you get into music in the first place?
Nathan Wright: Uh, whenever I was in middle school, I went to university school on the campus and uh, they offer bands starting in life I think in fourth grade. And so that’s whenever the first year that I went there, I wanted to play sax us on. They told me I had to play clarinet first. I played clarinet the next year I played saxophone and then the same year, that same year I started piano lessons and I really enjoyed piano lessons, but I did it for different reasons, you know, it’s very a mathematically minded and uh, you know, it was kind of an exercise. I learned how to read music really well and I learned how to do proper technique and I still play piano and I, I love it. Uh, so that was kind of my introduction. I had some friends that played guitar whenever I was in seventh grade and that’s when pretty much why I picked up the guitar was a little bit of not wanting to be left out, but also the sense that, oh, I just can’t be too terribly different from piano.
Nathan Wright: I think I get disciplined myself through this. And all this, while I kind of, I had in my head that I was going to be an engineer. I was a math and science kid. I liked to robotics, I enjoyed soldering stuff. I liked electronics, I liked video games, like building things. And uh, it was, it wasn’t until I was maybe 15 that I was practicing music and writing songs like I did every night and my dad had this moment with me then he probably doesn’t even remember. It doesn’t even realize how significant it was, but he came in and said, hey, so what did you say you want to be when you grow up? Like, what are you thinking about? And I was like, I think I want to go to engineering school. I didn’t go when I get that degree. And he was like, okay, well that’s great. You do what you want, but I just don’t ever see doing any of that stuff. That’s cool. And then, uh, I was like, okay. And he left and that was pretty much an instant click. Like, Oh hey, I, my life has changed and I hadn’t even realized it. So at that moment I poured myself completely into the music and uh, I started singing classical music. I started writing songs when I was 15 at the Gypsy Coffee House for night night. That’s where I started,
Nathan Wright: uh, and I auditioned to, to you and I got a music scholarship and an academic scholarship and I went on a vocal scholarship, same classical music and got a composition degree there. And uh, I’ve just been writing and composing and teaching from it from a very early age when you were first getting started out and you had the grind of music theory, I know that, that the teachers can either make it or make the experience fun and engaging for the student or maybe make it not even a fun experience is very routine and rudimentary. For you, was it the passion of the music that kept you going? Or did you have a couple of teachers that you learned from that really kept you engaged or how. How’d you get through that and learning all the music theory?
Nathan Wright: It’s hard to remember. I was very curious and the music theory aspect of it and the technical aspect of it definitely come from the math and science part of my brain. It kind of a, Oh, I, I do this, and then this happens input, output sort of thing. Because I did have some very incredible teachers. I had a choral teacher that I’ll never forget from fourth grade and actually I still have a friend that I know from fourth grade and we can still talk about her name was Mrs Freeman. I didn’t know her first name. She was very fun and made music really enjoyable. My piano teacher was very, very old. Her name was Claire Jones when she was a concert pianist or most of her life and a Julliard graduate and thing about her was. I wouldn’t say that she was energetic, but she was very accepting and free. She let me play what I wanted and she was very patient and uh, just encouraged me to pretty much push in whatever direction I wanted. And I thought that that was normal. And now I’m older and I see a lot of other teachers and I realized that they’re kind of trying to shape things or mold children into their own image. And I’m really, really happy that I didn’t necessarily have a teacher that, that was that way.
Marshall Morris: My, I had an experience similar to that for a lot of. I learned cello. I grew up playing cello and in a lot of my orchestra teachers for a long time did exactly that. They tried to mold me into the player that they wanted me to be rather than, you know, capturing my interest of what I wanted to do. And I finally, I found a cello teacher, um, who, uh, who performed in the, the, the Tulsa symphony or the Tulsa workers show. And, um, she, she said, well, what do you want to play? And this is the moment where I’m going through a lot of classic rock phase of my life. And so she, she, uh, she allowed me to transcribe sweet home Alabama and freebird and ghostbusters and all of these songs that just were my, had my attention at the time. And, um, and that’s where I, I think I learned the most music because you had to know how to transcribe music and you had to know music theory to be able to do that. And I think the teachers that are able to make that music fun and engage the student, you know, have so much more success doing that.
Nathan Wright: That’s great. So, so that’s the philosophy I carried with me. I, uh, unless we’re just at a standstill, I, I refused to choose my students songs, they’ll, they’ll choose it and then I’ll figure it out how to play it, will learn it. And that’s, that’s how I’ve done it for nine years. And it’s, it works. It’s great. It keeps people coming back and keeps it playful.
Marshall Morris: Uh, there’s this article in the pulse of voice and it mentioned your relationship with Ryan Tedder and I found this doing a shameless deep dive into your, uh, your history in Tulsa and in reading about you. And so if at any point, um, uh, this, maybe this quoted incorrectly in the article, you, you just, you let me know. But Ryan Tedder, he’s the front man for this mega band OneRepublic.
Nathan Wright: Let me go ahead and stop you. It’s, I am friends, very good friends with Ryan Tedder. But it is not that Ryan Tedder.
Marshall Morris: It’s a different Ryan Tedder.
Nathan Wright: It’s a different. Ryan Tedder a Tulsa native who plays the saxophone also either. He’s a multi instrumentalist.
Marshall Morris: Okay.
Nathan Wright: The guy that lives in Chicago and plays with Chicago afrobeat project.
Marshall Morris: Okay. So this is, this is bringing it full circle. So. Okay. So not the Ryan tedder from the mega band, one republic, but very talented afrobeat player. And
Nathan Wright: No, just an exceptional musician.
Marshall Morris: Okay. And he, he, um, he’s the one that, that introduced you to afrobeat or he’s the one that got you excited about playing it
Nathan Wright: right? Let me. Well we kept up whenever he moved and we just, we talked about a lot of things and uh, yeah, that was one of the things he was excited about. Chicago rapper be project isn’t really established group and they’re the kind of group where they’re playing the gigs no matter what. And they’ve got a list of players they can run through, you know, you started off, I’m going to make up numbers, but you know, he started off on tenor saxophone, you know, maybe the seventh on the list of calls and yeah, they just send out texts and whoever responds gets to end up coming. And he worked his way up. And uh, so yeah, he’s the one that told me about it and I still discover it, types of music from him. It’s kind of amazing. We just kind of feed each other.
Marshall Morris: So he, he went and spoke to the Tulsa voice. He says, I’ve got a good privilege life. And every day I don’t spend a little bit of time helping people with less privilege than me. I just feel like an asshole.
Nathan Wright: He told me in a nutshell.
Marshall Morris: And, and how, how did that shape a count to two and count Tutus music and your music and how you guys have created music?
Nathan Wright: Well, that, that made me start to think how I could use music in a more effective way. A really part of what put me through this creative desert was I wasn’t sure where my place was musically, artistically in the world. And I, at that point I was kind of grappling over what the point of art was in the first place. Maybe I should just go get my engineering degree or maybe I should volunteer or figuring out how to like use my time in a better way. And so a couple of things came together here, uh, for one, I want it to send messages that help the community as, as much as possible. And I’ve gotten a lot better at that over the years. Another thing is, uh, you know, I had a friend, Taylor Graham, who moved from Norman to Tulsa and lived with me and brand j and Kristin, another musician that played with us at the time and uh, Taylor really innately and passionately had this idea of starting this band.
Nathan Wright: He plays in a band called hero. So, and they do food drives and they’ve done. They’ve been really successful doing food drives and getting people that were already going to come to their shows to provide food that they could just take over to the food banks or I don’t know what your organization’s exactly they work with, but you know, and I living with him, I would wake up sometimes and he would just be making tons of breakfast burritos and taking them downtown to give to homeless people. And it really, really struck me and resonated with me. And I’m not even really sure at this day and age that he realizes how much I respected him for that. Uh, and so count to started to do, drives me in a brand j have done, done toy drives around Christmas. He really liked to work with nightlight Tulsa and they are an amazing group of people that meet up once a week and they provide a, they’ve got books and food and haircuts and socks and you name it for the local homeless people and they’re so helpful and kind. And uh, they secure funding from local businesses. And you know, we’ve done drives for dvds. We are trying to arrange for our upcoming Halloween show, a drive for women in recovery, so, you know, it’s, it’s just I feel like a lot of, uh, when we put so many people together for entertainment purposes, it really just isn’t difficult to give people to give things that they don’t need or give people a sense that they can help in an easy way and then have fun for the rest of the night.
Marshall Morris: You’ve garnered the attention for an entertainment cause and it’s. People actually feel great about coming and giving and participating in a, in a way that’s beyond just themselves and have a great concert at the same time.
Nathan Wright: Yeah, absolutely.
Marshall Morris: Now you guys have a number of songs that are familiar to the people that regularly attend your shows. I’d like to talk briefly about one of your songs. I’m one of the songs that people recognize is count to two. His hands up. Don’t shoot. I was, I was wondering if you might break down that song for so just a little bit and uh, uh, maybe some of the lyrics or how you guys went about writing that or um, why that song special for you guys?
Nathan Wright: That particular song was written by brand. Jay and I were a really good team. We found over the years and this was just one of those things that popped out of us. It’s another one of those things that in times of unrest that has to be some sort of artistic response. You know, there, there are people all over the country that are witnessing a lot of things that make them uncomfortable and those that are sensitive and also have the capacity to produce something that draws attention to it, I think are valuable to society. Uh, you know, we believe personally that there is, is viewable and very solvable issue with police behavior and accountability and the US and we, we were right because it troubles us and inspires us in a way that we think we can mobilize people to pay attention and look in the right direction and demand accountability. Uh, you know, this is not a weird thing for me in particular. I’ve written two other songs. We would play a song called, hey Mr police men and I have a song called before you shoot and uh, I just can’t stop writing police songs
Nathan Wright: to a topic that’s dear to my heart and it’s very upsetting. No, I just want to make it really clear though that we don’t dislike police officers know police are necessary to make societies where they do a lot of things behind the scenes the citizens didn’t notice that makes citizens’ lives better. Know my opinion though, is that good police officers should be just as if not more concerned with officers that abused their power or 10 toward violence or have clear racial bias. I mean those officers behaviors promote way more unrest and risk for other officers then then I don’t know the community normal normally would know the officers that have the community’s best interests at heart really ought to care about the ones that don’t because it’s making them less safe. And so I think that this is something that demands attention. And I think that things in a lot of places are moving in the right direction and then in others it’s not necessarily observable that that’s what’s going on.
Marshall Morris: So you’ve used your music and your songwriting to be able to communicate the message to get your message out. That’s the medium of choice for you guys and you guys have had the opportunity to, to get that message out to so many people through your performances in your, in your concerts, in this day and age, do you see music as a successful and effective a way to communicate those types of messages? And we’ve seen it, you know, in a variety of different artists, you know, across the music industry. Use that as a, as a platform. Um, is there, you see this as being an effective media moving forward?
Nathan Wright: I think that it is helpful. I’m not going to try to say that it’s the most effective, but I think that these problems are so complex and widespread that they require
Nathan Wright: attack and attention from as many different angles as possible. Sure. You know, there are people, a large population that consume more seriously or consume television more seriously or straight up are just a part of an activist group that has a solid agenda and is responsible and are moving in that direction, you know, we’re speaking to a particular type of person that may be sensitive to our message and also just like music. So I’m going to, I’m going to roll with that. You know, historically afrobeat comes from an African tradition and a m Fela Kuti bullheadedness to in the face of police, you know, police actually violently harming him and framing him and arresting him and government officials. Absolutely hating him. He just kept saying the things he thought and he was making really, really hyper political music. And what was back then in the 19 seventies in Nigeria, almost unsayable things for fear that those that were corrupted would just come snatch you out of life. And a fella, he has this famous quote where he said, the secret to life is to have no fear. And uh, he really was super special in that way. I mean, I don’t have to face those odds, so,
Marshall Morris: That’s contributed a lot to the genre and a lot to the lyrics and the topics that you guys have commented on. Um, what are, what are you in Count Tutu working on right now?
Nathan Wright: Uh, I am writing constantly. I’m writing about a song a week and they’re not going to come out that quickly. [inaudible] they require development. But aside from that, uh, we’re working on our first album. It’s been a, you know, it’s a long time coming. We’ve talked about it a lot and we started recording and I think march or April. So we have recorded quite a bit of the layers. I’m just assembling everything and we’re making sure everything’s done exactly right. Uh, we’ve been recording at Kendall Osborne studios, a closet studios. He’s amazing. Just a really sharp, helpful, great artistic guy. So, uh, it’s been really smooth, you know, and I, I know how to maneuver my way through recording programs. So I’ve been doing a lot of the arrangements lately and then we’re going to go do guitar and vocals and then we’re all good for mixing.
Marshall Morris: So it may anticipate that, that. No, I, you, uh, I think you were getting to my next question, which is, is an anticipation for a release date.
Nathan Wright: I do not have a release date because I’ll probably be wrong, but I anticipate a early next year we’ll be able to get it.
Marshall Morris: I’ve heard you talk quite a bit, uh, uh, about that at your shows that a lot of people are really excited that, like you said, it’s been a long time coming and people are anxiously awaiting that.
Nathan Wright: Okay. I’m really excited about it.
Marshall Morris: Um, now the songwriting process, it’s really, I’m talking with a multitude of different musicians. I’ve heard it, you know, change quite a bit, a bit from musician to musician. Walk us through your song writing process. You’re saying that you’re writing a song a week. I mean, how do you even get your ideas into, you know, fully finished songs? What are the steps there for you?
Nathan Wright: Okay, yeah, the songwriting process is really fun and it’s something that I’ve been able to a, I have a couple of students that this is exclusively what we talk about explicitly. My favorite game to play. I mean, it just has increased my quality of life tremendously and I found that the principles that are held within this process that I found that are really applicable to a lot of other parts of life and just make things way easier. So, uh, how much time do we have? How deep you want to dig into this?
Marshall Morris: Uh, I think this is a, the stuff that a lot of musicians that listen and uh, um, I talked to you really care about, um, I know that I did, I did a full two hours with Mark Gibson on his songwriting process and did a workshop with him. Um, so this is like such, like a cool thing for, for musicians to connect on.
Nathan Wright: Okay. Yeah. Great. So, uh, this one’s a little obvious at the beginning. I think that a lot of people immediately get stifled because they’re thinking about too many things at once. Whenever you’re starting a song, I think it’s important to not really try to imagine like the whole thing because it makes it a daunting task. So start simple. I mean every. All of my sons that have come naturally started with some sort of fragment, so maybe it’s a lyrical fragments, maybe it’s melodic, maybe it’s a chord progression harmonic or maybe it’s just a rhythm, but whatever it is, you start with that and see if you can find what the high quality thing that goes with it is, and this is really important. If there’s a state of mind involved here that’s a lot like meditation. It has a lot of qualities of zen and it is that quality that’s described and psychological literature at flow and it’s whenever you can get to that state of mind, it feels amazing and also things start to just happen without you having to think about it very much or judge it.
Nathan Wright: So it’s meditative and it’s helpful. Once you have a fragment. I kind like to think of this visual where you can either grab it and pull it out horizontally, horizontally or vertically. So say I’ve got a, I got a fragment of a melody or a piece of melody and if I were to stretch it out horizontally, that would mean what melody would come before that or what melody would come after that. Or where does the melody of repeated itself? Maybe the. Nobody just repeats itself. If I were to stretch it out or develop it vertically, that’s I kinda think of as the layers. So I have this fragment of melody. What are the courts that go with it or what rhythm goes with it would be or what lyrics go with it. And so it kind of becomes this little fun project where you just continually take things and stretch them horizontally and just keep working on say that.
Nathan Wright: Or I want more chords over here and I want these chords over here and we’re vertically where you’re taking the fragments and you’re putting other things on top of them in time. And it’s kind of hard to describe without drawing it or using my hands. But I think of music fundamentally as harmony. Melody, rhythm and lyrics. And then you get into developmental stuff later. But if you can figure out it, compartmentalize those four things, then things start to be a little bit easier to map out. Um, so yeah, just don’t be afraid and don’t worry how it’ll end. A lot of times you really just need tremendously less material than you might think. Uh, you know, they’re just like syntax and sentence structure and the way that we speak whenever I start my sentence so you can kind of already get an idea of which word is going to come next, depending on which word I’ve already said, it’s like the predictive text in yourself and in that way, in a way that’s a little bit less conscious. Melody and lyrics and rhythm are that way as well. Every part of a song kind of should flow naturally in ways that you might not be aware of. You know, if you’re not forcing it, that stuff will just happen naturally. And listeners who aren’t necessarily. Musicians can still hear whenever something sounds unnatural. That’s been fun stuff
Nathan Wright: I kind of oscillate between. I’ll get the inspiration stuff, the flow stuff, and then I’ll sit and uh, really just start to develop it and kind of look at it, kind of shape it and be a little bit more logical with it kind of perimeter up and give a nice clothes and make it smile and stuff like that.
Marshall Morris: Do you have like a particular place or a time of day that you find that you write the best? Like do you, do you like if you know that you’re going into a writing session and you’re looking to um, you know, put yourself in the best position to do that. Do you have like a certain mood or area that you like to go to?
Nathan Wright: I’m not saying that this is the best for everybody, but I don’t really have writing sessions. I just, when I want to write I’ll write all day. You know, that, that’s why I can put out a song a week, will not put out a hit record them, but I can create, conceptualize and then write all the horn parts for and have lyrics for something all week because whenever it’s time for that, I uh, I don’t even listen to music I just played in my head. Oh, I’ll do it while driving. I do it. If somebody doesn’t show up to their lesson, I’ll do it at night. I’ll do it when I’m with friends. I will just excessively love the song that I’m working on. Even if I’ve got to throw it away later.
Marshall Morris: Do you find influences from the other people around you or do you find yourself more introverted or is it both or does that, that, those fragments that you’re talking about, did they come from anywhere they can just materialize out of thin air or whatever you’re around?
Nathan Wright: It’s definitely both. I mean, I think that a lot of people like to think that they’re either introverted or extroverted, but everybody’s clearly blows and they just spend more time in one or the other. You know? I am very careful about my inputs whenever I’m in a writing mood or I’m in writing mode, which could last a few hours or a few days. I, you know, I do quit listening to music. I quit consuming most media, I focused on eating good food and I made sure to meditate everyday regardless. And that’s really helpful too. And uh, it just happens that way, you know, it can get garbled up and insecurity can come to. And that’s one thing that I’ve gotten really good at avoiding, but it’s something that takes practice. I think that a lot of people get stifled because they’re too worried about the end product rather than focusing on the actual process, you know, the, the joy doesn’t come from finishing.
Nathan Wright: The joy comes from doing it and not caring if it’s going to be something like, I’ve written a lot of songs that are never going to be two g songs. I just don’t worry about it, you know, it, it doesn’t matter how many songs I got to throw away or we’ve forgotten under the bed. If I’m writing one a week and uh, you know, I’ve read a lot of artists, authors, musicians, producers, they do the same thing. They’ll just make a habit of creating and then whenever it’s time to actually choose what your band or your project or your record is going to have, but then you have plenty to choose from and you probably stumbled upon a bunch of greatness and a lot of it’s just going to be mediocre and you just let it go and that’s no problem.
Marshall Morris: Now, when it comes to performing an incredibly entertaining show, you guys are all over the stage, incredible voices, full horn section. I think you said that you’re paired down to nine people right now in brand js and incredible performer. Um, wherever you guys performed all over Tulsa, all around Tulsa and even outside of Tulsa.
Nathan Wright: I think that they treat musicians really, really well. They make sure that you get compensated well. They’re really willing to work. They really care about the music. They hire good people. Uh, you know, it’s definitely a symbiotic relationship and it’s not where the venue and you wouldn’t have a place to play without us and you’re just helping us. It’s really a business partner situation and I, I’m really grateful to them and I think that uh, people should definitely support them because they always create a good musical environment. I love the sound, Tony. I’m a sucker for it. We’ve played the shrine a whole bunch and uh, you know, county rich tones that and we’re playing blackbird Tobar 27th, the Saturday before Halloween. Gonna have a drive new merchandise and the costume competition and it’s going to be pretty fun. Uh, we have connections at Guthrie Greens, we get to play there. That’s been a blast. We play the local festivals. Ega Oppenheimer’s. Easter island has always been really good to us and it’s a total blast. Tulsa roots hang out at Guthrie. Green gathering place now has us playing November 18th, opening for the dirty dozen brass band, which is killer. I’m really excited about it. I love the gathering place.
Marshall Morris: There’s quite a few new venues at the gathering place in the, in the Guthrie. Green Tulsa is continuing to invest into more venues to cultivate the music. Um, you know, culture and community. Um, have you, have you seen that grow over the past couple of years of performing?
Nathan Wright: Oh, it’s been an explosion. It’s been absolutely beautiful. And along with that care and that investment in infrastructure is a growth in the community and there has been just a blossoming of these young bands. Just a tremendous number of young inspired and inspiring musicians coming to just kicked major ass and they practice hard because they know there’s, I mean there’s a market, they’re able to be supported at least somewhat and I’ve been really impressed with the music scene in Tulsa and really happy. I mean you can find original music any night of the week and fundamentally I’m not certain accounts you could happen very many other places. I mean we do well playing completely original music and we can get around and we can afford to live and everybody plays another band. But, you know, I think that everybody’s got pretty high spirits. You know, if a bigger city wouldn’t provide with this kind of opportunity, at least not that I know of is you got a place like Austin, which, and there’s Memphis and Nashville and there’s Chicago, but they’re more expensive to live in and there’s a tremendous amount of competition and I have a feeling that we would just have to play as many gigs as we do original gigs.
Marshall Morris: One of the most, um, newly opened venues is the jazz venue. Do, have you had an opportunity to go over there and check that out yet?
Nathan Wright: You have no idea. Yeah, I’ve been there probably six times now. I saw I’ve had dinner there and brunch there and there were many. It was amazing. But as far as music goes, yeah, I got to see some local acts. Uh, my favorite local act at the moment is definitely cozy. Just Chris comes his band, just amazing music, great musicians, a really beautiful and they sounded great and do it. And uh, but as I got to see Christian Scott, this killer trumpet player, I saw his tiny npr tiny desk last year and he blew me away. And, uh, there’ve been a lot of other really great acts in there and they’re doing a good job. And I have this, uh, no, the show I put on it, the jets all the same, which was dark side of the moon, renovated for a jazz combo. And uh, I’m uh, trying to get my foot in the door and get something like that done a duet. I’d really like to produce shows over there.
Marshall Morris: Yeah, it sounds, uh, sounds like an incredible place. And um, I’m excited to be over there and see a ton of shows. I think you will continue to see places pop up like that. A lot of musicians, they say that, uh, that one of the hardest things about being in charge of your own career and being a self promoting musician is actually booking shows and you and count Tutu. I’ve had success in the opportunity. Played a lot of different places. I’m mostly a product of your guys’s such hard work. Um, are you guys going around reaching out to these venues to book shows or have you guys kinda reached the level where everybody’s already beating down your door to get you guys booked or walk us through that process a little bit and maybe any advice that you have for musicians getting started?
Nathan Wright: Well, I’ll, I’ll be honest, I’m probably not the best to ask about this, um, because I, I’ve been a little bit spoiled. My Cameron is definitely very good at connecting and building and building a rapport with people and negotiating and brand j is just in networking monster. I mean she is genuinely genuinely attracted to people and how they feel and their lives and so it’s easy for her to make friends and memorize names and uh, you know, I’ve done my fair share of negotiating. I’m more of a harder negotiated and I think they are. But the, yeah, Mike’s been able to find some really interesting opportunities and I’m not even really certain how he does it. And uh, you know, the brand j just kind of floats around and people throw things that are, uh, that are helpful opportunities. So I basically have taken the the well we need this much money for this kind of project, I’m going to put this show at a place that we know that pays well, so I kind of take the standard gigs as far as negotiation goes. And so I, I’m sorry, I really can’t offer anything guy. I’m not the guy. I mean I would say if I were, I would say imitate brand j as much as possible. Yes, pat practice music, love it, demonstrate that you have it and then let people show you what to do with it and that’s all I can really say.
Marshall Morris: Okay. Do you guys have a particular show that it’s been like a highlight for you that you’ve been like really excited about? You look back and you’re like, oh my gosh, that will forever be just like an epic show.
Nathan Wright: I don’t know about everybody else, but I think my favorite show was definitely at crystal bridges. The PM in Bentonville, Arkansas, and they had us come out, I think two years ago for their Halloween party. So they set us up in one of these rooms that’s floating on their reservoir and all of the walls are just giant windows and it’s made of this lake beautiful, sculpted wood and steel. And uh, we played out, you know, at the tip of it and there’s just a room full of people in costume and crazy lights just and they didn’t know. We don’t, we don’t have a record and I can’t even imagine how they would. Most of them would know us. I mean, we played Fayetteville a few times before then, but it came ready and they were excited and I think that that maybe is the best live performance I’ve ever had. Just this room packed full of crazy costumes and screaming people. And
Marshall Morris: it was beautiful. Sounds like a lot of fun. Um, uh, for, for other musicians or bands that are working towards achieving, they, they see you guys, they see you come out there and they’re putting together their own band and they only, you know, are at the point where they’re just hoping to have as much success as you guys. Um, it’s taken awhile to get to where you are now. So, so what have you learned along your guys’s path that has been the most important for you guys to focus on?
Nathan Wright: Well, I mean there’s the music which, you know, I talked about it earlier, but you know, that’s, I’m not even going to really say that that’s the most important thing. Honestly. I think the thing that I can talk about that’s maybe less common for, to talk about is kind of the, the organs and guts of a band that you don’t hear about, you know, the, I would say for any bands or acts that are coming along, they just need to make sure they focus on their relationships with each other has been through some, some bumpy stuff. Kind of like dating a bunch of people at once. It’s like they, everybody requires,
Nathan Wright: you know, some validation. You’ve got to care about each other. You gotta care what each other thinks you can’t take control. And we’ve done a pretty great job of staying democratic and really staying open and spending that little bit of extra time to make sure that we’re moving in a direction that everybody cares about, you know, and people have roles that they want to play and as much as possible I think it’s a good idea to just try to let them play those roles and let them try to shine a, you know, making sure everybody’s got similar goals or have been a lot of times where we’ll kind of realize the band need the little bit of emotional maintenance. So we’ll get together kilkenny and we’ll have some beers and some food and we’ll talk and that’s it, you know, we’ll do that instead of rehearsal. It’s just as important if not more important that he’s got to like oil the machine, make sure everybody’s heard and everybody knows what’s going well, what’s happening moving forward.
Nathan Wright: No. Then there’s some fun stuff like people don’t think about rehearsal style very much. There are just so many different ways to run a rehearsal and some of them are really fun and some of them are more effective. And some of them you’ve got a time constraint so you do things a certain way or you ate the moods of your musicians or your, your bandmates and that makes a big difference. You evaluate a, I guess what kinds of deadlines are coming up. I don’t know. There’s just, you can focus on specific instruments. I, it’s been really fun to actually experiment with that and see what works well. So surprising we’ve been at, we’ve been in some certain circumstances that we didn’t necessarily think were ideal rehearsal wise, like missing the wrong kinds of people. Having like a weird group that came town and we’re a group that can’t come and they can meet another time in the week, but then it works really well and it ends up being helpful. And when we put the puzzle back together. So
Marshall Morris: You have nine, you have nine people. It’s not just like, Oh let’s just do rehearsal this day. These are nine people that have their own, you know, the things going on outside of music. Right. You know, so it’s not just at the drop of a hat, you throw together a rehearsal, right,
Nathan Wright: right, right. No, no way. No, we, we try to keep the same day a week, but you know, it just doesn’t work. You’ve got nine people that all play in different bands and have different careers. I mean, our drummer or percussionist, Ricky Gonzalez, he’s an engineer on the side. His name.
Marshall Morris: You’ve got a completely different life from that.
Nathan Wright: Uh, and you know, Tommy Pool teaches and Mike Cameron, they all teach in college and Bishop, our trumpet player, Bishop Marsh, just incredible trumpet player. He’s in college,
Nathan Wright: different life altogether, you know, and we do our best to make it work. I think the thing that we were, we were clashing for awhile, but we’ve been able to settle down because we’ve been able to like let go of the right amount of ego, you know, the most. You can kill your ego and be symbiotic and you know, the better. And I’ve seen this work, you know, I’m friends with the guys from roots of thought and if you guys haven’t seen them yet, mandate I’ve watched them develop over the past year and they are just killing. They love each other, they listened to each other, they pay attention, they rehearse hard, and it just shows, I mean, if you want a testament to how you can become great very quickly. And I talked to those guys
Marshall Morris: Roots of Thought. Okay, everybody can write that down. Roots of thought and, and, uh, and they perform around town or how can, how can we hear some of their music?
Nathan Wright: Uh, they’ve got some stuff I think I’m pretty sure they have stuff on spotify.
Marshall Morris: Okay, cool. Now I wanted to ask you a lot of musicians that I’ve talked to the, they worry that they’re spending time on things that don’t matter once they’ve got into a certain level of success. Is there anything that you found to be not important or not as important as you thought it was? Just like looking back on it. Maybe not a regret, but maybe we shouldn’t have spent this much time on this particular thing.
Nathan Wright: I’m not necessarily certain of that, you know, we have a particular project that just didn’t lift off correctly and we lost a little bit of money on it, but we learned so much. Like, I’m pretty sure I don’t, I wouldn’t take that back. I think that that money last as more of an educational thing than anything. Um, you know, I, I really do think that if you care and you’re careful and you have goals, you’re going to move forward no matter what you do and whatever it is that you do do is going to teach you how to move forward. So I think, you know, just be open with your intuition. I mean, that’s really all I can say because we haven’t experienced a tremendous amount of hardship or time wasted, I don’t think.
Marshall Morris: Absolutely. And you guys have had a, a lot of immense success in a lot of people speaking so highly of you guys and enjoying your concerts and you know, regardless of wherever you’re playing, you know, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a really fun concert. And do you guys get everybody up on the dance floor, you know, dancing, you grew up in and moving the groove machine. Now, if you wanted all of the listeners to the podcast to take like one action as a result of listening to the episode today, um, is there something that you want them to do or an action, an action that you’d like them to, to, uh, take?
Nathan Wright: Yeah, I absolutely passionately for everyone to go vote on November sixth, no matter what you have to do, go do it. If you want change, if you’re upset about anything, you really need to spend some time looking up all of the candidates, think up all of the questions and figuring out what you want and what you respect and go. So it really isn’t that hard. It’s, you know, it’s not enough to just say civic duty. It really brings out a sense of fulfillment within you to go partake in this thing that is actually very special and isn’t offered to just an enormous number of people on the planet, so definitely go vote. November sixth,
Marshall Morris: Nathan Wright of the band. Count Tutu – “The Socially Charged T-Town Groove Machine.” Everybody needs to go out and vote. Thank you Nathan, so much for coming onto the show and we appreciate having you. We hope that we can have you guys back on again.
Nathan Wright: Of course. Thank you for having me. All right. We’ll talk to you guys later.