Jazz Aspen Labor Day: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats | AspenTimes.com

Jazz Aspen Labor Day: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Colorado music fans knew Nathaniel Rateliff before it was cool to know Nathaniel Rateliff.

The Denver-based singer and his soul revival band The Night Sweats appeared to be an overnight sensation two years ago when they did an epic rendition of "S.O.B." on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," saw their self-titled debut record make them one of the breakthrough bands of 2015 and topped the charts.

But it was a long time coming for Rateliff, 38, who will play sold-out concerts at Belly Up Aspen and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience this weekend.

The singer moved to Denver from Missouri 20 years ago with a friend — Joseph Pope III, now the bassist for The Night Sweats — to play music.

In relative obscurity, he made the rounds at Front Range and mountain town music clubs with his band Born in the Flood and then built a following with the Denver underground favorite Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel.

His reception during early stops in Aspen looked nothing like Saturday's expected crowd of more than 10,000 fans or the jam-packed Belly Up. "Every other time I've been to Belly Up there's been nobody there," Rateliff said before his first sold-out show at the Aspen music club in 2015.

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When bands like Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver came to Colorado, they'd often tap Rateliff to open. But breakout success eluded him for years. In 2012, before Rateliff opened for Wilco at a show in Vail, he told the Vail Daily that he was eager to make the jump from opening act to headliner.

"It would be nice," he said at the time. "We'll see what the next record does."

When his the next record, 2013's "Falling Faster Than You Can Run," failed to gain commercial traction, Ratefliff doubted whether he had a future in music. He thought about focusing on the voiceover and gardening work that's helped pay his bills over the years. But then he started writing songs in a retro-soul style, and found himself creatively revived.

"I'd been working hard for a long time and I didn't know if I was going to keep playing music or get a job or what," he said. "So to push through, I just wrote one song, and then another, and kept going, and wanted to see where everything would go in that style."

Out of that last-ditch songwriting effort came the formation of The Night Sweats and the self-titled album.

"It opened everything up for me, and I said, 'I can do this,'" he said. "I was excited by the record."

Now that he's achieved rock stardom – headlining in Aspen and at marquee summer music festivals around the U.S. this summer – and keeping up a rigorous touring schedule, Rateliff has some new challenges on his hands.

"I'm just trying to be healthy and not wake up hungover everyday," Rateliff said.

On their triumphant self-titled debut and on last year's eight-song EP "A Little Something More from Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nigh Sweats," the band showcases the an exuberant, soul-infused folk that takes cues from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding but throttles them with a hard-rock attitude.

The runaway success of the last few years has surprised Rateliff as much as anoone else.

"My friends are all like, 'Oh, this is going to be big,'" he said. "But I've heard that about every record I've put out and it's never happened. I've just started ignoring it."

atravers@aspentimes.com

If You Go …

Who: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Where: JAS After Dark, Belly Up Aspen

When: Friday, Sept. 1, 9:30 p.m.

Tickets: Sold out

More info: Tracksuit Wedding opens; http://www.bellyupaspen.com

Who: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Where: Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, Snowmass Town Park

When: Saturday, Sept. 2, 5 p.m.

Tickets: Sold out

More info: St. Paul & the Broken Bones play at 3 p.m. Keith Urban performs at 7:30 p.m.; http://www.jazzaspensnowmass.org.

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