“I think that’s the most fun I’ve ever had as a music person … ever … in my entire career,” he insists, and the sincerity in his voice is unmistakable. Nathan Chapman made his Grand Ole Opry debut this summer, delivering three songs from the same oak circle on the same stage where generations of country music legends have stood and performed. He had no trouble finding his dressing room or making his way to the stage. He’s been there before, just wearing a different hat. The Grammy-winning producer has supported country newcomer Mickey Guyton and country-pop star Taylor Swift from the wings. His June appearance was Chapman’s first as a solo artist and as a featured performer. He was barely able to contain an excitement and enthusiasm that lit up the room.
He wore a felt hat to the Opry that night. Custom-made in Nashville, the hat boasts a wide ribbon at the base, a crushable crown and a brim that is just turned-up at the edge. The resemblance to an old time preacher’s hat is intentional.
Chapman wears that same hat on the cover of soon-to-be-released album REVIVAL, and while the artwork was not meant to be taken literally, the connection between the image and the album’s theme of revival/renewal is clear. The cover tells a story.
Several of the album’s ten songs tell a similar tale. These describe a lonely character who struggles to make it right, to fix what has gone wrong, to build a new life after a series of poor choices. While few of the stories are drawn from the artist’s own life, these fictional tales ‘lead to the same place for me.” Says Nathan, ‘It’s about coming to grips with your imperfections as a person and learning how to live with your shortcomings. It’s about letting God fill in the cracks when you fall short, about keeping and caring for the relationships that matter to you.”
Nowhere is that theme clearer than in the album’s title track, co-written by Nathan Chapman and Tyler Hilton. Revival is about a wayward soul mired in despair who implores his mother to pray for his redemption. The lyrics showcase a form and a feeling reminiscent of the blues poetry of Langston Hughes. Sings Chapman, ‘I reached for the penny and I fell in the well/ Hitting rock bottom man it hurt like hell/ I couldn’t afford the bullets for the gun to my head/ Boys if I had the money I’d already be dead.’ The addition of a full-voiced gospel chorus completes the song, carrying the sinner and the listener straight into church as the sound of an organ swells.
At the Opry, Nathan’s performance of Revival was supported by the soaring harmonies of several background vocalists, singer-songwriter Stephanie Chapman among them. Nathan explains that his journey as a performing artist began when their roles were reversed; he often sang background for his wife on her solo
“Ainslie has been a jewel in the crown of Scottish traditional music for several years now but with Remembering he’s unleoshed a brilliantly upbeat record that is his very own crowning glory.