As a genre, the blues isn’t known for being particularly joyful, but the new single from the Korean-American blues poet Nat Myers is so full of it you can’t help but feel uplifted.
It’s a song you’ll want to blast from your speakers as soon as you wake up. A song you’ll be whistling in the sunshine on your way in to work and whistling still on the way back home. It’s the kind of song that puts a great big smile on your face and a spring in your step no matter what life might be throwing at you.
Taken from his forthcoming debut album, Yellow Peril, it’s typical of the kind of modern blues he's beginning to make a name for himself with. Steeped in history, in epic poetry and old blues 78s, the album captures its creator’s idiosyncrasies as well as the country’s contradictions and his Korean American heritage.
“I wasn’t raised with a clear understanding of my Asianness,” he says, “and I didn’t really have a consciousness about who I was as a until very recently. I got very militant about it during the pandemic, and while I’ve chilled out a little since then, I’m all about Yellow Power. I want this record to raise my folks up.”
Myers’ story starts in Kansas, but quickly moves to West Tennessee and then Northern Kentucky. Even as a child, he was a restless spirit. A misspent youth, a passion for the epic poetry of Homer and a left-handed starter guitar led him to the blues that his father had always adored.
“It dawned on me that the real American epics were being told by these itinerant musicians from the 30s and 40s, even before recorded sound,” he says. “That’s when I did my deep dive into the blues, so I could write my own epic.”
Myers studied poetry at the New School in New York City, where he worked odd jobs to make ends meet. Eventually he started busking on street corners and in subway stations, playing a few covers and a lot more originals for commuters and tourists. Covid eventually put an end to his busking, and he retreated home, where he spent the pandemic uploading videos of his performances to social media and making that his new street corner.
Those clips caught the ear of Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys frontman and founder of Easy Eye Sound Records, who reached out and asked to meet up in Nashville.
“We hung out at his studio, talked about the blues, talked about O Brother Where Art Thou and the impact that movie had for the music we both love,” remembers Myers. “I felt like I’d found a good group of Goonies.”
Myers made several more trips down to Nashville to co-write with Auerbach, famed songwriter Pat McLaughlin, and blues legend Alvin Youngblood Hart before they began to record the songs that would become his forthcoming album at a makeshift studio at Auerbach’s home, a 100-year-old stone house on several acres in Nashville.
“I was humming this melody for this song a while, something you can whistle", Myers shares. "I'd been experiencing a lot of yearning and was thinking of how circumstances can turn your love into an island if you ain't careful. I brought that melody to the felluhs and we spent a morning grinning on it, and there's a bit of all three of us round that writing table, Pat, Dan and myself. They was also kind enough to cut the song that hot day in 2022. Leroy Troy from the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band does some of his magic on the cut, too.”
“We were all hootin’ and hollerin’ and havin’ a good-ass time", Myers says of the sessions, where they cut a dozen songs in three days. The mood of those sessions, like the music, was jubilant and energetic and that’s exactly what you hear as soon as you put the needle down on ‘Pray for Rain’. It’s all that life in it that makes it sound so exhilarating.
The video is exclusively premiering on Holler below.
Yellow Peril is released on Easy Eye Sounds on 23rd June.