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I never thought music would bring me to Africa – Nathaniel Henson

Nathaniel Henson is a one of the three band members of the American music group, Heart Society, which visited Nigeria recently as part of the…

Nathaniel Henson is a one of the three band members of the American music group, Heart Society, which visited Nigeria recently as part of the American Music Abroad program. The bass guitarist who has played with the likes of Grammy Awardee, Leandria Johnson and Donnie McClurkin, spoke to Weekend Magazine about visiting the continent for the first time and his kind of music.

Daily Trust: You’ve had different experiences and collaborated with different people. How have all these formed you as a person and impacted on your work?

Nathaniel Henson: I have taken something away from each of my experiences and collaborations and put it into my playing. I can say I am not the typical bass player. Some people say I don’t. I play pockets but I think I am a very expressive bass player. I play what I am feeling and how I am feeling at the moment.

DT: What got you into music?

Henson: My dad. He is a guitar player and also my pastor. He is like, ‘if you’re not on the road, you need to be in church. You can do anything you want to do, Monday to Saturday. But Sunday is church day. I don’t care what you have to do, even if you have to leave slightly earlier or you arrive late, be in church.’ He is also my hero and probably one of my biggest fans as well.

DT: You’ve done rock, jazz, classical and some other genres. How did you carve a niche for yourself having these multiple identities in music?

Henson: Honestly, I don’t know. I guess growing up I had a church background and from there I developed a jazz background. Once I got out of high school and college, from jazz I had exposure to rock, other forms of jazz and then exposure to the rest of them all.

DT: Do you have a favourite one that best expresses you?

Henson: I don’t. They all do [express me] because I am different, I would say. Some days I am very talkative, some days I just sit back and observe. I would say the talkative side of me, reflects more jazz, modern day jazz, not the old one. The non-talkative side would maybe, be blues (laughter).

DT: What were your thoughts when you learnt about your trip to Africa?

Henson: I was very excited. It’s one of the things I have always wanted to do. I have always wanted to travel the world to perform, to play, to learn and collaborate and I have been able to do all that just in a matter of one week and a half. It’s like my dream has come true.

DT: What did you know of music and contemporary music in Africa?

Henson: I knew about the beats. I was having trouble counting some of the beats from the different drums. One would have a beat from one drum, two others would have separate beats going. So, I couldn’t count. I would be on the bass trying to catch up and figure out where is the down beat. I couldn’t figure it out (laughter).

A couple of times I just stopped playing, even though it seemed like I was playing because, I had to count so I don’t mess up the sounds. I have learned a lot since I have been here.

DT: What are you especially looking forward to during your trip here in Nigeria?

Henson: I am looking forward to learning and also showing them how we do it in Mississippi and looking forward to them showing us how it is done here.

DT: What does it feel like being a part of the team with these two ladies, Teneia and Rila?

Henson: It is great. Between these two young ladies, I can say to myself that it’s kind of like I am the brother or the security just to make sure they are safe. I have known Rila for like half of my life… It is great to be travelling with someone… we started out together. It is a dream to get to this platform together. The experience between has been lovely.

DT: For some, working with women, is different from working with men. Does that happen?

Henson: Not with these two. (laughter). It’s all positive. I have worked with a group of women before and when you have two women, you have two personalities to work with. With these two, I am always looking forward to work.

DT: Do you think you would do well by yourself without them?

Henson: I think I would do pretty good but they make me better.

DT: How long have you been in music and how have you evolved over the years?

Henson: I have been in music pretty much all of my life. I started playing the drums when I was two. I moved to the bass guitar at the age of 12. It’s been an experience far evolving. I have learned a lot playing different genres of music, different styles, meeting different people, connecting with them. It’s funny how you can connect and interact with people through music. You don’t even need to have a conversation, just music.

DT: What has changed about you in the last ten years?

Henson: I have been on a lot of travel. This is my first time in Africa, I never thought music would bring me to another continent. I used to do cruise ships. So, I would go to different countries on a cruise ship. But I never in a million years thought I would come to Africa and be able to just interact with people and learn so much. So, I am definitely grateful.

DT: Do you seek for privacy sometimes when you are performing?

Henson: Yes, sometimes. My astrological sign is Aquarius. They say sometimes, we have to get into own little box, little shield. Not trying to hide from the rest of the world, but sometimes just trying to get that tunnel vision, mentally so that we can build ourselves up. We are fun people.

DT: What’s the most challenging part of being a musician and how do you deal with it?

Henson: Personally, I would say people. Everybody is not going to be your friend. Everybody is not who say they are your friends are not really your friends. Or jealous of you, jealous of us for this experience we are going through. That’s my biggest challenge. I persevered and have overcome all of it.

DT: Does being a Christian make a difference in your line of work?

Henson: It does. I feel like God gave me this talent. So, no matter what I’d do outside, I always have to come back and give Him appreciation for blessing me with this talent.


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