Maybe it’s genetics, maybe it’s a gift from above or maybe it’s simply a matter of hard work. Wherever Nathan Rogers’ talent comes from, it’s not going astray.
Nathan is currently on his “Nathan Sings Stan: The Rogers Legacy Continues” cross-Canada tour, with 10 stops in Newfoundland and Labrador. He opened with a show at George Street United Church Monday night, and will end with Gros Morne’s Trails, Tales and Tunes festival May 19-20.
Nathan is an acclaimed folk singer/songwriter in his own right — his records “True Stories” and “The Gauntlet” have won praise from critics, and he’s not long home from a five-week Australian tour with a new trio, Dry Bones. He’s known as something of a Canadian expert in Mongolian throat singing, which he performs regularly and taught himself.
With the exception of the Gros Morne festival, Nathan’s gigs in this province won’t be about his own music, though he’s not opposed to doing a tune or two if the crowd is game. It’s a tribute to his late father, Stan, and he’ll perform his songs exclusively.
“I’ve performed Stan’s music on a number of occasions — I usually do one or maybe two every time I do a show, so it’s not something I’ve ever shied away from,” Nathan said. “I think the reason that I hadn’t done a full tour of Stan’s material before was that I kind of wanted to make sure that I had my own thing going. I just don’t want to be understood as having my career function specifically on somebody else’s music. But it’s not something I’m afraid of and the association is not one I’m bothered by in the least.”
Folk singer/songwriter Stan Rogers, with his deep singing voice and songs that reflected east coast life, is perhaps best known for songs such as “Barrett’s Privateers” and “Northwest Passage.” He recorded four records in his lifetime, and another six of previously-recorded material were released after his death in 1983. Stan, age 33, died in a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797, on the ground at Greater Cincinatti Airport. He was nominated for two Junos posthumously and is still celebrated, particularly with the annual Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, N.S.
Nathan was almost four when his father died, and doesn’t have many memories of Stan’s musical career, apart from him being away a lot. What he does remember, he said, are the normal memories a child might have of their dad.
Learning Stan’s songs meant he also learned who his father was.
“There’s a lot of personality that gets put into writing and I find that really powerful and exceptional, that you can learn so much about a person based upon what they write about and what they talk about and the issues they support in their songs and their songwriting,” Nathan explained. “Stan was a family man and he was someone who believed that everyone should get a fair shake, and that the right thing to do wasn’t often the easy thing to do. There’s a lot about a person’s morality that can be uncovered by listening to their songs, and Stan is no exception.”
Nathan said he doesn’t feel the pressure of having to live up to a certain standard when performing his father’s music; he does what he does and the only pressure he feels comes from within.
“I love this music and I’m proud of this music,” he said. “All I ever want is to do my very best.”
Nathan will play in Burin tonight, and will do shows in Clarenville, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Corner Brook, Labrador City, Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander before ending up in Gros Morne.