|Interview| Getting to Know Producer Nate Fox

Photo by FragDFilms

A year ago, Nate Fox was living in Pittsburgh, working on a construction site. That all changed on April 30 when Chance The Rapper released his critically-acclaimed project, Acid Rap, featuring production from Fox. The past four months have taken him far from that manual labor life, traveling the country and then the world on the strength of his production and the success of Chance’s latest release. To say it has been a long road is not an overstatement, after ten years plugging away in his native Pittsburgh and later Cleveland, Fox caught the ear of Chancellor with his beat for the Acid Rap single “Juice” with its quirky, bouncing, up-tempo beat. The rest is quickly becoming history as Fox and a talented team of producers including Peter CottonTale and Cam Osteen head back out on the road with Chance for his headlining Social Experiment tour. I got the opportunity to catch Fox while he was in Chicago preparing for the tour and had a chance to catch him for a few minutes between a salad and a session.  Read about the crazy path his life has taken in 2013 and what lays ahead, below.

Jake: So I know you’ve had a crazy summer since Acid Rap dropped at the end of April, what’s life been like?

Nate Fox: It’s been a lot different, a lot different. Like, I don’t feel any different but what I’ve been doing has definitely been different. It feels like a lot longer than what it’s been just because its been so much compacted into such a short amount of time. You know, I was doing the construction thing. When Acid Rap dropped I was working construction in the middle of Pittsburgh, not even Pittsburgh but the middle of Pennsylvania, in the sticks. I think I left to go to LA to meet with labels and stuff in like June. And so from June until now, its been like a whirlwind of shit, like I just signed my pub deal with Disney like two or three weeks ago. I just got my check today, it came Fed Ex’ed to Pat (Corcoran)’s house today, but the ironic part is its Columbus Day and the banks are closed so I couldn’t even do anything with it. So it was like ten years of waiting just to wait one more day (laughs).

Jake: Still, it always feels good to get that first check.

Nate Fox: Yeah, to get that first real check. I’ve gotten paid off music a whole bunch, but never to the point where I was like ‘maybe I should start looking at places’ you know what I mean?

Jake: For sure. So how did you get hooked up with Disney?

Nate Fox: They were just one of the people that started calling me, you know? It was Atlantic, RCA, BMG, Warner Chapel, Sony, Def Jam, we went everywhere and met all kinds of really cool people, people that I would habe totally worked with. But it came down to really how they felt about my philosophy about doing what I was going to do. I went into every meeting and let them know I’m not trying to chase a single. I don’t want to work with Lady Gaga. If I do, I do; but it’s not what I’m after. What I want to do is find new people that are on the cusp, and I want to help them develop a little more of a sound. I feel like I have the ability to communicate well with people inside the studio, to take their ideas and formulate them into things and stuff. So it’s like, I want to work with people that are just on the idea level skill in their career, they haven’t gotten to that point where it’s like their thinking about records but they’re also thinking about promotion, thinking about marketing, they’re in the system. To get up to the next level. There’s a couple people that I want to start working with. There’s this guy Kyle out in LA who’s crazy. He’s got bars but he’s like the better pop version of Drake. He’s got the R&B, he’s got the rap and then he’s got the pop side. I feel like this guy can do the pop-Drake version really, really well. I think that this project that he’s working on will be like some Daft Punk meets Drake shit. Some upbeat, dancy shit and it’ll be dope because he can rap and he can sing, he’s got great melodies.

Jake: So what exactly are you looking for when finding someone to work with?

Nate Fox: I feel like I have decent taste, so if something catches my ear or intrigues me, I feel like its worth my time. I listen to, we listen to, everybody I know listens to hella stuff all the time but like there will still be those ten jams, or those ten artists or whatever that totally stick out. So I’m looking to do stuff with those people, like I just did a session with Lion Babe, so hot. The craziest part is that they only have one song, and one video out, they’ve done a couple shows but they’re working on an album right now and it’s just going to be so hot fire.

Jake: So Disney is kind of a different choice to sign with, what was the motivation to connect with them?

Nate Fox: Well, it’s Hollywood Records and Hollywood Records has been owned by Disney for a good amount of time but their looking to revamp their whole music department and one of the things they were doing was bringing in new producers that they thought work on a versatile scale so that they could do movie stuff, tv stuff, and also do cool and interesting new music stuff. I fit the kind of mold that they were talking about so when I came in saying ‘hey, I want to work on interesting neat stuff, I don’t even want to do much rap, I’m ready to go to whatever’s next, different stuff. And they were like ‘that’s exactly what we want you to do’ and everyone was so nice and cool and when it came down to negotiations about everything, it was good.

Jake: You talked about working with up and coming artists and that’s certainly something Peter CottonTale has done here in Chicago, do you feel that’s why you guys work so well together?

Nate Fox: I think that me and Peter work really well together because what he doesn’t have, I do and what I don’t have he has. I’m not nearly as good of a musician as he is, as far as his abilities to play instruments and understand music on a logical sense. I just don’t get it the way he does, the same way he  might not get just one sound. His thought process is so complex in comparison to mine that sometimes that simplicity adds such a defining element to that complex. So I think we work really well together in that way and it’s going to make for this new stuff we’re doing with Chance to be some next level shit. I don’t think that there’s any possible way that with the core group of people that Chance has put together for it to not be absolutely amazing. *Acid Rap* was such a new thing that it’s like whatever we do next, the bar is set so high. But we don’t even think about it like that, we think about it like we made those songs, what are our next songs and we don’t know what they’re going to sound like but we know what they’re going to feel like. That’s why the core group works so well together is because we all understand what this feels like, what it’s supposed to feel like when you listen to a Chance record.

Jake: How fortunate do you feel to have come into a situation like the one you’re in with Chance and these guys?

Nate Fox: Obviously you know I’m super lucky and extra blessed and the stars just aligned. It didn’t really happen any more magical of a way than I’ve met everybody else and it just started to feel good the more we did stuff, the more we were doing things, the more it felt like this is what I’m supposed to be doing, you know? I’d been in Cleveland and in Cleveland there’s not a lot of versatility music-wise. So I was doing a lot of straight rap stuff because that’s what they wanted and I always had this desire, I had these beats that I never felt worked with the people that were around at the time. Not to say who I was with wasn’t tight as fuck, everyone I was working with was crazy. That’s when I was doing all the Tess stuff and the Reed stuff and it was still really tight, I just had these other types of things that my creative pallet didn’t get fulfilled with. Now I feel like no matter what I make, I’ll be able to find someone to fit it, whether it’s Chance or new people I’m starting to do stuff with, I just feel like my catalogue of people I can go to is way bigger. I don’t feel anymore as though my ideas will be snuffed or they’ll be under appreciated. Whatever I make, there will always be somebody it will be perfect for.

Jake: Do you think that’s a result of this status you’ve achieved recently?

Nate Fox: No, I feel like I’ve always felt that way. I’ve always felt like every single beat that I made, whether I had somebody in mind or I didn’t had a home. It was almost like making a child and then somebody adopting the child and it’s the perfect fit for the family. I feel like just from my knowledge of music and listening and understanding not just music but the people that are maing those songs and understanding their thought process and making them and where they’re at in their life and everything. It’ll all make sense to what I should be giving them. Now it’s just cool with a little bit of recognition and people coming at me, it allows me to see a little more of what’s available. I don’t have to ask people to check out my beats, it’s like ‘Nate Fox sent me this package, I have to check it out.’ It’s nice, it helps, it makes you feel like you can make anything, there’s no boundaries anymore.

Jake: 2013 has been a crazy year for you, what did you take away from the whirlwind of a summer you had?

Nate Fox: It’s crazy because it was such a juxtaposition. I was just everyday getting up, building stuff, working with my hands and getting a pay check. I was working a job, I was doing what everybody else was doing and I was just trying to stay alive and now I don’t feel like that anymore, I don’t feel like I’m just trying to stay alive, I feel like what’s the next move for life. It’s not even like a struggle. Financially everything is coming together, it’s still not like I’m going to the lot, pick up a whip and scoot off. But it’s to the point now I can think about what’s going to make me happy, what do I need in my life to make me happy.

Jake: What’s the freedom like?

Nate Fox: Well, with that freedom comes a lot more responsibility. You have a lot more people that are looking at you for more. Whatever you might have been able to sneak out a half-ok something, you can’t do that anymore. It’s got to be crisp and pristine because it’s not just for them, wanting to work with artists of a higher caliber but for myself too, you want to set a particular standard for your product. You want people to say ‘when I have this, it’s worth more than something else.’ But I was never like that. I was normally like ‘ah I don’t feel like doing it anymore’ but now I’m much more on that line of ‘if it’s not done, it’s not done.’ I don’t have to be on a time frame, it’s not like if I don’t sell this beat I won’t eat this week and that feels way better. The music is always based off emotion and feeling so if you don’t feel right or you don’t enjoy doing something it’s never going to feel right, it’s never going to be as good.

Jake: So what’s next for Nate Fox, what’s coming up?

Nate Fox: This tour is going to take up pretty much most of the year and that’s going to be super fun. I’m just excited to be with these guys again, be back on the road. That Mac Miller tour was so much fun, the guys that already knew each other became better friends and the guys that didn’t know each other became best friends. It was one of those Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants situations (laughs). It was definitely like that. But it’s going to be like that, just part two. The music will be better, the shows will be better. Before it was almost like getting a taste, ‘hey, you all like Chance The Rapper? Here’s a little bit of that.’ And now it’s like ‘y’all like that little taste? Well here’s the whole plate.’ Now what (laughs). It’s just going to be so fucking tight and so fucking fun and we’re going to make so much new music because its like so many intelligent minds, producers and musicians on the road together cramped all in one room. So if one person gets a laptop out, now everyone has to get their laptops out (laughs). Well he’s making a beat, now I have to make a beat too. That’s how things happen and it’s cool to do it like that because being a little more on the inside now, how songs come about and it might start in your room and then go somewhere else and end up on a record. With this, it’s just like, let’s make it-who cares about who gets what credit. Who gives a fuck, let’s just make some tight-ass shit and we’ll worry about that other stuff later and we’re all friends so it’s not hard to divvy up. It’s not like a fight and that’s cool and makes everything go smoother and everyone get along and that comes a lot with Pat and Chance and who they are too. They’re the kind of guys where if you walk in the room and you don’t know them, you’re not going to leave the room without being friends with them. I’m excited, I’m excited for everything. After the tour I’ll probably be in Cali, I need to make some new stuff and work on a couple of these other projects and just take it from there.

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