Nathan Meckel Admits it -
he gets bored easily. He likes to wear a lot of musical hats and celebrate the diversity of his happily schizophrenic resume. On any given day, or sometimes at the same time, he’s a songwriter, producer, touring musician or front man. He has no interest in limiting himself work or genre-wise—as long as the music he’s working with has uniqueness, a pulse to it. Like all guys who make their magic in a dark studio (or “The Lab,” as he calls his place) and get paid for it, he says, “I love making stuff up and calling it work.”
For The Mercury Lounge, the Nashville based Meckel’s lone (and highly acclaimed) roots rock indie solo recording, he came up with the perfect branding concept, “Quality Controlled Rock and Roll.” But that tag line only tells part of the story. The dynamic career he’s fashioned since includes a lot of rockers, but he’s also worked with exciting indie artists who do everything from pop, country, acoustic singer/songwriter and alternative to blues and classic-styled soul music.
The corporate side of the industry likes their behind the scenes talent to limit themselves and specialize. So for them, yeah, Nathan’s got an identifiable style. But his true brilliance lies in the free-spirited way he takes on high quality projects. “I pride myself on being a chameleon, finding and developing artists I believe in and helping them find their own voice and the right direction for them,” he says. “On top of getting the right performance, sound and mix, I like to uncover their
emotional core of who they are and what they want to write and sing. I love it when I’m able to help an artist record the track that inspires that look in their eye, like ‘Yeah, someone finally got me. This guy helped me record the stuff that was in my head.”
Part of the secret to Meckel’s success is his humility. But let’s get to his credits anyway. Be prepared, they’re pretty extensive—starting with over 80 cuts on major and indie labels (distributed by Universal, Sony and BMG) and 30 film/TV licensing placements with well known shows produced by Lions Gate, Sony, Columbia, MTV, VH1, ABC, Oxygen, E!, Bravo and CBS (including “Flashpoint”).
When MTV reality shows were all the rage, tracks he wrote and produced for various artists were used on shows like “The Real World” and “Road Rules.” Then there was the Paris Hilton show “The Simple Life,” “Top Model” and the film “Center Stage 2.” “Shut Up,” a track he co-wrote for singer Leah Turner, appeared in National Lampoon’s “Cattle Call” and was #1 on the iTunes Soundtrack chart for seven weeks. “No Mercy,” which he co-wrote and produced for singer Mike Robins, was #1 on iHeartRadio for five weeks; a second Meckel-produced Robins single, “Bleed Like That,” was #2 for three weeks.
Over the years, he has written and done studio collaborations with artists signed to Warner Bros., Universal, Capitol, Curb Records, Sony and other labels, in addition to contestants from “The Voice” and “American Idol.” He splits his time between working alone and collaborating (as one of “The Buzz Brothers”) with his brother in law, Grammy nominated drummer, engineer and mixer Mark Niemiec. On the occasions his wanderlust has taken over, he emerged from the control room, strapped on his axe and performed with other artists throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Israel and Latin America.
All of the above achievement and ambition no doubt stems from Meckel’s early years growing up in Hays, Kansas. The somewhat more famous, but super media shy, entertainment business magnate Philip Anschutz, was also raised there. His dad—future two-time Grammy winning publisher Mark Meckel—owned a music store with a recording studio and his mom was a “legit hippie.” The younger Meckel says, “I feel like I was sleeping under that console my whole childhood. My dad was always working with musicians, and there was always one sleeping in the basement.” He heard the Beatles and Stones in the house, but remembers being obsessed with Buddy Holly from the time he was three. Not that it would help him much later, but he took up viola in grade school before switching to guitar at 13.
Around 15, he started playing in bands and helping his dad book gigs for artists throughout the region. He also recalls spending two days at Johnny Cash’s house in high school. Later attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence, he played in a blues band called Blue Stew, and then got an opportunity to play in a local all-star band at bars where “Naked Lunch” author William Burroughs and actor Steve Buscemi hung out. After those crazy college years keeping fast company, and armed with a degree in American Studies (he got a D in the one classical music class he took at KU!), he moved to Nashville and promptly made inroads with local songwriters, developing artists and publishers. He has now lived there 15 years.
“At the end of the day,” Meckel says, “I play guitar with a healthy dose of angst and write songs from the heart. I was born with a predisposed condition for rebellion and am usually half cocked on a harmless amount of piss and vinegar most of the time. For me, it’s all about writing great songs and helping other artists elevate their game. I did not invent rock and roll or claim to be the best—though it could use a new savior. I’m just trying to garner a moment where I can stand on her shoulders and take a look at the view. No matter who I’m working with, I love that moment when a track is done, it sounds great and you want to crank that speaker up!”