In mid 2011, New York native Nat Osborn set aside the various bands and projects he was working on in order to realize a longtime vision. Osborn had always wanted to create a band with a big sound that contained elements of improvisation yet had a firm base in adventurous pop songwriting. With the help of producer Alex Bilowitz (Jose James, Diane Birch, Leighton Meester), he was able to create the album that had been burning inside him.
Though only twenty-six, Osborn has been writing songs and leading bands for a decade. He celebrated his 18th birthday with a headlining set at famed NYC club the Bitter End. He’s studied tabla in India and classical composition in New England, busked on the streets of Budapest, written songs on Spanish balconies, packed venues across NYC, toured through most of Europe and the US, scored a feature film, and been deported, guitar in hand, from the U.K. But this album—“The King and the Clown”—feels like his true beginning.
The Nat Osborn Band took shape as a seven-piece band with a three-piece horn section. The band is a group of prodigious young talents, some of whom had already played with the likes of Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, Ludacris, and members of Soulive. With this ensemble, he achieved his goal of combining strong composition with improvisational elements, and matching catchy, expressive songwriting with a powerhouse live performance.
Osborn’s approach reflects his generation’s affinity for and exposure to a broad swath of musical styles—a 21st century sensibility that comes from having entire libraries of music in your pocket. The band seamlessly blends elements of rock, reggae, funk, pop, and even klezmer and jazz, creating thrilling new sounds. Despite this genre-defiance, there is a continuity that comes from Osborn’s fluent writing and his compelling and soulful voice. The band’s sound draws as much from Radiohead and Jeff Buckley as it does from soul greats like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. Osborn himself has been described as a funky Rufus Wainwright.
The songs on “The King and the Clown” range across topics as well as styles. Many of his song reflect social and political issues with a sense of “paradise lost” that typify the generation that came of age post-9-11 though Osborn’s romantic personal side is also reflected in songs of longing, lost love, and hopeless attraction.
Osborn himself is tireless, he not only writes the music but leads all aspects of the band. Through his determined approach, they have won a fan base not only in their hometown of NYC but in Washington, DC, Boston, and beyond. The band is at the start of something truly special.