Humility is a rare commodity in rock 'n' roll.
For 13 years, Nate Wilson sat off to the side of the spotlight, despite being the most gifted
musician onstage. As a keyboardist for Percy Hill and later the Assembly of Dust, Wilson let
others take the lead role and even let them sing his songs.
That's all changed. Tomorrow at the Paradise, the New Hampshire native climbs
out of his shell to lead the Nate Wilson Group, an all-star assemblage of jam-band veterans
that finally sets Wilson, his songs and his surprisingly supple voice at the forefront.
Wilson always sang, just never led. In Percy Hill, Wilson relegated himself
to background vocals.
"I was always kind of shy about it," he said by phone.
"I didn't really think of myself as a vocalist. Just recently,
the last year or so, I had this epiphany. I looked around and saw all these bands
with great singers, but a lot with singers that are just OK. So if that's going on,
then why don't I try?"
But Wilson doesn't merely get by with his vocals. He possesses a sweet tenor
reminiscent of Paul Simon, emoting with a melancholic tenderness that stands out among
thecheery/goofy jam-band flock.
"A lot of it has to do with having the personality of the song
match what I intended,"he said."Something always seems to
change a bit when you have someone else sing your song. The overall personality
of the song changes."
The direction and ownership of his songs played into his decision to leave Percy Hill
after 12 years. But it was more than that.
"Basically, for me it had been eroding on a personal and musical level
for a while," Wilson said."There was enough tension there so that
it wasn't working. I mean, we’re not the Rolling Stones. Just because you
can go out there and play and be able to draw a crowd is not a good enough reason
to keep doing it."
Besides, Wilson, who is enrolled in a two-year jazz performance master's
program at New England Conservatory of Music, already has enough on his plate.
With Reid Genauer, he writes the majority of tunes for the Assembly of Dust,
a group with healthier prospects than the crumbling Percy Hill.
For now, however, Wilson is focused on the Nate Wilson Group, an impressive crew
that includes Percy Hill/AOD vets John Leccesse on bass and Adam Terrell on guitar,
as well as Steve Kimock, reputedly Jerry Garcia’s favorite guitar player.
But even with the dazzling Kimock next to him, it's finally Wilson's
turn to be where he belongs: front and center.