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Spinning local
A soundcheck 209 retrospective
Nate Nathan – Calaveras County’s Soul Searcher

We featured Nate Nathan back in December 2020 with a trip to Angels Camp to record a live, stripped-down rendition of “Living a Lie” from his album Summer Chronicles. From the onset, it was clear he took great care to curate a visual aesthetic that was as important to his art as the music itself. Citing influence from acts like Thelonious Monk and Enya, Nathan proved to be a versatile and enigmatic artist. 

Equal parts spiritual and soulful, his lyrics are deeply introspective and his style is wildly experimental. These qualities continued to evolve over the course of the three albums he released after our feature – The Castle of Doves, Butterflies from Mt Sinai, and The Vow. His expansive approach to music continued when he opened the brick-and-mortar Nate Nathan’s Sound Temple in Angels Camp, a space for music, worship and prayer that offers vocal workshops, community listening events, creative presentations and live production facilities. A series of music videos are also slated for release in the coming months for those interested in seeing Nathan’s brand of music-driven visuals.

“I’ve always aspired to create what visually and audibly feels like classic cinema. Each album has gotten closer to that goal of creating a world of unique lore for the listener. Opening up a creative space grounded in prayer and vocal growth has become an important piece of this puzzle. Creating a physical world where these ideas can grow has been a surreal experience.” – Nate Nathan

Ava Grace – Shades of Grace

This multi-faceted Oakdalian graced our series in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and shutdown, an unpreceded moment in time that inspired her solo single “Senior SZN.” A then 18-year-old and soon-to-be high school graduate, Ava Grace performed her single acapella with the help of her trusted ukulele. The bare-bones performance put her singing ability on full display and perfectly captured the mood of her teenage experience in the moment of time. 

Grace fronted both Gravel & Grace and the Ava Grace Trio while still in high school, touring the South with the former, while also releasing solo. After graduating from Oakdale High in 2021, Grace marked her transition into adulthood with a move to Boulder, Colorado. She’s currently completing her music degree at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and is part of its jazz ensemble, acapella group, voice program, songwriting program, and theatre program. She’s slated to appear in an upcoming production of Cats! and is preparing a winter release of her debut solo album Rove.

“I heard once that in the same way art decorates space, music decorates time – I think that’s a nice way of saying all music is following some journey or another, and mine is one that everyone has been on or will be on at some point. Self-exploration, self-sufficiency, that sort of thing. [My album] depicts my experience in becoming an adult and getting out there on my own.” – Ava Grace

Jelani – Your Best Friend’s Favorite Rapper

Jelani stands as the first and only rapper featured on our series, which is appropriate given his status as the first hip-hop artist to release an album on Pac Ave Records at the University of Pacific back in 2019. We visited Jelani prior to the release of his debut EP First Impression and captured an intimate performance of his song “How Can I Forget.” Jelani gave us a lesson in classical rap, as he melded piano play with his lyrics and violin in a stellar performance.

Jelani released his sophomore effort Higher Learning, Vol 1 in 2020 and was featured on several albums, including Maverick by Nigerian singer-songwriter Kizz Daniel. Equipped with talent, experience and a Music Management degree from UOP, Jelani quickly branched out to help the next generation of local musicians. He currently serves as both a songwriting professor at his Alma Mater and is the Director of the non-profit Stockton Soul. He’s also added a new dimension to his craft, recording violin for the production Holes that held a run at Gallo last March while also playing the role of Sam.

“I’m learning to bloom where I’m planted. As an artist/educator, I crave to cultivate connection and creativity. I was encouraged by my mom to get into my first acting class. She always saw the entertainer in me. MJC is where I took my first acting class and the next fall, I got the opportunity to play Othello.

“Musically, I’ve been working with Stockton Soul to create engaging and educational concerts for students and original music like out latest single “The Elements” where we discuss the elements of Black music.” – Jelani