Nathan “Earl” Allebach is everything you could want from a singer-songwriter. Clad in tan skinnies and a jean jacket covering an obscure band tank-top, he captures the look of an alt folk singer who knows his way around the scene. The beard and black frames help, too.
But Allebach has more to offer than a trademark wardrobe. Having been involved in the music scene for the better part of five years as both a performer and promoter, Allebach has been on stage, behind the sound board and on the sidelines giving bands their two-minute warnings. Based in Harleysville, Pa., he has hosted local music and art shows regularly and has been a staple in his local music scene.
Taking the solo road under the name Earl, Allebach offers catchy folk songs with a voice both familiar sounding yet unique. He is currently in the studio recording his first solo album, “Beginnings,” and he will be performing at The Blockley on May 19.
Allebach sat down with The Temple News to enjoy a cup of green tea and discuss his new project and upcoming album.
THE TEMPLE NEWS: You have been involved in the local scene, both as a performer and promoter, for years. How did you first get involved in music?
Nathan Allebach: I began playing acoustic guitar in eighth grade, so I guess that was around 2007. I picked it up because I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, writing short stories and poetry, and I wanted to see how it sounded once I put it to music. And I sucked really, really bad. So I just [tried] it for a while and realized that it wasn’t really going anywhere, because I wasn’t the best at guitar or bass or singing. All my buddies played in bands, so I didn’t really fit in anywhere. But I just kept at it. I started playing some cover songs on acoustic and piano. I still sucked, but I started to see some potential in that. I started learning how to sing. I guess early on I started listening to some key musical influences that I still have today, like City and Colour and John Mark McMillian. I would try to emulate their singing patterns and their styles, and that eventually got me to the point where I developed a tone for myself. So after years of trial and error…a tone got developed and people began to pay attention.
TTN: How would you describe your writing style?
NA: Everybody approaches this so differently, but for me it is honestly a more organic thing. It’s not so much that I love writing songs or that I love making music, but that I find that when I’m going through something I always find myself on paper. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, whenever a thought enters my head it ends up on paper, and that’s typically where it begins. Now that I love playing guitar, I’ll just sit on the couch, and I’ll just start playing. If I have a “catch” or a tagline that I really like I’ll just keep singing that while playing guitar. If that first tagline sticks in my head as something that I can put up with for right now, then I’ll structure the song from that point.
I’ve tried for years to force music. Everyone has the bands that they look up to, so you try as a musician to sound [like them] sometimes, and it has never worked for me. All the songs and sounds I get come from just sort of processing and being able to put the words I process into simple music.
TTN: You are currently in the studio working on a new album. Tell us a little about that.
NA: It’s been a long, long process in the studio. I went in about eight months ago with one of my best friends, Eric Sirianni. I went in with him because he was starting up his own studio and needed a good project to get his name out there, so we started going at it and started laying down the full band with some drums and everything else. But he ended up getting caught up with work, and I got caught up with work and school, so it got really, really slow for a while, kind of fell behind.
But now, as of 2013, April and March, we’ve been going hard at it. Currently that’s where most of my energy is. It’s going to be a 12-track record titled “Beginnings.” I don’t have a date yet, but I’m hoping to release it in early summer.
TTN: What are some struggles you’ve encountered as a solo musician?
NA: Lots. Being a solo musician in the Philly area is great and horrible, because Philly has an emerging music scene that is not quite on par with New York City or Nashville or L.A. But it’s emerging, so a lot of the venues out here are thirsty for new taste. There are a lot of locals, like myself, that are coming onto the scene and trying to make a name for themselves. So there’s been a lot of opportunities in the city, but at the same time, as a solo artist it’s a lot harder to promote gigs when it’s just you…When you’re with a band your chances double, triple, quadruple to get people out than with one person. Drawing people out to a gig has been a big challenge the last two years or so.
TTN: How would you say your experience as a show planner and promoter in the local scene has influenced your success as a musician?
NA: It sounds corny and cliché, but it’s all about loving people and loving what they have to offer. Growing up in the music, it’s like there’s a sense of community there, and everyone has their part. Whether they are watching the music or playing the music or selling music or buying music, everyone has their part, and they feel a family when they go to shows. I grew up in that, so I wanted to recreate it when I started booking shows a couple years ago. So now I’m using that idea as a platform for myself to get in the music world.
Jared Whalen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.