An interview with South-African, indie-folk musician Nate Maingard

Nate Maingard

By Chyrisse Tabone

Nate playing the ukulele
Listen to Nate’s first song written with the ukulele.

It was a few weeks ago that Rock At Night received a Twitter follower named Nate Maingard. I decided to check out his website and noticed there was a free download. To my amazement, especially for today’s artists, I could not believe the depth of the lyrics of the song but also the beautiful guitar accompaniment and catchy beat. I started to explore his prolific blog postings, which read like a person journal of self-discovery. He appears very transparent, open, and wears his “heart on his sleeve.” I was later compelled to download a couple songs from his CD Home and then his latest EP In the Shadows.

Those of you familiar with Rock At Night know we are on a quest to discover fresh and exciting indie music and the discovery of Nate Maingard is no exception. There is an indescribable mystical vibe with his music that I cannot pinpoint. It is very positive, uplifting, and soulful.

I’m not in it to be a rock star…I want to have an authentic human connection

Maingard hails from Capetown, South Africa but has been living , busking, and doing house concerts in London. It is hard to believe he made the decision to devote his life to creating music and connecting with people only a few years ago. I guess it is in his destiny since he comes from a long line of musicians and or/luthiers. He is a self-described “storyteller, global nomad, modern troubadour, and indie-folk singer.”

Splashy Fen Festival-South Africa in 2012
Splashy Fen Festival-South Africa in 2012


Here is Rock At Night’s interview:

Do you have any formal musical training and when did you take an interest in music? How long have you been playing?

I don’t have formal training. I had a few guitar teachers when I was a teenager, who taught me covers…then I just carried on playing and taught myself. I began playing when I was 14, though didn’t take it seriously up until 2011 :D.

Did you set out to become a musician or did it happen serendipitously? Did you work in another field before setting out to be a full-time musician?

I tried very hard NOT to be a musician because I was so afraid I wasn’t good enough and that I’d fail. I worked in Raw-food, Healthfood industry for several years, I worked in Bars, I busked on the streets, I worked temp jobs, I delivered vegetables. Yes, I did a bunch of stuff before I stopped running away from my deepest heart’s desire: to share my songs and stories and inspire people to love themselves.

What is the first song you ever wrote?

It was called ‘I Dream’, I wrote it with my best friend Heyn, I think we were 15. It was utterly depressing :).

 I understand you used to listen to Cat Stevens and admired his music. Which other artists influenced you? What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

My dad and mom have a great taste in music, so I was blessed to grow up listening to Neil Young, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Beethoven, Leonard Cohen, etc etc. I was very influenced by all those beautiful lyricists and melodious artists. Also, my dad is an accomplished singer-songwriter and my mom is a poet, so words were always given great value in my home.

Nate Maingard
Nate Maingard

Tell me about your guitar playing. First of all, what kind of guitar do you use in your recordings? It sounds great!

I play a guitar I built in my dad’s workshop, with his and his apprentice’s assistance. Her name is Melody and she and I have grown up together, I built her when I was 18.

Do you consider yourself to be a poet, a musician, or both? Do you write the lyrics first? The music?

I consider myself to be a troubadour, which is definitely part poet and part musician and a few other things thrown in too. I’m a storyteller, and my stories are often in song form, put it that way. I usually start strumming some chords and then words just arrive and I let them flow through. I do sometimes write the words first, but not usually.

 In your songs, you come off as being open, sincere, passionate, and romantic.  You wear your heart on your sleeve. There’s almost an air of innocence and a peaceful vibe. You often write about personal topics dear to your heart. Is writing catharsis for you?

I only write about topics dear to my heart, and life IS personal ;). I would say that writing is my teacher. My subconscious, my Higher Self, knows so much more about reality and the Divine than I do. My songs are all teachers, guiding me back towards my true self, my highest potential. The best thing I can do is live a healthy life and grow into myself so that I can be the clearest channel possible, and let the teachings flow through me.

 I notice the CD Home had a more slow, melancholy tone compared to In the Shadows.  What can you tell me about this? Why so sad before and bouncy now?

In The Shadows was my first opportunity to work with a full band, and I only had a few songs I could record. My producer and I chose the more bouncy ones, as they felt more in alignment with the full band sound at that time. I still write a mix of melancholic and upbeat tunes, and my next album will be a reflection of both.

The one song that really struck me in Home is ”Braver and Stronger.”  The guitar melody is beautiful with the little hammer-on nuances. It was recorded “live,” which is remarkable. It sounds kind of James Taylor-ish or Leonard  Cohen-ish. The words that really stood out to me were “We choose to be alone when we are most weak.”  What is the background story about this song?

The lyrics are actually, “We choose to be alone when it seems we’re most weak”. The word ‘seems’ is very different to ‘are’, which is why I mention it. The truth is, we all go through life alone and when the shit hits the fan, we have to deal with it as individuals. This sounds morbid but it’s really not. Learning to build ourselves a firm personal foundation means that when life’s inevitable trials and tribulations hit home, we can handle them. In a relationship there is often the temptation to use the other as a crutch, an escape from dealing with reality. This is called co-dependence. What I’m after is interdependence, where people can support one another, while still standing firm on their own foundation. That’s what that line was about for me: We choose to fight our own battles even when we are deeply challenged. Then when the people who love to ‘rescue’ others -and actually disempower them in the process- arrive on their “I’ll save you” crusade, they find us already with all the strength we need, having tamed out own demons (the wolves sleeping at our feet).

 I have to say the In the Shadows EP is upbeat and bouncy. What inspired these songs?  

“Little Brother” was inspired by my brother, who is the polar opposite to me. Yet, we are also so similar and he is one of my biggest pillars of support in this life. I just wanted to celebrate and acknowledge the things we share.

“9 Lives” is about how cats seem to have life all sussed out. We could learn a lot from those admirers of sunlight and independence.

“Slow It Down” asks us all to look at our reasons for rushing through life…and yes, just slow it down. As Ghandi said: “Life is so short; we must move very slowly.”

“In The Shadows” is about embracing the aspects of ourselves which come through our traumas, our darkness. The shadows, the demons, the little voices telling us how unworthy we are. These things, when accepted, felt, embraced and love, become our greatest teachers.

Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Eastern Capetown, SA
Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Eastern Capetown, SA

I guess the whole album is about celebrating all the aspects of being human, not just the light. Celebrate everything, because everything is Divine, miraculous and inexplicably mysterious.

The engineering and production are great with the back-up  “ooh-aah” harmonies (“Little Brother”), simple percussion with perhaps a cajon, stomp box, or bongos. Some of the songs have a “Mumford and Sons” indie folk feel.  “Slow it Down” sounds very Beatlesque and has a nice progression in it. “9 Lives. Cat’s Got Time” is really funky and rocking with a nice syncopation and harmonic accent in the middle. Etc. etc.  I guess my point is they are beautifully arranged with just the right amount of back-up without taking away from your guitar and singing.  I guess it was recorded in London. Tell me about how the music production and your decision to move to London.

I have been very blessed to become friends with my dad’s long-time friend James Ribbans, who is an life-long musician and producer based in London. I’ve always admired his musical abilities and when I chose to crowdfund and record my EP in London, he was my natural first choice. He was happy to be on board, and connected me with his friends Kris, Nikolaj and Dyre, who are an incredible team of musicians and engineer, having worked with Jason Mraz, Cat Stevens, Paul McCartney and many more. They run the Squat Sounds studio, which is where I recorded.

Thanks to 87 people from around the world who crowd-funded my EP, I got to work with some of the best musicians in the world. It was pretty inspiring and dream-come-true kind of stuff :D.

 You appear to be a free spirit and into yoga and the environment.  Your style kind of reminds me of Jack Johnson or Donovan Frankenreiter in that respect (I am a fan). How does this lifestyle translate into your music? Also, do you write any political or protest songs?

My music is an external reflection of the life I believe in and live. The two go hand in hand.

I’m telling people that they are already perfect and have everything they need, I’m speaking about community, connection, telling the truth, being authentically vulnerable, living a life of inner work and growth. These things are not supported by the pyramid structure, lies-fuelled political, corporate, consumer culture currently being pumped into us by mass media. So yes, all my music could be seen as political and protest music. I just choose not to focus on what I don’t want, but rather give all my energy to what I DO want :).

 What is the last CD you bought? 

Nick MulveyFirst Mind

 I saw a video of you playing a house concert in California.  Are you touring the U.S. soon? Europe?  

I’m back in South Africa until August, planning my next album and house concert touring here.

 Are you planning to add some songs to that wonderful EP?

I’m planning on recording a full album here in South Africa, of all new songs. I want it to be my first ever 100% Patreon-funded album. This means I need to reach between $2000 and $3000 per month from patrons for it to be possible. Not sure if it’s possible, but I sure as hell want to try :).

 Is there anything else you would like to add?

Live now, it’s all right here. Perfection lives in the present moment.


In the 13th century, my ancestor Aimeric de Peguilhan was a troubadour, supported by patrons who believed in his music and stories enough to support his living costs so he could focus on creating more art.


Nate’s Website:                           Discography:  Home (LP) and In the Shadows (EP)

Facebook Site:                              South African National Arts Festival Ovation Award Winner-2012

Twitter:                                          Watch Nate’s recent Concert Window show:

iTunes:                                         YouTube Channel:

Support Nate:


Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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Forest Live Festival – UK

Forest Live Festival – UK