Arts and Entertainment

Novice Greenbank farmer returns to musical roots

Enjoying the open space at the Greenbank Farm are, from the left, Anna Tivel, Russ Kleiner, Sam Howard and Nathaniel Talbot. The quarter will play Talbot’s music at WICA at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2.  - Chris Korrow photo
Enjoying the open space at the Greenbank Farm are, from the left, Anna Tivel, Russ Kleiner, Sam Howard and Nathaniel Talbot. The quarter will play Talbot’s music at WICA at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2.
— image credit: Chris Korrow photo

RECORD STAFF

For Whidbey Island farmer Nathaniel Talbot, a day’s work in the field reaps more than just fresh vegetables. This is also the landscape in which songs are sown and grown.

“Hoeing, harvesting and evening driving a tractor allows space for my mind to arrange and rearrange new musical ideas, play with lyrics and if nobody’s around, sing aloud to myself,” said Talbot.

In early 2011, Talbot moved from Portland to Greenbank to pursue an education in organic agriculture and escape a dizzying urban lifestyle.

“An interest in growing food had been creeping inside me for years,” he said. “I finally decided to leave my day job, quit three bands and said farewell to basically my entire community.”

Talbot recognized that a move to a rural community and a commitment to a career in agriculture would likely end his professional musical life as he knew it.

However, he said Whidbey proved much more receptive to his music than he anticipated, “both in its art-friendly community and its natural, song-inspiring surroundings.”

Becoming part of Whidbey’s farming culture also opened up vaults of new lyrical themes and imagery that he hadn’t seen coming. Talbot said it became immediately clear that songwriting and performing would remain a focus in his life.

His performance for WICA’s Local Artist Series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2 represents a culmination of nearly two years of songwriting directly inspired from the agrarian landscape that surrounds his daily work.

The concert also celebrates the release of his quartet’s new album, aptly titled “Here in the Fields.” Talbot plays finger-style acoustic guitar, doing his best to merge the tradition of pickers such as Doc Watson, Merle Travis and Leo Kotke with his own, modern approach.

And while Talbot prefers to shy away from the comparison, there’s no denying that his soothing and melodious vocal style reminisces of James Taylor. His featured quartet, comprised of Portland musicians on upright bass, violin and percussion, helped Talbot arrange the new songs to create a musical tapestry full of harmonic complexity and dynamic range.

“My songs have always been a reflection of my landscape, both wild and urban,” Talbot said. “It seems natural to now be weaving the images and stories of farmers and their fields into the music.”

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