Nathaniel Rateliff wasn’t sure what would happen when he arrived for his first performance on “The Tonight Show.” The Denver singer-songwriter and his band The Night Sweats were about to release their debut album and play their single for host Jimmy Fallon and millions of viewers.
Rateliff says he felt nervous that night in August 2015. But he soon felt the excitement when he got backstage and Fallon raved about his music.
"Jimmy kept showing the record and playing the song," Rateliff says. "I remember sitting there with our publicist and the lady doing makeup like, 'Is this good?' They’re like, 'Yeah, this doesn't ever happen!'”
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Then it was showtime. The performance got a standing ovation. Soon Rateliff and his band were playing worldwide tours. And that debut album sold half a million copies.
The eight-piece band returns this month with its second album, “Tearing At The Seams.”
Rateliff says the record is a testament to how the his bandmates have grown together since that breakout "Tonight Show" appearance. He wrote the previous album alone, but “Tearing At The Seams” was different. The band wrote it together.
Rateliff says each member brought something new to the table.
"We've just changed as musicians and we've really become a band," he says. "It was important to have that on the record for me. And it's important for the guys to feel they’re artistically involved. The sum of us was greater than just me by myself."
And the rest of the band felt that bond too. Night Sweats bassist Joseph Pope III says being friends with the other musicians led to a better record in the studio.
Pope has written music with Rateliff for 20 years. He says out of all the projects they’ve worked on together, “Tearing At The Seams” is the one they’re most proud of.
"There was something different happening here," Pope says. "The content of what Nathaniel was writing about lyrically, everyone in the band can identify with in their own way."
Rateliff is still surprised by the Night Sweats’ success. He had doubts when he showed up to "The Tonight Show" three years ago, because he’d struggled to find success for a long time. Even now those doubts haven’t completely disappeared.
"I’m just interested to see how people react," Rateliff says. "It’s been hard over the last couple years that people keep coming back to see us. And sometimes I wonder why they keep coming back."
Rateliff might not have to worry. Radio stations have embraced the first single from “Tearing At The Seams.” And more celebrity fans like Stephen King and Paul McCartney have praised the Night Sweats.
But most importantly, he’s got his band to support him.
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