The Inspired Nathan Roy

// Image courtesy of Nathan Roy.

Nathan Roy is a musician from the Greater Boston area whose tracks display a stunning mix of upbeat guitar with chilling, echoey vocals. He’s the kind of musician who makes you feel like you’re sitting in an intimate venue no matter where you’re listening.

Nathan started playing guitar in bands in middle school, though he didn’t start singing until early in his twenties. One thing that helped him find his own voice was being in the military. “There actually were a lot of people in the military that were also musicians,” he said, “So people would just grab guitars and hang out and play and sing, and that's how I started to get comfortable with my own voice.” Since then, Nathan has devoted a lot of time to songwriting. He released a new EPSocial Caterpillar in October, inspired by a comic about being transgender where a snail told a butterfly that it was a caterpillar, not a butterfly.

Being transgender himself, the meaning of the comic and the greater message that people can change or “evolve” resonated deeply with Nathan. In fact, this theme of evolution has inspired a lot of Nathan’s music. In 2018, he released an album Flowers for Every Occasion, which contained a mix of vocals from before and after his transition. The album was admired by many, with the difference in vocals receiving a lot of attention.

Yet being transgender in the music industry hasn’t always been easy for Nathan. “Especially, like, early on in my transition, I would go on stage using my new name and you know, that would cause a lot of confusion,” he explained. “There was definitely an awkward sort of phase there.”

Nathan also changed venue, shifting from playing in Manchester, New Hampshire to playing in Boston. He mentioned that the music scene in a bigger city like Boston had a much different feel. “The nice thing about Manchester is like, you know, once you know everybody you pretty much know everybody and you know who to call… With Boston, you know, I'm not going to say it's worse or better, but it's definitely different. If you don't know someone who knows someone I think it's harder to initially get in.”

Still releasing music during the pandemic, Nathan has been forced to adapt to differences in the recording and production process, saying it was “kind of being siloed and doing things over Zoom and having a conversation about the songs over like, Facebook Messenger.” However, he’s resolved to make the most of the time, focusing his efforts on guitar lessons.

One thing he has mourned during this time has been the inability to perform live and see his music impact real audiences. “In days when I could play live, I think being able to watch people react in real-time to music is really, really rewarding because you're seeing that impact happen directly in front of you,” he said. But this brutal reality also inspired Nathan’s creation of Social Caterpillar. He recalls, “that song really just came out of like, watching a bunch of my friends lose apartments in the pandemic and just totally get beat up by the economy just because you know that they lost jobs or are just working crappy jobs that they don't like. So that song was really about sort of, like, that feeling of being your mid to late 20s, having to move home, but maybe you can't.”

Nathan describes that the songwriting process can be unpredictable, and inspiration often comes in irregular spurts. “There are times or, like, months where you'll have a ton of inspiration, you'll write a ton, a ton, a ton, and then you'll go six months and like barely touch anything… It's just sort of, like, when inspiration strikes.” This unpredictability is mirrored in Nathan’s songwriting process as well. He describes himself building songs around ideas or off of a single line that will pop into his head “serendipitously.” From there, he connects that line to the idea and builds a song around that starting point, adding more instruments and layers to the music.

Nathan plans to release more tracks soon, including another one that focuses on life transitions. He is 27, an age between old and young, as he describes it. The song is “about that transition into like, real adulthood and not being able to get away with the same kid things that you used to, or the things that people would excuse when you're younger. So it's about that and just being, you know, acknowledging you know you're not ancient but you're not you're not as young as you used to be.”

// Robert Greene ‘24 is a guest writer for Record Hospital.