Ears Wide Open: Nate Cole

Nate Cole
Nate Cole

Nate Cole didn’t just fall out of a tree being able to sing like he does — with youthful fragility, gravity-defying beauty and emotional depth. He’s been at it since he was a teenager, and the singer-songwriter’s solo album “Bad Beat” (out this week) is but Chapter 4 in what has turned into a seemingly hard-luck story.

“My musical history is sorta like the opposite of that Drake song,” Cole says via email. “I started from the top and now I’m here.” He adds — with an “LOL” — “at the bottom.”

Or as Cole’s friend, singer-songwriter Micah James says, “Thirty-something years old and still coming of age.”

His state of things is a matter of perspective, of course. But it is true that nine years ago last month Cole’s photo was on the front page of the Los Angeles Times entertainment section as one of a handful of emerging bands — in his case, Castledoor — who were taking L.A. by storm. (Some of the others included the Airborne Toxic Event, No Age and Delta Spirit.) Castledoor was an indie-pop sextet that included Cole’s teenage bandmate Gabe Combs, their wives Lisa and Coury, drummer Joel Plotnik and Brandon Schwartzel (now the bassist in FIDLAR). Cole and Combs sang in the band Plus One, which had a gold record in 2000.

Fast forward to now: “It’s been 17 years since I graduated high school and joined a boy band. Half of my life ago,” says Cole, who after Castledoor’s demise made music with his wife as the duo Doom & Gloom. “In hindsight it’s easy to see how the chain of events are connected. My life is a constant reaction, or overreaction, to whatever came before. It’s impossible to summarize these experiences. The biggest thrill, and relief, is that I wrote a whole lot of it down and cried it out on my debut solo record.”

The style-shifting “Bad Beat” showcases not only Cole’s still-pristine voice but his emotionally direct lyrical sense. In the song “Tunnel at the End of the Light,” for instance, he sings, “Memories are few / they stretch the truth / failure’s conveniently out of view.” 

The first single “Sera” is a paean to renewal. “I’ve always been a heart-on-my-sleeve writer,” Cole says. “‘Sera’ is a true story, dressed in intimate and specific imagery. I’d prefer not to explain the magic out of it, because I think the overall themes are relatable.”

||| Stream: “Sera”

||| Live: Nate Cole celebrates his album release with a show Saturday night at the Hi Hat, joined by D. Wing and Micah James. It’s free.