While Denver-based band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats played a "triumphant" homecoming headlining show at Red Rocks last month, many in the audience wondered about the absence of popular trumpet player Wesley Watkins.
Watkins has not been touring with the Night Sweats for a couple of months, which the band addressed in a statement posted on Nathaniel Rateliff's official Facebook page on July 11:
We've reached out to the Night Sweats for more information, including Watkins's standing in the band, and will update this post as we receive information.
When asked about his current health and how it's affecting his music, Watkins says, "I am not touring with [the Night Sweats]. Following an epileptic seizure, I started finishing my solo album. All of the songs are pretty much written. I wrote them on tour while I wasn't drinking. Now, because I've found myself homeless and broke again, since what I do have is all of that material, I'm using it to kind of promote that I'm back. Back in Denver playing gigs, indefinitely."
Watkins made an appearance at the 2016 Underground Music Showcase on July 31 with Tommy Freed and the Sound. "I haven't been playing trumpet for a while since my throat was injured following the incident," he says. "It took a bit for it to recover fully. It's about 90 percent now. At UMS, I played twelve times in three days."
Watkins recently published this video, which hyped the release of his new project, the Other Black, and its anticipated self-titled album. Watkins says the album is four years in the making.
Watkins will play a show at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday, September 3. He describes the upcoming performance as the evolution of an artist, and the lineup features many Denver musicians connected to Watkins through various projects. "I tried to get as many features from my musical life and the features from the album as possible," he says. This includes Jon Shockness (of Air Dubai and new project HVN), Nic Hammerberg (of Petals of Spain and new project Sycdvk), Sean Dandurand (of Dandu) and Brittany Williams (of Brittany Williams and the Unstoppable Groove). Watkins says these people "have all been very influential musicians in my life. And we've all known each other since high school, to top it off."
HVN and Sycdvk will also perform at Saturday's show.
Watkins remains highly active and musically prolific — "I wrote a song like three days ago...so some of the stuff is really, really new" — and says he's currently involved with acts Izcalli and M. Florea. "A lot of different things that I've had my hands in that people haven't necessarily been aware of, that I think it's important to be aware of," he says. "There are a lot of musicians and collaborations that really deserve the love and the spotlight in Denver." He adds that in addition to working on his solo album, he's begun to develop projects with Jess Parson (formerly of Glowing House), Gregg Ziemba (of Rubedo), Dylan Johnson (who is also the drummer for the Other Black) and Corey English (of Snubluck), among others.
Watkins clearly isn't short on collaborators, and seems to be focused on the local community of musicians. "Denver's gotten caught up on making a sound. I love that Denver's blowing up like that, but at the same time, a lot of people forget that the Denver sound is not one-dimensional," Watkins says. "We get to see not only a plethora of sounds, but a plethora of styles and of genres within one person. Then you also get to see the evolution of these musicians in Denver."
What can listeners expect from Watkins's latest contribution to Denver music? "The Other Black album is coming out by the end of this year, but maybe longer," he says. "It depends on a lot right now. I've been watching a lot of Beyonce, and I want to do a ton of music videos with the release of it. Low-budget things with a good story. I started writing music videos, and they're weird and fun, and I can't wait for everyone to see it."
While he can't wait to share the new album, it's been a long time coming. "I've tried a billion times to rush The Other Black. It's been a nightmare to rush," Watkins says. "I've been writing these songs now, some of these songs, for like ten years. Modern artists don't need producers; they produce themselves."
As for the subject matter of the new album, Watkins says, "I do get to speak to everything that's happening, without speaking to everything. I make honest music, usually associated (albeit something exaggerated) with my current life — lows and highs. But I most often speak in metaphors, so I find that the listener will associate it to their lives instead."
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Saturday's show sounds like like it'll be a party. "Until the full release, I'm trying to keep it as stripped down as possible," Watkins says. "[But] with me, going for stripped down means there are probably still going to be like seven people on stage. But when the full album comes out, there's going to be a ten-piece band, a choir.... What I initially imagined with The Other Black is finally coming to light."