Tinta Negra's Nate Sprague on the Chevy Groove Campaign and the Healing Power of Music

Plus, his love of British neo-soul/jazz and the magic of open-air concerts

Nate Sprague is an independent record producer, dream chaser and music industry entrepreneur, based in Chile's fifth region of Valparaíso. He's the owner of Tinta Negra, a full-service recording studio, independent record label and publishing company that specializes in urban music (Neo-Soul, Hip-hop, R&B, Jazz & Funk). Tinta Negra has been a part of the music industry trade associations IMICHILE and IMUVA (Independent Music Trade Association of Valparaíso) since 2018 and Nate is currently on the board of directors of both trade associations. Nate is focused on educating artists and bringing independent music from Chile to the forefront of the global music scene, one small milestone at a time.

We caught up with Nate for our Liner Notes series to learn more about his musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work he's proud of and admired.

Nate, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

Born in 1986, I grew up in a small town called Norwell, about 35 miles south of Boston. As a kid, I spent most of my time running around in the woods, listening to hip-hop on my Walkman. Currently, I live in Quilpué, Chile, and have been for the past 12 years. What started off as a semester abroad has turned into a crazy 12-year adventure. How time flies!

Your earliest musical memory.

My earliest musical memory is of my parents every Sunday morning waking my brother and me up by playing Sergio Mendes' vinyl record Fool on the Hill. I still have that record, and every time I play it it brings back such vivid memories from over 25 years ago.

Your first concert.

The first concert that I remember going to was a Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes concert at Great Woods when I was about 13 years old. The show was part of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Tour (the album had dropped less than a year before) and what I most remember about the concert was the ridiculous energy and stage presence of Busta. He is such a charismatic person and performer that it was impossible not to become mesmerized by his show. I also remember how amazing Lauryn Hill's live performance was. In an era before auto-tune had become widespread (or even known by most), she set a precedent of consistency and excellence for studio recordings and live performances. No tricks or gimmicks. Just pure talent. I definitely got my money's worth at that concert. 

Your favorite bands/musicians. 

Right now, I’m really into the British neo-soul/jazz scene. Artists like Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei, Alfa Mist, Yakul, Yussef Dayes, Jorja Smith and Mahalia are on constant repeat for me because they bring such a fresh sound and individuality to such classic genres like jazz and soul. If you haven't already, make sure you check them out!

How you get your music these days.

For new stuff, Spotify. But when I need a break, my vinyl collection never fails.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

Open-air venues at night. I think it creates such an incredible atmosphere. Live music under a star-filled sky, what could be better?!

Your favorite music video.

I have so many, but NAO's video for "Bad Blood" is absolutely unreal.

Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

The New Music Business with Ari Herstand. This podcast is an absolute gem for artists and professionals in the music business.  

A recent project you're proud of.

My publishing company recently closed a sync deal for a Chevrolet Groove campaign. The campaign premiered during the Grammys, so that was huge for us. It just goes to show that if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.

Someone else’s project that you admired recently.

Allen Stone is someone I really admire. His approach to music is so organic and joyful, it's hard not to be inspired by someone like him. 

How musicians should approach working with brands.

My biggest piece of advice would be "have all your ducks in line" and be ready to rock when the opportunity presents itself. Also remember that brands are not only looking for someone professional, but also someone with a story to tell that is aligned with the brand and its values and vision. Do your homework—if not, you'll be in for some disappointing experiences.

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Brands should branch out and work with up-and-coming musicians and smaller music catalogs. There is so much amazing music out there that could work amazingly for your brand or project. Take a chance and you'll be surprised what the outcome can be. Plus, if I hear another Queen or Imagine Dragons song on a commercial (no offense to these amazing groups), I'll probably go crazy!

What music can do that nothing else can.

Heal. The healing power of music is second-to-none. 

What you'd be doing if you weren’t in the music world.

My childhood hero was Paul Bunyan, so I'd probably be a lumberjack building log cabins in the wilderness. I absolutely love the woods, fresh air and the smell of pine trees. It must be the New Englander in me! But for now, I'll stick with music.

Liner Notes is our weekly interview series where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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