The mountains of northern Vermont is where Nate Gusakov calls home. The singer songwriting banjoist started picking the clawhammer-style banjo 20 years ago. However in recent years, he’s been strumming a solid-body electric banjo, “transmuted through pedal board and vintage tubes into a 5-string axe with capabilities that range far beyond his usual open-backed acoustic instrument.” It’s a new direction in his sound for sure, but one that’s yielding wonderful results.
Nate grew up in a musical household with his father being a professional violinist, fiddler and fiddle teacher, playing with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra as well as many other bands and groups. “I was always hearing it,” Nate said, “attending events and gigs and hanging out back stage, and singing four-part harmonies in the family car,” he recalled.
“I went totally away from it though all through high school, focusing more in sports. But then, when I was 20, I kept hearing music in my head and I thought, ‘I better learn something or I’m gonna be real bummed down the road. So I picked up a banjo and off I went.”
Nate’s music today is a hybrid of sorts. His songs are about life experiences, both lived and imagined. It’s more Neofolk when the songs are dark and honest. But it’s closer to blues rock when they’re gritty and loud. He even uses the phrase “experimental old-time” for those songs that are just a fiddle and banjo, as he describes; “bouncing happily along some old path by a creek, then darting suddenly off into an acoustic sonic wilderness.”
Nate chose the evolutionary style intentionally. “I began to hear songs in my head that were electric in nature. As a musician, that was really cool,” he said. “I could play them on the acoustic banjo, but I could hear them with a full band.” This experience went on for a couple years for Nate. “I bought a Goldtone electric banjo with my Christmas bonus a few years ago, and those songs that had been rattling in my head became fully realized – and those couple songs that led me to this style made their way onto this new record.”
Nate’s new EP, Many Mountains, features five original songs with Nate on electric banjo backed by a full band, including drums, bass, electric guitar, violin, Hammond B3 organ, and even backup vocals.