Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

10 or so questions from Ben Gran: Interview with Nate Logsdon, Mumford’s

I attended college in Ames, Iowa from 1997-1999. Back in those days, it seems like all I ever heard from a lot of young people in Ames was a lot of negativity about how “lame” Ames was, and how they would have rather been in Iowa City.

Fast forward to today, and Ames is home to a burgeoning music scene with some truly impressive national touring bands like the Poison Control Center, Envy Corps, and many other up-and-coming artists with big ambitions.

naterage1Where were all of these people when I was in college? Was Ames always such a hotbed of hidden creative talent? Or was I just hanging around with too many whiny, bitchy people?

Who knows? I was never very cool when I was young, so even if there had been a great music scene when I was in college, I probably never would have found out about it.

But the point is, one of the things that impresses me the most about today’s central Iowa music scene and the many young Iowa musicians and artists that I’ve met ever since I started doing stand-up comedy, is that they don’t see being from Iowa as a disadvantage. They love Iowa and they are proud to be ambassadors for our state. They’re recording albums, building audiences on social media, selling concert tickets, booking their own tours and making things happen.

One of the people who is at the center of the Ames music scene is Nate Logsdon, the trumpet-playing frontman for the Ames band Mumford’s. Nate and his band have played at the 80-35 Festival, at many venues throughout Des Moines and central Iowa, and on multiple national tours of the U.S.

Nate is also a freelance writer, entertainment impresario, and one-man hustle machine. His energy is infectious, his optimism is unsurpassed, and everybody loves him. I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of really wonderful, talented people (in Iowa and beyond) as a result of doing stand-up comedy, and Nate Logsdon is one of my very favorites. So I was glad to interview him for “10 or so questions.”

We talked about breaking into houses, some of his favorite times being disgustingly sweaty, the places where he finds the most inspiration from Iowa’s creative scene, and why he wouldn’t fight a horse-sized duck.

*Editor’s note: Nate Logsdon spells the word “honored” with the British spelling of “honoured.” I love that about him. What a great guy!

1. Your band, Mumford’s, has toured throughout the U.S. What are some of your favorite stories from tour?

We have a great time on tour, we always meet amazing people and we’ve been honoured to tour with brilliant bands. On our last tour I crowd-surfed up to the ceiling of the venue and hung upside down from the rafters for a trumpet solo but then I fell from the ceiling right onto my trumpet and neither me nor the instrument were injured!

Another time in Manhattan we just walked into a club and asked if we could play and they said yes and we ended up playing a show with a comedian who had been on Chappelle’s Show. Let’s see…another time in Arkansas we were on tour with Little Ruckus and played the most disgustingly sweaty show of our lives and after Little Ruckus’ set he took the audience on a parade down the street outside the venue and then at the end of the parade he puked.

Our last tour was with a band from Japan and they had never played a house party before and one of the first house parties we played was in an abandoned house that we had to break into, the promoter ran power from the next door neighbors. Tons of wild shit like that!

2. How do you set up a national tour? Where do you stay? Do you do it very DIY, shoestring budget? I’m just curious about the logistics. You know, because when I interview national touring musicians, I always assume that they want to talk about logistics. *nerd alert*

Great question! We book our own tours. We know lots of people from all over the country from booking shows in Ames for years at The Space and other venues and plus we tour so much that we’ve made lots of friends. We usually stay with friends or family or people we meet at the shows we play. If we don’t have a place to stay we just ask around at the show and we’re really friendly dudes so we always find a place. We usually have our trombone player Wildman hustle up the place to stay
because ladies love him!

3. Do people ever get confused between your band “Mumford’s” and “Mumford and Sons?” Have you thought about changing your band’s name to avoid confusion? Why is your band called Mumford’s?

I don’t think people confuse our bands because we are very different musically but people definitely ask us about it a lot. We had never heard of that band when we started, they weren’t a famous band at all.

We would never change our name because it’s very meaningful to us, our name is our heart! We are named after the jazz drummer Don Mumford. He lived in Ames briefly toward the end of his life and he inspired many of the younger artists in town (including me!) to start our scene. He died in a bicycle accident right after introducing me to playing music with other people. Mumford’s is his band really, we are inhabited by his spirit!

4. You’re a musician, freelance writer, music venue manager, community activist, hustler and all-around impresario. How do you find time and energy to do so much? What motivates you?

Everything I do comes from my genuine passion and so all this hustling actually GIVES me energy rather than taking it! I love Iowa. I will live here for the rest of my life. I’m so inspired by the energy I feel in our community and I’m driven by my love of my home and the love of my friends and fellow artists. I’m surrounded by people I
respect and love and we really egg each other on to hustle harder and be our best! HUMAN IOWA!

5. Which musicians do you admire most? Which people in general do you admire most? For example, with me, one of the comedians I admire most isn’t really a “comedian,” it’s Henry Rollins. He’s more of a spoken-word artist and writer/publisher/talk show host/traveller than a comedian, but I admire how he’s been able to be so versatile in his career and keep finding ways to speak to his audience and share his ideas with the world.

Patrick Tape Fleming from the Poison Control Center is an abiding influence on my life. I love his music and creativity and I also just love his attitude, his support of the scene and younger artists, his overall commitment to glory! He’s positively affected me in many ways as a musician and person, and PCC is my favorite rock band of all time.

Kate Kennedy is another of the artists I admire the most, she taught me to play the guitar and her album “Circle Spiral Line” inspired me to start writing my own songs. She still is writing some of the best and smartest and bounciest songs of anyone in this state and her guitar-playing is insane. Also, Philip and Dominic Rabalais are a pair of brothers in Fairfield who have changed my life in many ways. We’ve
toured together a bunch, made lots of music together, played in one another’s bands. They are both so visionary and so productive, they really keep me on my toes and make me expect more and more of myself as a creator, I love them!

6. What’s the worst music gig you’ve ever done? What’s the best?

Ok, no joke, Ben, but I honestly cannot think of a show I’ve played that I didn’t love. I’m just not prone to seeing things in a negative light and so shows always seem to turn out awesome even if there are wacky factors! Sometimes on tour we’ve played to really small audiences but we KILL it in that setting, we love small audiences and
those have been some of our most passionate performances of our career! I think one of the best shows Mumford’s has ever played was at Sweat Power Fest in Fairfield in 2009. That was a turning point for our band, we really found our voice and our live style through that show. It was in a tiny, tiny basement called Thug Mansion and was booked by Dominic (Little Ruckus himself!) Rock and roll memories, so glorious!

7. Mike Draper from RAYGUN said in our interview, “there is an ocean of untapped talent in Des Moines.” What would you like to see more of from Des Moines/Central Iowa? What inspirational/motivating advice would you offer to people who want to do music and creative work in Iowa – or who want to support creative work in Iowa?

Des Moines is amazing, Ames is amazing, and Iowa is going through our best creative phase I’ve ever seen. I totally agree that there’s a ton of untapped talent out there because from running an all ages space I know that TONS of folks of all ages have a hidden creative skill that they want to share if they feel safe enough to try it out. I’d say the best thing we can do is to be encouraging and supportive of emerging artists and to celebrate new local art simply because it is new! A positive word when you’re getting started can change the course of your life.

8. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? The best? (Like, did you ever work at a fast food restaurant? I never did, but one of my friends told me this story about how he used to work at a fast food restaurant in high school, and their most-hated job was cleaning the grease vat. It took like 15 minutes and was nasty, stinky, horrible work. And back in those days, minimum wage was like $4 an hour. So they basically got paid one measly dollar to do the nastiest imaginable task at the restaurant. Bottom line: I’m glad I don’t have to clean grease vats.)

Ha ha, well I guess I must sound like a Pollyanna but I honestly have loved every job I’ve ever had. I’m just naturally inclined to be interested in what I’m doing and so every job I’ve had was super fun to me. I started working when I was fourteen and raged a paper route. I LOVE WORK! But my current jobs are by far the best I’ve ever had (although I’ve always felt that way no matter what jobs I had!)

9. You’re not just a musician, you’re also a writer. Where can people read your writing?

I write two weekly columns for The Ames Tribune, I blog at mumfordsmusic.com and amesprogressive.org and I occasionally contribute to other publications and websites. One of my goals is to self-publish a selection of my local music journalism, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of pieces on Iowa music! Actually, this is pretty cool, the Ames Historical Society has an archive of all my published work, which rules because I love Ames history! I’ve been wanting to go over there and select a bunch of the best pieces and make a little book to promote the scene!

10. If you had to fight 100 duck-sized horses, or a single horse-sized duck, which would you choose, and why? (I choose the tiny horses. Because a horse-sized duck would basically be a Dinosaur, and that would be terrifying. Plus, ducks are really mean, while horses are often docile and dumb.)

I would choose the horse-sized duck but instead of fighting it I’d be like, “Whoa, your quack tone is immaculate, will you do backup vocals on my album???

11. What do you think are the most underrated things about the Des Moines/Central Iowa music scene – venues, bands? Anything that deserves a much wider audience?

Well, in Ames I think the engines of the underground scene are the house concert venues. House shows are the most intimate and interactive places to see shows and TONS of connections come out of those shows. I think many people don’t realize how crucial that is to the scene, we are super lucky to have a bunch of great houses in Ames for shows, it rules! Back in the day there was an amazing house venue in Ames called The Practice Space, it was the spot for underground shows. Now there are like five Practices Spaces, and it’s great!

12. Where do you find inspiration for your songwriting?

I’m inspired by many things, especially my friends. When I hear one of my friends play an original song and it just shakes me up and chills me, that inspires me so deeply, I want to respect them by making my own creations! I’m also inspired by love, I’m so lucky to be with my partner Adrien, she’s an incredible artist and she has directly inspired me to step up my game as a songwriter and singer because
she’s such a pro! I’m also inspired by my alone time, I really need to have some space to talk to myself and sing out loud and whistle…I tend to get lots of ideas when I’m working out because my blood is pumping and that’s good for my brain: shoutout to blood!

13. Who has inspired you the most in your life? What life experiences have been most influential in making you the person that you are today?

Don Mumford is the enduring inspiration for my music and life, he inhabits me and guides my artistic life, especially at crucial turning points.

Follow Nate Logsdon’s music and creative endeavors on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Ben Gran is a Des Moines comedian and freelance writer. Instead of giving a shoutout to blood, he would like to give a shoutout to the highly underrated lymphatic system. Follow Ben on Twitter and Facebook.

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