Nathaniel Rateliff Says Farm Aid Taught Him How to ‘Listen to the People’
Willie Nelson's friendship means quite a bit to Nathaniel Rateliff, on a number of different levels. He and his band, the Night Sweats, got to know the iconic singer through their participation in Farm Aid, an organization founded by Nelson in support of farmers and agricultural systems. The partnership not only opened doors for Rateliff in the Americana realm, but also allowed him to bond with Nelson over their mutual passion for the cause.
In 2017, Rateliff established a foundation of his own called the Marigold Project. Dedicated to addressing economic and social injustice issues, the singer drew inspiration for the organization after watching a couple who he was close to fall on difficult times.
"One was a carpenter and one was a teacher, and my friend had gotten hurt. It kind of takes two partners to make a family work these days, financially," Rateliff tells The Boot. "I wanted to be able to help in that sort of situation, not even just particularly them. A lot of people throughout rural America have that problem, where once you're injured, that's kind of it -- if you don't have great insurance or you're a sub-contractor, you're kind of screwed."
Rateliff focused his efforts on his hometown of Denver. "We really wanted to tackle the big issues of our community. In Denver, we have a pretty big homeless population. So we try to start there," he goes on to say.
While the project has a different mission than Farm Aid, the singer says his experience with that organization taught him strategies for enacting effective, lasting change. "What I learned from Farm Aid is that you can't just come up with a solution," Rateliff explains. "You have to be a part of what the problem is, see what the problem is and listen to the people, listen to what their solution is.
"So that's we're trying to do in Denver," he concludes. "And just community build. It's sort of grassroots that way."
Willie Nelson + More Fight for Family Farms at Farm Aid 2018