Marrying sight and sound

Kendall Cogan and seven other local musicians collaborated with multimedia artist Nathaniel Cole on his newest project. Photo: Nathaniel Cole

With his new multimedia collaboration, artist Nathaniel Cole aims to build relationships and help Haligonians broaden their musical horizons

Nathaniel Cole never expected multimedia artistry to become his full-time career.

Cole began making music 15 years ago and took up photography over the last decade. Eventually, he merged the two.

“I started to realize that it was something that fulfilled me,” he says. “How it started was going to people’s shows, making images of them enjoying their music, then trying to get out there and share my music. There became this crossover between the two where I was taking photos of the people I was making music with, and I enjoyed that. I was like, ‘OK, I need to put that on paper.’ It’s been just a hobby, then I started to push behind it and make some things that I want to put out there and share with the world.”

On May 20, Cole will launch his latest project X-Change on all major streaming platforms. It features seven songs he produced in collaboration with eight local artists from the alternative, hip-hop, and R&B genres: aRENYE, Baseline, db.simmons, Kendall Cogan, Lashes, Mark’d, Paollo13, and Shanii22. Accompanying the songs is a collection of portraits of each artist.

db.simmons. Photo: Nathaniel Cole

The project began in 2018 when he dabbled in studio photography.

“I had a client who we were supposed to shoot outdoors, but we had a bad weather day,” he says. “We couldn’t shoot outside. I bought a few makeshift lights, took their photo, and made music. It was like two pieces were just right: there was a photo, and the music captured that day and that moment.”

His relationship with the client grew concurrently. “It allowed me to connect with that person on a different level,” he recalls. “The desire was to connect with more people, understand their process, and capture something about that person, like their talent, art, essence, and what they’re about.”

Community development was crucial as Cole selected his collaborators. He met Cogan at one of the venues where he played shows. She was a bartender but also made music. They connected soon after and began working together.

At the end of the process, After putting together 25 songs, he had the challenge of narrowing it down to eight.

“A lot of it came down to the quality of the track because it was done over such a period, I was noticing improvement in my work,” he says. “There were latter tracks more favoured than the former because of the production quality. People who ended up on the record are the people who I developed the strongest bond with, related to the most, and took the most away from experience.”

Cole also wanted to ensure the photography was flattering while amplifying what’s unique about each artist.

A self-portrait by Nathaniel Cole.

“Whether they like to wear vibrant clothing, be very expressive with their hair, makeup, or something very fascinating about their looks, I wanted to bring that to the fore,” he says. “I love very vibrant, contrasting, vivid images that strike your eye. The essence of the image gives you a good feeling to look at it, but also, when you look deeper at that person, you start to understand that person or what they’re about a little bit more.”

For Cole, X-Change is about the success that can grow from developing good relationships.

Overall, he hoped to connect with those artists and provide value to them.

“I feel like these people will be my life for the rest of my life,” he says. “I’m noticing that when you’re inserting yourself in a community with a common goal, there’s something that is very bonding about that, as opposed to just going out for drinks or playing board games.”

Cole hopes that X-Change will be a unique but uplifting audience experience.

“I would like to … highlight the idea of that community aspect,” he says. “Especially in a city like Halifax, we can lift each other … I hope people listen to the project and say, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard this artist, never heard this style before, and maybe I’ll check them out.'”

Compass Distillers is scheduled to host the X-Change album release and listening party on May 27 at 8 p.m.

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