Interview by Tarryn Feldman
“Graffiti was a cool outlet with no rules.”
Former sponsored skateboarder to well known graffiti artist with a strong business sense, Nathan Brown seems to constantly be evolving. He takes his art from the streets and brings it to a higher class contemporary feel. His use of bold colors and effortless shapes makes it hard not to lose yourself in his work. –Tarryn Feldman
Tarryn Feldman: How old were you when you starting creating art?
Nathan Brown: I always have, ever since I was a little kid. I remember drawing random doodles in Elementary School. The graffiti thing really came about in High School when I moved from LA to Nashville, which was a total shock but I started to notice graffiti for the first time.
Feldman: In Nashville-
Brown: I saw it in LA but it didn’t hit me until I came here. I was like, “oh my god..these guys are painting on trains with spray paint, it’s incredible.” I got completely infatuated. I met a dude from LA who showed me lettering and got me started on it. I would say I was about fifteen and once I got into it, I was full force in it. A total graffiti nerd. (Laughs) I was skateboarding at the same time. I had a little skating career for ten years but I always did some form of art on the side.
Feldman: What was your tagging name?
Brown: Race. R.A.C.E. (He lifts up his shirt to show me a brass belt buckle that says RACE) It was a nickname I was given a long time ago. When I was a kid, I was a really fast runner and so I got this nickname and it stuck. I like the letters and how they form together so I used it for my graffiti name.
Feldman: Is there a piece or project you have done that impacted you more than the others?
Brown: Uh, that’s a good question. As far as my inspiration, it comes from everything I see. I appreciate all forms of art and I think about all people and all art forms. My art comes from everyday life. My newest art is pretty much shapes and colors. I don’t use my name or any words in my work and that comes what I see from everyday life. Whether it’s a rusty pipe, a train, or the side of a building. I can’t say one thing or piece blew me away because a lot has blown me away.
Brown: I really love a color called “Greenery” by Montana. It’s a really solid green and I use a lot in my pieces. Oranges as well, I use the hell out of them. I outline everything in black because I love the way it looks over the colors…I can’t get away from it. I would be happy just using those colors (laughs). I stay away from a lot of blues unless they are really light like baby blue….I’m not sure why.
Feldman: Did you ever get in trouble for vandalizing?
Brown: (Laughs). All the time! I have been arrested a few times. I would paint on anything and everything to put my name or mark on it.
Feldman: What is the difference in Nashville and Atlanta as far as the art world goes?
Brown: It has a lot to do with the music… the background of each city. Atlanta is straight hip hop and Nashville is more Indie Rock and Country music. Two totally different worlds. There is a ton more graffiti artist in Atlanta and there is more of an urban scene, its amazing. Here in Nashville, its contemporary modern art. So being in Atlanta for so long and now being here, I have blended the two art forms which have gotten a good response.
Feldman: I think Nashville will open up to a new form of art…
Brown: I have had a couple of really good art shows with other graffiti artist here. A few art crawls went really well and a lot of people showed up. We did one at Rocketown and it was great. People are getting use to it I guess.
Brown: LA is amazing! Two of my favorite graffiti writers, Sever and Revoke are based in LA. They are notorious, they’re infamous, they’re ridiculous, and they are legends as far as that goes! I have been lucky enough to paint with them a few times and they really helped shape my graffiti writing.
Feldman: Are you the only artist in your family?
Brown: I’m the only painter. My family pretty much consists of the music business. My brother is a chef. We all have some form of creative thing going on. My parents pushed music on me with piano lessons but I rebelled and went skating. I should have taken classical piano and had that as a background. I chose different, ya’ know when you’re parents tell you to do something and you’re like “fuck that, I wanna do something different.” Graffiti was a cool outlet that had no rules.
Feldman: Let’s talk about Sarah Silva and this amazing Piano piece.
Brown: Being in the music community, we knew each other from mutual friends and she approached me about out of the blue and wanted my art work her piano case. I tried out something new. She had picked out a few painting and gave me a color pallet. I started painting it and sent her pictures every few hours and she loved it. She was stocked on that piece and so was I. It’s on stage with her every time she plays. She has some other projects for me to work on. It was something different. I had never painted on a piano case. It was fun. I would like to do more objects like that, even if it doesn’t sell. I did a guitar in a show and it sold.
Brown: The first time I had ever painted a car. A friend of mine wrecked her car so the doors on the driver’s side were kind of messed up and it looked like shit. Someone showed her my art work and she was like, “ I want that on my car!” I was like “are you kidding me?” I had never painted a car before. I didn’t know how it would turn out. I took a day off and did it but it turned out pretty awesome. I get texts and phone calls all the time from people saying, “Dude, did you paint a car? I saw your art driving down the street!” She was really happy about it and so was I.
Feldman: Tell me about Mindzai.
Brown: I owned a promotions agency called HMP Marketing in Atlanta with another guy which we started in late 2000. We were doing street marketing separately for some smaller labels and thought we should get together and hit up every label as a company so we started HMP. We built that into an entire business that is running still today. We needed a printer so we went to Mindzai almost exclusively. They did a lot of our printing for us for years. They were solid, they were local, and we built a great relationship with them. I got bought out of the marketing company in Atlanta and wasn’t working for a few years. I was taking care of my mom because she was sick. She had Leukemia and was literally supposed to die but she beat it. I was working for Live Nation in Denver promoting contracts but dropped everything I was doing to move back here to take care of my mother. I have been here ever since. Mindzai had been throwing around the idea to me about running an office out here to see how it works in Nashville. This all happen in the past month. I will be working with national and corporate clients. I wanna get all the local bands in town t-shirts, posters, and stickers for really good prices. Really high quality shit. If everything goes well, which so far so good, then we can sponsor more events. We are sponsoring a few shows at Rocketown over the next few months. We are doing punk shows, an electronic show and other events all across the board. As much entertainment that is in this city, it will keep growing and I’m hoping to tap into it and be creative.
Brown: Be happy with what I do for a living. I had an awesome company in Atlanta with total creative control which was awesome. It was super high stress but I loved it. No matter what I’m doing, it has to be creative! I can’t just go into a cubicle and punch numbers, I would kill myself in like….a day. I’m used to having a “big boy job” I guess you would say. Even If I’m working for a corporate company, as long as I have a creative end and can travel…I’m happy. Being creative, travel a ton, and have a great girl would be ideal. It makes me happy that people even like my work and I feel blessed to have been where I have been. My parents worked really hard to get where they are so I have a strong work ethic instilled in me. I think with my creative nature and my work ethic, I can make my goals real.
Feldman: You are making the world a better place Nathan Brown!!!
Brown: I’m trying to. I like to make sure people are happy around me. Since I have lived here, I have volunteered a lot and it felt awesome to help people and give back. I don’t know why but it got my creative juices flowing again. I had not done art for a while and I fell in love with it again. My motto is to just live a good productive life.
Feldman: Not a lot of people can say they are happy-
Brown: I know a lot of people that aren’t happy and I wish I could help. I wish they would figure out what I had to figure out. I have had a lot of life changing experiences in the past few years so it’s given me a whole new outlook.
To see more of Nathan Brown’s work, go to www.Mindzai.net and www.ss19.blogspot.com.