Nathaniel Rateliff Knows There Could Be Backlash for His Gun Stance -- Not That That Will Stop Him

10/12/2018 by Melinda Newman

Nathaniel Rateliff moved to Lakewood, Colo., from Missouri in 1998, shortly before April 1999's Columbine High School massacre outside Denver. Rateliff was 20 years old at the time; its devastating impact on the community has stayed with him.

On Oct. 13, Rateliff's nonprofit foundation, The Marigold Project, will partner with a number of organizations, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Our Lives Our Vote and the Kendeda Fund, to host a daylong series of workshops and panels on gun violence prevention at INDUSTRY Denver. The next day, his band, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, will headline a rally and concert at Denver's Levitt Pavilion. All proceeds from the benefit will go to nonprofit organizations dedicated to gun violence protection. Both events fall under the banner of Not One More.

Rateliff felt a dialogue about the issue was needed as much as a benefit concert. "With trying to change gun laws, it's most important to bring people together to start a conversation, because right now we have such a huge divide [on] pretty much anything," he says. "I think we can all agree that we can't have children going to school and continue to not have a sense of safety. I don't want that safety to be more guns being in school or there's only one point of entry. I don't think we've come up with a good solution, so we're bringing people together who have different opinions. I'm hoping we can walk away with something we all agree on."

Also on the bill for the concert are local acts Los Mocochetes and Denver Children's Choir, as well as Fantastic Negrito, whom Rateliff met in September when they played "Fortunate Son" together at the Americana Awards in Nashville. "He has an urban farm in Oakland [Calif.], and we've done a lot of work with Farm Aid and urban farmers," says Rateliff of Negrito. "Growing up in a poor urban community, he was a part of a lot of gun violence and lost some family members to it at a very young age." Tickets for the rally and concert are $18.

Rateliff knows that gun control is a polarizing topic, but he felt that taking a stand was imperative. "I know we have fans who have different ideas than we do, and I know there's going to be some backlash," he says. "But I'm trying not to read any comments and not really subject myself to the negativity. If we make enemies through this, I will still feel like I'm on the right side of history, and that's what's most important to me."

The singer founded The Marigold Project last year to address issues of economic and social justice, but not all of its activities have a political slant. Marigold led a sock drive at a 2017 show, with fans bringing more than 400 pairs and the band donating part of its proceeds from the show to the cause. "Sometimes it's as simple as getting homeless people socks in the winter," says Rateliff.

Inspired by artists like Willie Nelson and Neil Young, Rateliff vows to keep speaking out and raising money to fight injustice. Among the organizations in his sights is Western Water Conservation, a nonprofit that fights for access to drinkable water. "I feel lucky to have this platform," he says. "If people get tired of what we're doing when we're only trying to eliminate poverty and create equality, I guess they're just going to have to hate me for it and not listen to what we do."

UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, Oct. 14's Levitt Pavilion concert will now take place Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. Fantastic Negrito's schedule could not accomodate the change. The Suffers' Kam Franklin has been added to the bill. Full refunds are available for those not able to attend on Oct. 13. The workshop's schedule has been revised to adjust to the concert change.

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