Born in a farmhouse in the countryside of Waterloo, ON, to music-loving parents, rising country star Nate Haller fell in love with the great outdoors. By the time his family moved to the suburbs, the stuff he’d been raised on – dirt biking, bonfires with country music blasting into the wee hours – were ingrained in his DNA. “It’s always been in me,” says Haller.
Catching up with the songwriter via Zoom on a mid-summer’s day finds him sporting a Budweiser trucker hat, holed up in a hotel room in Calgary. Haller, who was signed to Starseed Entertainment in 2021 (the management home of Dean Brody, James Barker Band, and The Reklaws) had just played a raucous gig in the Nashville North tent at the Calgary Stampede the previous night, and was taking a brief break before flying to Nashville.
After more than a decade in the music industry, Haller is making waves. He was a semi-finalist in the 2021 SiriusXM Top of The Country; scored a 2022 County Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) Rising Star nomination; was named Amazon Music’s Breakthrough Artist of the Month; and secured a spot on Spotify Canada’s RADAR program. The artist visits Nashville often, usually for co-writes, and still remembers his first time there: he headed to The Listening Room Café with a couple of friends, and one of the performers that day was a co-writer of the Zac Brown gold-selling single “Sweet Annie.”
“The amount of talented writers there is incredible,” he says. “That blew my mind, to watch people play the songs exactly how they were written.”
Growing up, Haller’s siblings were both musical, but it took a live-show epiphany to motivate him to take music seriously. “Before that, I would just mess around on my brother’s guitar and play a couple of chords,” he recalls. “Then, in high school, I saw [Australian singer-songwriter] Xavier Rudd play the didgeridoo and the stomp box at the same time. That really inspired me.”
Another seminal moment came in Grade 11. Thanks to a teacher’s encouragement, Haller overcame stage fright and performed at his school’s talent show. “That changed everything,” he says. “After that, I started to write my own songs.”
These days, in between playing gigs this summer, Haller is busy writing, and determining the final songs for his debut EP, planned for release later in 2022. Some songs were written in Nashville; others were written on the back deck, or in the bedroom (converted into a studio), of the Toronto house he was renting. After years spent playing in other bands, and co-writing songs with the likes of Stuart and Jenna Walker (The Reklaws) – who were featured on his latest single “Broken” – Haller felt the time was right to step into the spotlight. The Reklaws, along with 18-time Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) winner Brett Kissell, also co-wrote with Haller on “Somewhere to Drink,” released in the middle of the pandemic.
“I’ve been lucky to play guitar for other people, and that allowed me to work silently on my own writing,” he says. “I’ve been working towards this project for the past five years. In a weird way, the pandemic prompted that to happen… It was a quick pause that allowed me to kick my project into the next gear of what I wanted people to hear.
“Years ago, I was trying to write these little pop songs,” he adds. “Some were cool, but they didn’t really feel like me.”
The first radio single Haller released in 2021 was “Lightning in a Bottle,” written by frequent James Barker Band co-writers Travis Wood and Gavin Slate, along with Shawn Austin. The song grabbed the No. 2 most-added spot at Canadian Country radio, and landed the artist his first Top 10 hit. Then, in the spring of 2022, Haller released the infectious single “Ain’t Like Me.” After all of the miles, the songwriter now knows his true artistic self and accompanying vibe he wants for this EP: just a guy with a guitar telling stories that resonate.
“I grew up listening to that sort of stuff,” says Haller. “My grandpa was in the radio business his whole life, and he got me into guys like Johnny Cash from a young age. I realized recently that I do not have to be super polished… I can have this natural grit that’s in my voice, and bring everything back down to just the guitar and me.”