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Korean American poet Nat Myers releases blues album

Nat Myers released a debut album called "Yellow Peril." (Jim Herrington)
Nat Myers released a debut album called "Yellow Peril." (Jim Herrington)

Nat Myers is putting a new twist on some of America’s oldest music.

The Korean-American poet sings and plays old country, front-porch blues. He describes himself as “a young Asian cat playing old Black music.”

Myers talks with a southern accent as rich as Kentucky bourbon. And hearing him speak transports you right to the Northern Kentucky countryside where he grew up. 

“I’m just kind of a low-down fella generally,” he says.

He writes new, original songs and strums slide guitar in a style that’s nearly a century old. For Myers, the blues runs deeper than popular or contemporary sounds. 

His journey as a troubadour started by studying poetry, his first love.

“The music comes from a different reservoir inside myself,” he says. 

Myers’ mother is Korean. She met his father who was drafted and served as an American soldier in Korea. She moved with him to the United States, and they started a family where he grew up in Kentucky. 

“I come from a lot of different backgrounds,” Myers says. 

Myers doesn’t speak Korean and has never been to Korea, but he says there is a small Korean community in Northern Kentucky and his mom made sure he was connected to his culture. 

Myers says he exists in what he calls “this strange sort of liminal space between everything” — a place many people find themselves particularly if they are first-generation born in America, but also cut off from their home country. That position brings a particular perspective that has led him to the blues. 

“There’s something to be said about being able to share an experience of feeling like not belonging,” he says. “My own yearning for the blues, all conceptual things aside, comes from a deep sense of needing this stuff to keep myself going day to day.”

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He wrote the title track to his new album “Yellow Peril” as he foresaw backlash against Asian Americans as the pandemic started. 

“This wasn’t going to be real good for anybody who looks like me,” he says, “and it made me scared.”

The blues gave Myers the opportunity to communicate his feelings.

“I look at the old blues and the Delta blues that I really love as this narrative form,” he says. “This is my experience as somebody who has grown up in Kentucky who looks like me and who feels like I’m part of the conversation.”

Myer hopes when people listen to his music, they discover new inspiration in the traditional blues and that they “see it in the same light I do, which is some of the hippest music that is going on right now.”

Shirley Jahad produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Catherine Welch. Jahad also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.