` Jesusfreakhideout.com: Nathan Oswalt, "WHO KNOWS - Single" Review
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JFH Indie Music Spotlight Review

Nathan Oswalt, 'WHO KNOWS - Single'
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Nathan Oswalt
WHO KNOWS - Single

Artist Info: Discography
Street Date: April 19, 2024
Style: Pop / Worship
Official Site: djnat4him.wixsite.com/nathanoswaltmusic
Buy It: AmazonMP3



Nathan Oswalt is a singer/songwriter who had released two very solid singles previously, but has now introduced his newest in "WHO KNOWS." Not only does the trend of stylized song titles featuring all caps continue, but Oswalt has also released another very enjoyable song. "WHO KNOWS" relies more on guitars and keys and less on the electronic elements found in his first two releases. While "OUTRUN" and "STILL GOOD" showed a lot of his Owl City influence, "WHO KNOWS" flashes a little more of the Brandon Heath side of his sound. Consistency is key here, though. While the same electronic lean is missing, this one still fits in sonically with last year's numbers. What I find myself enjoying almost more than anything else are the vocal melodies and cadences Oswalt uses. I particularly like the way he delivers the second line of the opening verse, "What I'm gonna do, where I'm gonna go."

While examining the lyrics, we find that Oswalt has chosen another Christ-centric approach. He sings, "As I take this step into the great unknown; I know You go before me I am not alone. And while I may not know what my tomorrow holds, I'll place my life in the hands of the One who knows." The entire track talks about how unknown life is but places his faith in God to carry him through these unknowns. The pre-chorus says it best: "My destiny is Yours. I can't wait to see just what you have in store."

Nathan Oswalt has released a rather impressive trilogy of songs and is very clearly on the way to having an excellent EP or album. While I wouldn't necessarily lump Oswalt's work in with the current CCM climate, fans of that music will certainly find enjoyment here. For those looking for something neighboring on that sound, but with a slightly different feel, Nathan Oswalt's music is for you. These songs hold up to repeated listens without feeling the need to hit that skip button. That alone is an impressive feat.

- Review date: 4/26/24, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com



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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

    At still such a young age, Nathan Oswalt is eager to share a songwriting prowess that is well beyond his years. Though, admittedly, I enjoy the style of his previous two singles a bit more, Oswalt still knocks it out of the park with "Who Knows," offering up some strong CCM pop that leans more on organic instrumentation than electronics, and rivals some favorites of mine, such as Southlen. On top of that, it's encouraging to hear his faith on display, telling God that, despite not being too sure what's next for him, he knows that God is leading him safely forward to good things. While society exists in a constant state of anxiety over an endless list of worries, the message of "Who Knows" is an utterly refreshing one. Nathan Oswalt may still be a freshman in the world of recorded music, but he's writing and performing like a senior, and I'm excited to follow along on his journey. - Review date: 4/30/24, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com

 



JFH Indie Spotlight Review . Record Label: None
. Album length: 1 track: 2 minutes, 50 seconds
. Street Date: April 19, 2024
. Buy It: AmazonMP3

  1. WHO KNOWS (2:50)
spacer     Click For Song Lyrics

 


 



  • Jesus Freak Hideout (Michael Weaver): So far you're 3 for 3 on these singles with each being impressive in a different way. Are there thoughts to continue this to a full album or EP, or was standalone always the plan?

    Nathan Oswalt: I've honestly waffled between "stand-alone" and "make it an album" for quite a while now. After much prayer, deliberation, and discussion with trusted friends and family members, I've found another option - the "middle ground", you could call it. The plan is to revise all three singles - "OUTRUN", "STILL GOOD", and "WHO KNOWS" - by modifying the instrumentation a bit and re-recording at least the lead vocals, in order to make each song sound more polished and as professional-caliber as possible. Not that they weren't already - I love how the initial cuts turned out - but after listening to each of them again post-release and receiving some valuable input from several of my musically-knowledgeable family members, friends, and mentors, I've come to the conclusion that they should all probably be modified and/or improved some, so that I can feel confident about including them all on an album. So, yeah, you'll be hearing an "Album Version" of all three of my previously released songs down the road - and seven brand-new original tunes on top of that. I'll explain in more detail later on in this interview.

  • JFH (Michael): "WHO KNOWS" should be an anthem for all Christians. We stare out over a vast uncertainty while we live on this earth, but God knows every decision, every outcome, and every future. What drew you to this subject matter for a song?

    Nathan: So many things, Michael. As you may recall from when you last interviewed me awhile back (for "STILL GOOD"), I had just returned home from a local crisis center after falling into the worst-ever depression of my life, and although I was on the mend, I was still in a tough place. You can read the full story on the "About" section of my official website - the link to which I've posted below - but, long story short, I'm officially on the "other side" of that crisis. In fact, I don't think I've ever felt this content, joyful, and overall "free" in my entire life.

    Before, I couldn't (and, in all honesty, wouldn't) shake the screaming voices of depression and anxiety that constantly bombarded me with lies - about myself, God, my relationship with Him, and my relationships with others - until I believed them. Today, I feel far better equipped and enabled to mute those lies out completely, or at least divert their deafening screams into mere whispers, by intentionally choosing to focus on constructive actions that point me to the truth - including (but not limited to) studying the Bible, spending quiet time in prayer, listening to music, and of course, writing songs of my own - instead of just sitting around and doing nothing. I've learned that I'm less vulnerable when I'm actually busy doing something that's important to me.

    I initially wrote "WHO KNOWS" in 2019, just before graduating from high school. I was still in the middle of a losing war against depression, but I was definitely more optimistic and hopeful about my future back then. Now, after all that I've been through lately, the song has taken on a new, deeper, more personal meaning in my life. For the first time, I finally feel like I'm starting to take the wise advice that the LORD has given me through His Word - and through the lyrics and melodies that He has inspired me to write over the years. I had dabbled in songwriting before "WHO KNOWS", but, in my opinion, it's the one specific composition that truly started my musical journey, and almost six years later, it's still a major part of my story. After so many years of holding on to it and wondering whether or not I should share it under my own name or save it for someone else to perform, I finally decided to record and release "WHO KNOWS" as a bold proclamation of my restored faith and deepened trust in God and in His good plan for my life. There were a few other reasons, too - "WHO KNOWS" served as a graduation gift for my younger sister (I intentionally set the release date exactly one week before her graduation from college), and I also wanted to offer words of encouragement to all believers - in the U.S. during a heated election year, in Ukraine and the Middle East caught in the middle of devastating violence, and all around the world, no matter what storms they might be facing right now (or will face later on in their lives).

  • JFH (Michael): I like a lot of your choices here for vocal melody and cadence. It blends really good pop music with the best of CCM and worship music. What is your writing process like for a song like this?

    Nathan: As I mentioned previously, "WHO KNOWS" was one of my earlier songwriting endeavors. I grew up on a steady diet of contemporary Christian music - I didn't listen to much else on the radio or even at home. My CD-collecting hobby started with the soundtracks for my favorite animated films as a young child, and expanded into stocking up on Christian music CDs - from a wide variety of artists and groups - as I got older. It wasn't until around 2019 that I really started exploring and listening to mainstream (or "secular") music on a regular basis. By then, I had developed a strong enough worldview to listen with discernment - to appreciate and enjoy the sonic quality of mainstream songs, while still recognizing questionable lyrical and thematic content and rejecting unhealthy messages. As a songwriter, I am very intentional and highly passionate about creating songs that combine the best qualities of Christian music (usually the lyrics and themes) with those of mainstream music (usually the musicality and sonic diversity). I don't really have a "process", but I've studied both worlds of music for quite some time, simply by listening to them and identifying any and all similarities and differences that I notice. It's to the point now where I have a pretty good idea of what I want - and what I don't want - in a song, from the dual perspective of a listener and a creator.

  • JFH (Michael): "OUTRUN" and "STILL GOOD" are decidedly more electronic sounding. What went into the decision to make "WHO KNOWS" more guitar and keys based? For what it's worth, I think it was an excellent choice…

    Nathan: "WHO KNOWS" was written when I was still in my "CCM phase" - my journey into the world of mainstream music started in earnest a few months later. Once I resolved to finish and release the song, I made sure to pay homage to my roots as a contemporary-CCM singer/songwriter, while also keeping things interesting enough sonically to ensure that (1) it still felt like a Nathan Oswalt song, and (2) that it stood out somewhat from the bulk of Christian music. I'm about to go on a bit of a Holy-Spirit-filled rant here, so please, bear with me:

    I've noticed that a lot of songs in modern Christian music - especially within the last decade or so - tend to follow the same generic musical blueprint, over and over again. I believe that this approach is stifling creativity and artistic innovation within the Christian music community, and it's highly detrimental, even dangerous, to the worldwide spreading of the Gospel. I feel like CCM's influence on culture was much greater when there was more variety - not just contemporary pop rock and worship, but also dance/electronic pop, punk rock, alternative metal, hip-hop, and yes, even country (my least favorite genre of music) - on the radio. Nowadays, it's either contemporary pop rock, worship, or country - and almost nothing else - playing on Christian radio. That's not going to resonate with most people. Most people, especially young people, tend to gravitate to the ever-evolving genres of dance-pop, R&B-pop, pop-rap, and '80s-influenced pop rock that are dominating the mainstream airwaves - and the culture - right now. If we want to share the truth of God's Word and the hope of the Gospel more effectively with the masses of people who don't know Him yet - the audience that needs Him the most - we must go beyond just "preaching to the choir" and sticking with what's "comfortable". We have to step out in faith and work together to evolve sonically without compromising lyrically. Some artists - Crowder and TobyMac, for instance - are doing so, and doing so at a high level. But in order for real change to occur, so many more artists, bands, songwriters, producers, and engineers in CCM must be willing to follow their example and take those kinds of creative risks. If they don't - then I, for one, definitely will.

    So, yeah, "WHO KNOWS" is decidedly the most CCM-style song I've ever done. I think that the "album cut" will be a little more electronically-focused. However, I don't plan to deviate too dramatically from the more "organic" feel of the original version. Don't worry - I'm also intentional about taking other people's input, yours included, into consideration. There should still be enough guitars and keys in the "album cut" of "WHO KNOWS" to satisfy your musical appetite by the time I've wrapped up my revisions.

  • JFH (Michael): How close is the 2024 version of "WHO KNOWS" to the original 2019 version? Were there any major additions and subtractions?

    Nathan: When I first wrote "WHO KNOWS" in 2019, all I had was my voice and an acoustic guitar. But I knew in my head how I wanted it to sound as a studio recording. The pounding drums, the plucky acoustic guitars, the rip-roaring electric guitar crescendos in the chorus - I had all of that mapped out in my brain. The challenge, as always, was to import my creative vision into Logic Pro - thankfully, Ian and Jonathan (my co-producers on "WHO KNOWS" - both of them have worked with me before on previous releases) did an absolutely exceptional job.

    Fun fact: Shortly after my high school graduation, I shared "WHO KNOWS" with Steve Hotra, my music teacher at the time (whom I still consider a dear friend and mentor). He made a slight chord change in the pre-chorus, which impressed me so much that I decided to give him partial songwriting credit for his small but meaningful contribution. Later, Jonathan also earned some songwriting credit when he came up with this beautiful, Coldplay-esque keyboard riff while we were finishing up the song's production phase.)

  • JFH (Michael): Now that you have these three singles out in the world, what is the next goal/plan for Nathan Oswalt?

    Nathan: As I hinted at earlier, now that I have some experience recording and releasing music, it's time for me to step outside of my comfort zone and aim higher as an artist, songwriter, and producer. I'm currently taking music production and engineering lessons at my local Guitar Center, so that I can learn how to produce, edit, mix, and master a song from start to finish, without too much (if any) outside assistance. I've been spending most of those sessions working on my debut full-length album. Yes, you heard that right - it's album season. I can't say too much right now, except that the album will consist of ten songs - seven brand-new ones alongside re-worked renditions of my three previous singles - and that I plan on documenting the whole behind-the-scenes process on my YouTube and Instagram pages, similar to how Charlie Puth (arguably my favorite mainstream music artist and number-one influence) shared the making of his most recent album over Instagram and TikTok a couple of years ago. Feel free to follow me @nathanoswaltmusic so I can keep you updated!

    Additionally, I've started branching out into writing and producing for other local artists and groups - some of whom are just getting started on the whole releasing-original-music thing. It's been a longtime aspiration of mine to come alongside other aspiring artists in this way, helping them to follow their God-given dreams, find their voice, and reach their full creative potential. Hopefully, LORD willing, I can actually make a solid career out of this whole music thing - as a side hustle, at the very least. Regardless, I'm looking forward to what the future holds, both for my music and for all other aspects of my life. I don't know for sure what's going to happen, but I'm not about to let depression and anxiety hold me back any longer. I've already wasted over a decade of my precious time on this side of eternity fighting a losing battle against those particular demonic forces. But now, the tide has finally turned - by the strength of the Holy Spirit working in me, and in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I have overcome, and more than that, I have won. And I will continue to win, no matter what adversities I encounter next, because I know that my life is firmly in the faithful, merciful, loving, strong, powerful, forgiving, welcoming, nurturing, guiding, healing, restoring, working, fighting, saving, nail-scarred hands of the One…WHO KNOWS.

     

     

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