TCB Exclusive: Nathan Sheridan Talks Overcoming Adversity & Measure Of Success In Music

Acclaimed singer/songwriter Nathan Sheridan drew on his powerful life story of overcoming intense challenges and personal loss in his Burtonwood Records debut, Broken With You, that released last fall. Sheridan chronicled a tumultuous childhood—his parents struggled with drug addiction and he lost his sister to cancer at a young age—that left him emotionally ravaged. Rescued from his troubled home and raised by loving grandparents who helped lead him to the Lord, Sheridan went on to serve in the U.S. National Guard where he regularly led worship for fellow soldiers during his six-year deployment in Kuwait.

Taking his musical talents to a national audience, Broken With You features 11 songs written or co-written by Sheridan. Audiences around the country were introduced to his music last fall during the Small Town Worship Tour, where he shared the spotlight with Dove Award-winning rockers Seventh Day Slumber and emerging singer/songwriter Brooke Robertson. We recently had an opportunity to sit down with the incredibly genuine rising star in CCM where Nathan talked about overcoming adversity, touring with Seventh Day Slumber, his measure of success in the music industry and much more. You can view our entire interview with Sheridan below, in video or text, along with two compelling exclusive acoustic performances.

When we last talked with you, you were about to embark on a set of tour dates. How was that experience and what was the piece of the night that consistently stood out to you the most? 
The Small Town Worship Tour was an amazing tour. I think it was close to 40 dates all across America. Night after night we saw not only great crowds but we got a sense going through these small communities of how forgotten some people are. Most Christian concerts seem to gravitate toward larger cities naturally, but we were super blessed to get everyone on one bus with all the equipment behind us and just get to meet people who were surprised that we came to their little town of 500 or so people. They were blessed by it, and I was as blessed and encouraged. We even got to go to Indian reservations, which was super special. There are a lot of hurting people in these small communities, and they don’t have access to as many outlets for ministry, so it was special and I’ll be doing it again this year.

What did life on the road teach you personally or professionally? 
Sometimes when you go to Instagram or other sites, you see only what your favorite artist wants you to see – the good pictures and the great moments. But on the road there are so many obstacles, not only being on the bus with a lot of people, but also you’re tired and don’t often get a ton of sleep. A lot of it is grunt work and not easy. It goes to show that nothing comes easy if you want to do it well. People always ask me if guitar is an easy instrument to learn, and I say it’s not an easy instrument if you want to learn it right. But I think as a musician it’s easy to go into the studio and put out a few songs, but it’s a whole different realm to actually get out on the road and meet them where they are at and not just through social media. Knowing what I’m doing is so tangible helps; there are people out there who love on music and want to meet me. It gave me a whole different point of view on music in general.

What song did the fans most connect with that you performed live?
They most connected to “Broken With You”, which is a song about everything I’ve been through in life with my parents walking out on me and my sister, losing my sister, and growing up without a real clear focus on life. It was also asking God about where he had been through all those moments, and then at the end of the song coming to the realization that He’s been there the whole time. I think that really spoke to a lot of people. So many people have others walk out on them, people who are close to them, or they’ve been through bad relationships. Every night there was somebody who would come up to me and say that song was also their story. And that’s when you know which songs are really hitting people. I would have grandmothers coming up to me saying they are raising a child that is their daughter’s, very similar to my story. And then I would have children come up to me saying that their mother or father had left them. And that’s why this song never gets old because night after night I get to hear people’s testimony after sharing mine.

When did you first feel that calling to bring your story out to reach a larger audience? 
It was a slow progression. I joined the military right at 17 [years old] and was in for 6 years with the National Guard in reserve status. Before then, I had played a little bit at youth group in church, but I never saw music as a viable option in my life. It was always something that I did as a hobby, but at that time I wasn’t really seeing the ministry part of it yet. Once I went overseas to Kuwait, I started leading worship there for the troops, and that’s when some doors started to open. There was constant encouragement of the congregation with soldiers sharing I was anointed, which was humbling as well. That’s when I decided to come home and pursue music further. God has pushed me into this, in some ways against my will, but I’ve also had to put myself on the line with Him. It was never something I pictured myself doing; if it had been 4-5 years ago, I would have given you a completely different answer. I’m super blessed to be here today and be in ministry actively.

 

You said it was over time and a gradual process, can you see now looking back, one moment that changed it for you, even if it wasn’t all at once? 
It’s so hard because like you say it has been a gradual thing, but there are also those moments that hit you. I remember one big one was when I had my best friend, Luke, call me, when we hadn’t talked in quite awhile. We were still good friends, but just hadn’t gotten to talk with him going to audio engineering school. I was already thinking a little about going further in music, but I wasn’t sure how to make it happen. But he called me up and said he was thinking about me, and God was speaking that we should get in the studio together. So here was another person who was not only willing to record me for free on his own time, but he thinks there’s something to this even when I didn’t see it yet. And there’s always been someone who saw it when I didn’t. My judgment isn’t always the best, but when you have enough people telling me something, I’ll listen. And then I randomly got invited to a conference in Nashville after someone found my music online, where I got to showcase my music and get mentored. It’s free to go, and that’s when I met my first manager, who then hooked me up with a producer. It just snowballed. And when I was at the conference, me and Luke were sleeping in a car because we didn’t have money to pay for hotels, and getting that call back that they loved me at the conference was a blessing. I’ve thrived off of the encouragement of others. It’s been God the whole time saying ‘Nathan, don’t you see it’. So there were many different moments that I didn’t even realize at the time.

Looking ahead, what is your measure of success going forward? 
Because this is the music industry, there is always a measure of success for record sales and streams, and historically that’s what we measure our success as an artist and musician. But it’s our responsibility in Christian music to the ministry aspect. Otherwise it is just music. I believe God should speak through our music and our music should be ministering to people. That’s really what it’s about. There is more money to be made elsewhere, but that’s not where my heart is because I see how God has opened the doors for me. And I don’t see how, at this point, I could go in my direction just to make my bank account a little bigger. It’s important to not lose sight of that, we are here to minister to people and save souls for the Kingdom, and that’s how we should be measuring our success. God doesn’t see money as success; He may give you money and the desires of your heart that are earthly, but at the same time, that’s not what you should strive for. It’s hard to look past selling enough records and getting enough streams, but especially when I’m on the road, I just see how it is so much bigger. You have to humble yourself that this can't be about you, although a lot of times it becomes about you, but you have to take a step back because this is about God.

So what are some of your short and long terms goals for your music and ministry? 
For long-term goals, I would eventually like to be on the road a lot more. In the beginning, as an artist starting out, it’s hard to get on the road with the logistics part of it and having the sound and production to get to each place. So that’s something I’m working toward for how I can be on the road more to minister to people more. You can’t do it just through social media, although it’s a good tool to post an inspirational quote or message someone back, but as far as where I’ve seen the most impact, it’s someone coming up to the merchandise table after the show saying a song spoke to them. Every time that happens, I wonder how I can do this more. So that’s probably my main goal right now, besides putting out another record and writing music. I want to see success in that way, but I love the road and I love meeting people and hearing their stories and knowing that what I do matters. So that’s my ultimate goal – getting out to these people consistently.