- Dylan made me do it: Nathan Xander
It's not a problem at all for Chicago singer-songwriter Nathan Xander that people keep likening his voice to Bob Dylan's. "When I started writing songs, it was Bob that really made me want to do it," he says. "But I'm really a mix of every band that I like. It's not as if I'm trying to sound like Neil Young on this song, or have a Dylan harmonica on that song. It just filters in there."
After leaving his native Union City (a half-hour drive from Erie in Amish country), Xander spent five years in Pittsburgh, living in Mount Washington, Dormont and the South Side. "It's where I met my girlfriend, and I'm back there about eight times a year, hanging with her parents," he says. He eventually wound up following her to Chicago ("she didn't want me to give chase, but I did anyway"), and now works for a moving company while gigging with a klatch of like-minded folkies, including William Blackart and Adam Faucett.
"There's this bar that does open mics -- it's the kind of place that stays open 'til 5 in the morning and has a grand piano, and they let us sit there and drink and play guitar to our hearts' content," Xander says. "Those guys asked me to do a show with them, and now we've become good friends, and we're informed by each other's music. Our stuff is in a similar vein, but still different."
Xander's initial EP, Swiftly, Surely, was released by a Providence, R.I. label associated with a capsule album-review Web site called 75 or Less (the name refers to 75 words per review). His new CD The Fear -- which he'll debut this Fri., Feb. 6, at Club Café -- is self-released, although with frequent comparisons to Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric), he may have an outside chance at convincing the Secretly Canadian label to come on board. "That wouldn't be too bad at all," he says. "There are some Chicago bands on that label."
Meanwhile, Xander prowls the touring circuit restlessly, and even his own Web site, "Always Never Home," which reflects that semi-nomadic nature. "Originally, that was the title of a song on the EP, with the tone being that I was just not there mentally when I wrote it. But now I can see how it might refer to me being on the road a lot."
Nathan Xander with The Central Plains, William Blackart and Adam Faucett. 10 p.m. Fri., Feb. 6. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $7. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com