Q&A with Nathan Chapman
Lee Clarion had the opportunity to talk with Nathan Chapman - a Lee alumnus, Grammy award-winning record producer and Nashville native - about his experience at Lee and what life has looked like since then.
Starting with your background, where are you from and what did growing up look like for you?
I am from Nashville, Tennessee. My parents - Steve and Annie Chapman - were gospel singers, so I traveled with them as a kid. I actually took a year off before I went to Lee; I went to Lee when I was 19 and toured with my parents during that year.
Why did you decide to attend Lee?
Voices of Lee performed at my church in Nashville, and after they performed they said, “if you want more information about Lee, come check out our info booth.” From there it just seemed like a good idea, and I was an English major at Lee.
So you decided not to pursue a music major, even though your career is now as a record producer. Why so?
I originally wanted to be a music major, but I couldn’t read music. I tried as hard as I could to understand it, but I didn’t end up making it into the music program at Lee. I became an English major because I knew it would help me write lyrics for my music.
Who were some of the people who influenced you the most while you were at Lee?
The head of the English department at the time, Dr. Wilkins, which is how I met my wife. I went on the France trip with the English department, and I met my wife who was working at a bed and breakfast. Dr. Eledge, who was the head of the English department at the time, and Dr. Hayes, who was an incredible influence when I was there.
What has life looked like after Lee?
Right out of college, my wife wanted to be a songwriter and a guitarist, so I helped her make music. Through the company she was working with, I met Taylor Swift when she was 14. I was 28 - we were both trying to figure things out. I did demos for her - which is recording a song for cheap - and then became the general producer of her first album.
How was working with Taylor Swift? What was it like winning a Grammy?
So after her first album, she wanted me to stay as her producer, so I did. Winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year is like everything you think it would be. It is like summiting Mount Everest and getting to the top - it was pretty amazing.
Did you always know you wanted to be a record producer?
At first, I went to Lee to get away from the music because it was such a part of who I was growing up. So I got some space and left. When I left, I had a whole other perspective. When I was younger, I felt like I had to do it. But getting away showed me that I get to do music, not have to.
What does it feel like coming back to Lee after many years?
It is amazing how much the campus keeps growing. Students seem so young - the older I get, the younger they are. I felt so old when I was there, but I didn’t realize that I wasn’t. I hope people realize how blessed they are with life in front of them and all of these opportunities ahead.
Anything else you would like to add?
What an honor it is to come speak at chapel. I sat through many chapels, but I never dreamed I would get the opportunity to be up on the stage. Let me just say to the students - it is a lot worse to be on the stage speaking than it is to sit and listen.