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UNC graduate explores his North Carolina roots and finds the meaning of home on new EP

<p>Nathan Vincent, an UNC alumni, is set to release his newest EP "Cedar and Pine" on April 24, 2020. Photo courtesy of Nathan Vincent.</p>
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Nathan Vincent, an UNC alumni, is set to release his newest EP "Cedar and Pine" on April 24, 2020. Photo courtesy of Nathan Vincent.

Nathan Vincent has never quite known where home is. 

Throughout his early life, he constantly moved back and forth between the Philippines and North Carolina, never quite able to settle in one place.

His path led him to UNC, where he graduated in 2017. That year, as he drove down NC-54 to visit his parents in Durham, Bon Iver’s song, “33 ‘GOD,’” began to play. As he listened, one line lodged itself in his head: "These will just be places to me now." 

For Vincent, the song was a sign to start fresh in a new place. That summer, he moved to Austin, Texas.

That move serves as the inspiration for Vincent’s new EP, "Cedar and Pine," which is set to be released April 24. The title refers to the cedar trees that populate the Austin area and the pine trees that pepper central North Carolina.

Vincent attended high school in the Philippines, so when he arrived at UNC, he often found himself alone in his dorm room. He spent much of that time alone writing songs. He soon shared some of these songs with a friend of his, who told him to record and share them.

So, during the spring of 2017, he underloaded his classes and took a job as a food runner at City Kitchen in order to pay for studio time. That August, Vincent released his first EP, "This Human Heart."

Vincent said the reception to that EP pushed him to create something bigger and better in his second go-around.

“This new one is a lot more polished and was a lot more investment in terms of time and resources and money,” Vincent said. “The first EP gave people a small understanding of the kind of sound and the themes that I really wanted to write about. The themes here are a lot more about home and leaving home and finding identity and community in a new place and some of the challenges that come alongside that.”

Chris Jacobie, the producer of "Cedar and Pine," said Vincent’s music is reminiscent of artists such as Sufjan Stevens.

“He's got a great voice,” Jacobie said. “The songs were really chill and had a definitive vibe to them. They had an overall feeling that was really tasteful and soothing, but they had an energy to them.”

“Blue Ridge State,” the lead single from the EP which Vincent released on April 10, is a song about the place that Vincent now knows is truly home.

“Moving outside both of those spaces into a new space like Austin made me come to the conclusion that North Carolina truly is my home,” Vincent said. “The reason why I think I brought a lot of North Carolina into the song and the record was that the central theme is about understanding where home is.”

The lyrics are not the only way in which Vincent alludes to the state that he now calls home, as the song also features instruments often heard in the state’s traditional music, including banjo and acoustic guitar.

“I work with a lot of singer-songwriters,” Jacobie said. “That song and the approach to that is so different from ‘dude with a guitar.’ In a live show, he can hold it down with a guitar, but what we did with instrumentation on the EP is a really fresh sound.”

He also finds other ways to connect to his North Carolina roots on the album, including on the song “Emmie.” The song is about family separation and divorce, which Vincent felt was important to discuss on an album about the concept of home.

“While we can have really good, idealistic understandings of home, when we're actually there with family, things can get tricky and messy,” Vincent said. “It's up to us as humans to understand how we can reconcile and restore those relationships and wrestle with that.”

He wrote the song after visiting his friend Emily Ryan, who he met at UNC in 2014, and her family. While with them, Vincent watched home videos of her and her family, which inspired the song.

“He put lyrics to things that I have felt regarding my dad for so long, but I never said it in that way,” Ryan said. “He gave me words to say. I thought that was really cool and it shows his ability as an artist.”

Vincent hopes that the EP will help listeners to better accept their lives, as imperfect as they may be.

“My hope would be that people rest in the messiness of life and be okay with it and not put it off, but come head-first at it and find a way to address it creatively,” Vincent said.

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