By Susan Marquez
Nathan Gates was born into the world of Gospel bluegrass. As one of seven children of the Gates Family band, Nathan traveled in a converted school bus with his family. "We traveled with a tent evangelist out of Arkansas. He taught Sunday school, and we would provide music for the meeting."
Nathan's dad, Craig Gates, put a mandolin in young Nathan's hands when he was nine. While the mandolin was a perfect size, the banjo was a perfect fit. He fell in love with the instrument and became quite proficient at playing it.
As the Gates children grew up, Nathan's sisters married and lost interest in touring with the family band, choosing instead to stay home and raise families. In 2012, Nathan decided to form a new band. He enlisted his father and Robert (Bob) Hauser, a classical cello and bass player who has been a professional church musician throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin for over thirty years. He also performed with orchestras, operas, theatre groups, and weddings and even had a short stint in an early-Elvis-era rock band.
Bob's daughter, Kemedy, joined the group playing fiddle. The youngest in the group at 17, Kemedy started her music studies at age six, taking cello lessons from her dad. She took up the fiddle when she was ten and began sitting in on bluegrass jams at a local guitar shop.
Craig Gates plays guitar with the band and provides solid vocals. He began traveling with college choirs in his early twenties. After getting married and having children, he started a family ministry, traveling and singing Gospel music at churches, camp meetings, and county fairs. Nathan says his dad, now 71, wants to tour until he can't do it anymore. "He says this is what God wants him to do."
Nathan describes the band as a coming together of two families. Based in Bloomington, Illinois, Nathan owns a construction company and does electrical work. But on many weekends, the band hits the road to perform. "We load up the kids and take them on the road with us," says Nathan. We have traveled all over the Midwest and south as far as Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida." Nathan says his wife, Rachel, was never really involved in music other than participating in her church's praise and worship team. "She moved here from Connecticut to go to school. She studied Agricultural Education and got a degree in teaching.She helps behind the scenes but has also stepped up on both mandolin and vocals." Rachel also plays a vital role within the family. "We just had our third child, who is five weeks old. That gives us three under three, which keeps her busy."
Their hard work and dedication have paid off in the form of recognition by the Rural Roots Music Commission. In 2018 New Legacy's Simple Truth album was named Acoustic Bluegrass Album of the Year, and in 2019 they received the Gospel Bluegrass Album of the Year for their album, One Day at a Time. "I never thought of chasing accolades," says Nathan. "But getting those awards gave us credibility as a band. We were thankful for the honors." In addition to those two albums, New Legacy has also released Light the Way, a full LP with 13 cuts, and their Christmas album, A Christmas Collective.
Like many other bands, New Legacy struggled with what they would do when Covid shut down festivals and shows. "We had been producing The New Legacy Show, a music variety show on YouTube. We got seven episodes completed before Covid shut it down. But those shows helped keep us top of mind with folks for a while. We loved doing them, and we want to do more shows."
Nathan describes himself as a "goof" on stage. "I like pranks, and because I stand next to Kemedy on stage, the juvenile side of me comes out. We enjoy playing around with each other, all in good-natured fun. Bob also enjoys a good cutting up. My dad loves to tell corny jokes, so we all have a really fun time on stage. I think that engagement with the audience helps to tear down walls, and the music and the message are better received." One thing Nathan knows not to do is to startle his wife. "She does not like to be startled, and I respect that."
The sound of New Legacy is rich and full. "One of my favorite songs to perform is "The Middleman" from our One Day at a Time album. It has a full orchestration arranged by Bob, and the music sounds full and lush. We stacked parts, and it sounded like a full string section. That's the kind of sound we try to provide on stage at our shows, and I think our audiences appreciate it."
Link to website: New Legacy Music | Bluegrass | Gospel | Bloomington
Link to an episode of The New Legacy Show: (3) THE NEW LEGACY SHOW S1.E4. "FAMILY" - YouTube