DJ Nate Nelson
Nate Nelson. Photo credit: Katy Wright

Oklahoma-born and Texas-based DJ Nate Nelson is a veteran party rocker with extensive experience performing at clubs, bars, private events, and on the airwaves. He joined Beatsource as our country music curator in November 2022.

Learn more about Nate and the playlists he curates as part of our Meet the Curator series.

How long have you been DJing, and how did you get your start?

I have been DJing full-time for 11 years. I started in radio in 2005 and quickly moved to doing private events, local college bars, and clubs. I saved every dollar I had to upgrade gear and dove in headfirst to hone my craft.

What are the differences in how a DJ plays country music as opposed to other genres?

I feel like country music is bigger in private events than in mainstream clubs and bars. A lot of specialty dances at weddings are for country songs. There are hundreds of dance floor bangers in the country genre, and there are some great country anthems that everyone needs to have in a crate. You can find those essentials on Beatsource now! Country has some great “feel good” vibes. There’s nothing like drinkin’ a beer on a tailgate and singing some King George!

What has your experience been like in building your country music library throughout the years?

I feel like country isn’t the “go-to” for most parties or bars and clubs, so finding this genre of music on record pools has been challenging. I grew up in Oklahoma; my family had a farm, and I spent a lot of time around country music and in the “country.” That being said, some of my original music library when laptops became a thing in the DJ world are still songs I ripped off CDs in the early 2000s. In recent years, I usually have just bought songs or albums from iTunes. It’s been difficult to find a great country edit in the past.

How do you see Beatsource changing the way you acquire and manage your music collection?

Beatsource has been a game-changer for me. With 5G and the internet being so accessible, having Beatsource and a team of curators working weekly to find the newest releases, creating playlists, and edits for the playlists is going to change the way we perform, change the way we take requests (if you do), and change the way we use the hardware we play on. Imagine in five years, walking into a bar, club, or wedding, and only needing an internet source, and being able to access your music by just logging into Beatsource on the hardware. I am really excited to see where this technology takes us.

What advice can you offer to DJs who are just discovering country music?

Taking risks with country is tough. Country isn’t as popular as pop, dance, or hip-hop. Play the hits, play the classics. Start listening to country even if you aren’t familiar with it. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but as a DJ, you know if something sounds good and can pop off. Know your audience and do your homework on the different types of country music. If you try to play Texas country (yes, that’s a subgenre of country) in Philly, no one has probably ever heard of 95% of those artists or tracks. But if you come to Texas to play, classic country and Texas country are huge! Do your homework like any event.

What do you say to people who claim streaming is not acceptable for professional DJs?

Have you tried it? Don’t knock something until you have tried it. 90% of wedding DJs use Spotify for ceremonies and cocktail hours. Essentially that’s streaming using the “offline” download feature. Beatsource has a 1,000-song locker for offline playing. I just played an event last weekend with Beatsource with very minimal internet and was streaming off one bar on my phone. If the track loads into Serato, you’re golden. It will play easily and seamlessly. Give it a try. It blew my mind, and I hope it does yours as well!

What advice can you offer to DJs in managing their music library?

Managing music is like balancing your checking account. You should always know how much money you have, what you add to that account, and what comes out. If being a DJ is your livelihood, you want to know your music library and bank account. I like to start fresh every year with my crates, so I don’t get comfortable and start playing the same records. A good DJ has a well-organized music library. If you want to master your craft and be more creative, you should know the ins and outs of your crates and their songs. I rarely play a song without setting multiple cue points on a track. I want to know how to get in and out of that track every time I load it in my deck. When you are completely prepared and organized, you can then go out there and give your performance 110%.

What can we expect to see in the playlists you’ve curated for Beatsource?

You can expect to see the classics, the hits, and some playlists curated to accommodate you in real-life experiences. Country music is my roots. I grew up on it, and some of the greatest records I still play today are classic country songs from George Strait, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and Brooks & Dunn. There are songs that were released 15 years ago that are still on the top charts today! You can also expect to find all the latest and greatest records being dropped. I am a big fan of this new country sound, almost hip-hop country. It’s definitely a vibe. I am excited to help DJs struggling with country music find the right songs for the right environment.

How has country music changed over the past few decades?

Not until recently, but I love the new sound of country. Country is feel-good music. Most songs are about drinking beer, fishing, or pickup trucks. But country music has changed during the TikTok era. Mashups and remixes all over the place, bringing back classics and introducing them to the younger generations! A lot of people don’t like today’s music, but I am a fan of the creativity people have shown in resurrecting the old stuff!

How does regionality play into country music?

Just like all genres of music, someplace on earth was the “home” of that music. New Orleans has Jazz, Memphis has the blues, Detroit has R&B, Nashville has country, and New York has hip-hop. But like I mentioned earlier, Texas has “Texas country” or “red dirt” music, real twangy country vibes that hit close to the heart of the people from that region. I created a red dirt playlist with some of the top records you could play in Texas. A funny story comes to mind when a young 24-year-old DJ from New York told me that Luke Bryan was the GOAT of country music. He had no idea who George Strait was. Maybe it was his age, or maybe it was because he was from a region where country isn’t a big genre. Either way, remember that George Strait is the King of Country Music.

Last thoughts?

I am super excited for the future of Beatsource and even more excited to help DJs find the right country song for the right atmosphere, whether it be a backyard BBQ, wedding, bar, or nightclub. I am excited to help bring country music playlists to Beatsource!

Check out some of Nate’s curated playlists below.

Beatsource is the music streaming service for DJs who play everything.