“Last time I was here I got kicked out,” says the barrel-chested singer-guitarist Nathaniel Rateliff, 39, from under a wide-brimmed hat. He’s sitting in The Spare Room, a small, swanky bar and bowling alley inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where he’s either unrecognized or still welcome. “The lady who keeps score on the chalkboard didn't like my comment of, ‘Wait, your only job is to keep score?’” Night Sweats bassist Joseph Pope III, 38, a blue bandana encircling his neck, throws in: “It snowballed.” Rateliff, joking (probably): “If I’d had a .38 on me, I would have fired a couple rounds into the ceiling.”
You’ll have to pardon the man. His earlier life -- before fronting the hottest vintage-sounding soul octet in the country -- consisted of back-breaking gigs as he worked tirelessly to get his music career off the ground, and he has had trouble getting used to the “privilege” involved with a music career that’s thriving. Which it definitely is -- he just scored his second No. 1 on Billboard’s Triple A airplay chart with “You Worry Me,” a slow-but-swaggering, sax-boosted rocker about overcoming dread. It’s the first single from his band’s second album, Tearing at the Seams, out March 9 on Stax.
“You Worry Me” follows 2015’s “S.O.B.,” the world’s introduction to a burly howler who is frank about his flaws (the rowdy hit was about alcohol withdrawal) and leads a crew that plays like it’s the last bar band on earth. That the band has surpassed other nostalgia-stoking R&B outfits owes to the fact that you believe Rateliff. He calls it as he sees it, clearly, but he also talks it how he lives it. “The guy is all soul, all feeling,” says Richard Swift, who produced both Night Sweats albums. “He takes what he does more seriously than most people I know, and he’s just a goddamned sweetheart.”