Tropical house artist Nathan Hayes, 33, known as Jamie Prado, is somewhere in the hills of Bogotá, Colombia. A mega thunderstorm just swept through the city. Sideways rain is shaking the building and cutting our Skype interview in and out.
But this is exactly where he’s supposed to be. This is the environment that inspired the next chapter of Hayes’ career.
Just three years ago, when digging through his adoption files, Hayes came across his original birth certificate and learned that his birth name was Jamie Prado. “How do you begin to digest this,” was his first thought. Then, as an artist, he asked, “How can I create with this?’
He first came on the drum 'n' bass scene in Boston during the late '90s. By 2005, Hayes started his drum 'n' bass solo project Atlantic Connection, which helped to build a musical bridge across the pond. His network of fellow American artists such as Mayhem, Dieselboy, Evil Intent and Juju were among the first to plant seeds in the U.K. In return, they gave opportunities to British artists like London Elektricity, Danny Byrd and Ant TC1 to play in the United States and get their music heard here.
Hayes is the type of artist who's inspired by his environment, embracing what is most explosive and creative around him. Eventually, he hit a point where he got bored with the music he was making and started looking for other sources of inspiration.
That’s when he decided to visit his adopted parents in North Carolina to ask questions and learn more about his past. When he discovered his original birth name, it was a message that he needed to return to the roots of dance music and produce under the name Jamie Prado.
“This name is my foundation,” Hayes says.
Now, the connection he's building is across the Caribbean Sea. As Jamie Prado, he produces tropical house, a subgenre of electronic music that’s grown in popularity over the last year thanks to pioneers like Norwegian producer Kygo.
“It’s like taking influence from tropical environments, like the feel of Southern California beaches,” Hayes explains. His new release, "Restless," features Tali, daughter of music legend Annie Lennox and film producer Uri Fruchtmann.
Hayes made his first trip to Bogotá with no intention of tracking down his birth parents. Instead he paid a visit to CRAN, the orphanage that took care of him before he was adopted, and connected with the founder of the organization.
“That felt like closure, meeting the people that helped me,” Hayes says. “Giving back is more important to me than seeking out my biological lineage, because there’s nothing that separates me from these kids."
Colombia was a violent country in the '80s, when Jamie Prado was born. Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels were at war with the government, resulting in rampant killings, kidnapping and police corruption. But it’s not Hayes’ style to sensationalize this part of his story.
“Everyone knows what was happening there. Myself and many others were put up for adoption,” he says.
Hayes has lived in Los Angeles for the past 10 years, which has played a part in him learning more about Latino culture and finding things in common with his new Colombian friends. “Los Angeles is a Latin culture. It’s so ingrained in the city.”
He now has an apartment in the bohemian neighborhood of Chapinero in Bogotá, splitting his time between there and L.A. He’s completely immersed himself in the Colombian music scene and DJs at various clubs around the city. Drum 'n' bass has a strong scene in Colombia, and he's found that he already has a fan base there with Atlantic Connection.
“Colombia’s scene is exploding right now. It’s like L.A.” Hayes explains.
Some of the most popular and innovative artists in all of Latin America have come out of Bogotá. Among his favorites are the Grammy-nominated indie electronic band Bomba Estereo. “They’re doing an amazing job bridging the gap between Colombia and the rest of the world."
In addition to performing and DJing, he has spent time working with kids at his old orphanage, including giving music lessons and DJ workshops. At the end of March, he organized a music and sports event for the kids to give them a fun day of activities and help them learn new ways to express themselves.
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Now back in Los Angeles, Hayes is ready to share Jamie Prado with the world. He has partnered with Tom Astley Williams of L'Affaire Musicale to launch the house music label Midnight in Paris, which already has a roster of artists including J. Worra, Sunset Groove, Birdee, Curt Reynolds and Astley. They're having a launch party April 10 at the Standard Downtown L.A. rooftop. Expect to hear Jamie Prado play some Colombian-influenced tropical house.