My 3 simple steps to playing at Sofar Sounds

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nate maingard playing at sofar sounds

“Nathan, are you busy?” “Ummm, yes, I’m about to meet someone for a first date.” “Well, keep your phone on, Rafe is about to call.” After three months of trying to play a Sofar Sounds show, one of the most popular intimate music events in London (and, eventually, the world), I was in. These are the three steps I took to get there…

1. Willingness

While searching the web for info about how to play more house concerts (intimate shows in peoples’ homes, my fav), I came across Sofar Sounds, which hosted epic house concerts around London. Only one problem, everyone wanted to play and I was an unknown indie-folk singer-songwriter from South Africa in an ocean of insanely talented artists waaaaay better known than me! What did I have that would let them know I was worth their time!?

What I had was willingness, the willingness to just say yes and give it a go, to show up even though it may amount to nothing! I wrote to the Sofar Sounds team via their site and they were kind enough to get back to me saying thanks and that I should stay in touch (classic ‘we don’t need you but we’re too nice to say it’ kind of thing).

2. Perseverance

At this point, many people might have given up, which I totally understand (and have done with other things at other times). In this case, perhaps thanks to my excitement, instead of giving up I set a calendar reminder and started sending Sofar Sounds short, friendly little nudges around once a month. It wasn’t pushy or anything, just casual, sincere and reminding them that I was still keen should they ever need someone. And so the months rolled by…

3. Right Place, Right Time

There is something to be said for the magic of synchronicity.

At some point in my time hosting an open-mic night at the now-closed Inspiral Lounge in Camden (an amazing story for another time), I mentioned to my sound-guy and friend that I was so hoping I would get to play a Sofar Sounds show some day. He looked and me and said something like, “Oh cool, I do their sound.” Just like that, all casual 😅. I was, of course, SO EXCITED and asked him to put in a good word for me. This is what he surely did (thanks Miguel, still miss our fun times) because he called me one afternoon a few weeks later, while I was wandering the streets of London on my way to the aforementioned date, to say the magical words at the beginning of this post!

I put down the phone and a few moments later, Rafe called. Now, Rafe Offer isn’t just anyone, he is the co-founder of Sofar Sounds (which has since become a global phenomenon, at times hosting nearly 300 shows a month around the world)! Anyway, this was early days but I was still a little star-struck when he said, “Hey, it’s Rafe here, we’ve had a last minute cancellation for tonight’s show. Can you fill in for us?”


Haha, I replied much more casually than that, but that’s how I felt inside! I said yes, put the phone down and called my date to tell her we had a change of plan (sidenote: we had a brief romance and remained friends for years, though this night was certainly a lovely first date)!

This third point of ‘Right Place, Right Time’ reminds me of a beautiful quote my Papa has always had up on his wall and I now share here with you:

Tune in next time to find out what happens next…

Just kidding, read on you beauties 😉

Because I was the newcomer, Rafe told me I’d only have time for two songs and wouldn’t have the video recording Sofar Sounds artists get. I knew I had to do my absolute best to inspire them to have me back as an official Sofar Sounds artist! No pressure 😅.

Here’s the thing: it. went. SO…WELL!!!!

OMG, it was insane, seriously, I couldn’t believe how epic it was! Rafe was the best host ever, he spoke so beautifully about listening, really listening to music, the other artists were just phenomenal and the crowd was so responsive and and and….it was just the best night ever!

The cherry on top was that, as the crowd applauded enthusiastically and I left the ‘stage’ (a cleared bit of floor in a living room), Rafe shook my hand, leaned in and said, “We’ll do it again.” Sigh, music to my ears!

Another Sidenote: Actually, now I come to think of it, Miguel recorded my songs from that night! Maybe I’ll share them with you someday 😇

And there you have it, that 2013 show in London was the beginning of my relationship with Sofar Sounds. I’ve since played for them in London, South Africa, various parts of the UK and even San Francisco and am now considered one of their ‘Alumni’ artists! I mean, COME ON 🥰!

As a final cherry on top (yay for more cherries on top 🍒), thanks to our fun meeting, Rafe and I hit it off and became friends. I consider him one of the most lovely humans I’ve had the blessing of knowing. He was kind enough to share these words about me, which I post here with a heart overflowing with gratitude:

“Nate Maingard is one hell-of-a performer. Friendly, warm, full of passion and stories, he brings you in and takes you on a journey that you won’t soon forget. Nate’s songs and voice are fresh and yet represent the kind of well crafted, soaring sounds that will never go out of style.”

Rafe offer, co-founder of sofar sounds

Sofar Sounds…or whatever you are dreaming

This isn’t just about Sofar Sounds, of course! It’s about what it takes to manifest dreams into reality. I didn’t know how any of it was going to turn out, I just showed up again and again with positivity, hope and even a bit of cheekiness (and yes, I was skilled at my craft. That is, of course, critical).

You are worthy of your dreams, my dear reader. You are worthy of the beauty you have in your heart and imagination.

Be willing to show up for it, to persevere with it and to trust in right place, right time to get you where you need to be.

I believe in you because, believe me, if I can do it, so can you 💞.
Yours in story and song

PS: I’m fortunate enough to have videos from a few of my Sofar Sounds shows, so check out Always Wandering from London (it’s on my new album Wild & Free, YAY), I Will Devour in San Francisco (featuring my sibling Lucinda and dear friend and patron Maria in the crowd, also featured in an updated form on Wild & Free) and Oh My Good Friend shared in my home country of South Africa (written for my sibling Lucinda, one of my most precious friends and teachers in the world AND it’s also on the new Wild & Free album, wow I only just clicked about that, so cool)!!!

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