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Rising from the Ashes

A MUSICIAN TURNS IMMENSE LOSS INTO INSPIRATION—AND A FRESH START

By Justin Japitana

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“That was almost it for me,” Nate Smith of Table Mountain Lodge No. 124 says matter-of-factly of the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed 150,000 acres including virtually all of Smith’s hometown of Paradise. A year later, the fire continues to shape Smith’s life in profound—and unexpected—ways. 

All that was impossible to predict on the morning of November 8, 2018. Within hours, his apartment—and practically everything else in the small Butte County town—had been completely leveled. Smith evacuated to his father’s home in Chico and, like the thousands of fleeing Paradise residents, waited and prayed for the best.

A few days after the fire broke out, Smith and his friend, Miykael Goodwin, started working on a song together, playing on a donated guitar. It was titled “One of These Days,” a tribute to Paradise and the victims of the fire.

You can tear these four walls down.
You can burn this whole damn city to the ground.
You’re never going to take our home.
One of these days we’re going to see the sunset rise in Paradise.

Smith and Goodwin, calling themselves the Cold Weather Sons, debuted the song on Facebook and performed it live on Thanksgiving on Good Day Sacramento, a local television program. The song was a hit, racking up thousands of views online.

In January, Governor Gavin Newsom invited him to perform at the “California Rises” benefit concert in Sacramento—the first of several benefit shows he’s since headlined. He’s opened for big-name acts like Pitbull and Travis Denning, and played small, local events like the Paradise Charter School’s graduation ceremony. At each, Smith has donated the proceeds to victims of the fire. “It’s the smaller moments that mean a lot to me,” Smith says. “It makes me realize that I’m doing this for something greater.”

Today, Smith is actively performing and pursuing his musical career. In June, he went back on Good Day Sacramento to debut a new song, “Wildfire,” which is available on Spotify and Apple Music. The track made Apple’s Country Hot Tracks list on iTunes.

“You think to yourself, ‘I might not have been here,’” Smith says. “It made me realize how thankful I am to be alive and that I still have a chance to go forth.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Kyle Nelson

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