PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At 16 years old, Nathanael Barlow has captured the hearts of millions and is quickly leaving his mark on the stage. Before the teen singer and songwriter sings a note, he closes his eyes and just feels the music.
“When I’m singing to somebody or to an entire crowd that’s a time for me to welcome you into my world,” Nathanael said.
CBS News Philadelphia anchor Natasha Brown sat in a jam session with Nathanael inside the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, where icons like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington would grace the stage.
Artistic director Lovett Hines said he knew early on Nathanael was special.
“One of my teachers said, ‘Mr. Hines, that’s not a record, that’s little Nate singing,'” Hines said with a laugh.
Nathanael said he tries to perfect every note from the beginning of a performance to the end.
“I heard a teacher say to me, ‘People know within the first three minutes if you can sing,'” Nathanael said.
That theory was put to the test at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
Jeneen Barlow, Nathanael’s mother, secretly submitted a video of her son singing. He was called, and ultimately, he won four times at Apollo Amateur Nights. He was then invited back to sing for its famous holiday show.
Barlow said her son has been singing and composing music since he was 4. As a teenager, Nathanael began singing in the church choir and perfecting his opera skills. His confidence lies within the support of his family and church community that’s been with him on this journey.
It’s not lost on him that his name means “a gift from God.”
Nathanael’s mother reminds him and his siblings to be thankful for their gifts.
“Understand that it’s a gift from God, whatever your ‘it’ is, and intentionally hone that through real-world experiences,” Jeneen Barlow said.
Nathanael is used to performing in front of large crowds, but doesn’t mind a more intimate show like singing to a fan inside the laundromat.
As we wrapped up this jam session at the Clef Club, it’s obvious the future is bright for this rising star.