State of the Yacht.

Carl Nelson
6 min readNov 15, 2019
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Captain Carl and the boys playing a corporate show in Vegas.

With 4 years of Yacht Rock in the rear view mirror, the yacht is really humming now. I’m Captain Carl and I’m at the helm of Southern California’s most successful Yacht Rock band, Yachty by Nature. Playing keyboards and singing the smooth songs of soft rock has been an epic adventure and it’s really starting to turn a corner. In fact, when I was playing in an 80’s band back in 2011 and a hipster girl at an industry party turned to us and requested yacht rock, I fell on the floor wondering what the hell it was. Delighted to hear that it was something around the fringe of Hall and Oates, etc., I immediately caught the visual of music, boating, pop-smooth, champagne, and electric piano buoyed by 70’s bass and luscious vocals. Not perfectly yacht rock according to JD Ryznar, but a start nonetheless.

From this glorious beginning, I found the Yacht Rock Youtube series and dove into the songs that I also felt equated to smooth in and around the genre. I certainly fell in love with tunes that I could squash into my 80’s band set list like No Can Do, Africa, All Night Long, and Escape (the Piña Colada song). Indeed, I managed to get Scott on bass grooving that I Can’t Go For That bassline and before you knew it, Neon Nation had one smooth ass groove going at a corporate party at the House of Blues during sound check. By the year 2014, I was getting deeper and deeper into the Yacht Rock movement. The most astonishing part of my Yacht awakening was the fact that these smooth songs were the fabric of my favorite AM sounds in the back of the station wagon. Whether it was Doobie Brothers, Ace, Player, Christopher Cross, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, I had always pondered what made these tunes connected in my mind. They were indeed the playlist of my mind without a label, home, or tether and finally the boys at Beyond Yacht Rock had given me an anchor to tie up the loose strings of this passionate and dreamy musical youth.

Some of the wild connections I had to this fabric of tunes weren’t even yacht rock but the sound, the vibe, and the color had that yachty connection! For example, how about my crazy and deep influences like Can’t Tell You Why by the Eagles, South City Midnight Lady by the Doobies, Oh Sherry by Steve Perry, Heartlight by Neil Diamond, and Diamond Girl by Seals and Croft. By definition, these are kinda Yacht Adjacent but evoke that same musical memory of my youth: warm, soft, fuzzy comfort like the shag carpet of my 70’s living room floor. These tunes gave you that chenille throw rug embrace of good times, no-worry, youthful freedom, and caution-to-the-wind adventure. And, I can’t think of a better happy place that I experienced most of these but the back of the station wagon on family road trips.

Yacht Rock equals good times. Escape. Unbridled enthusiasm. Love. Imagination and freedom. And now thankfully, those tunes are coming back and taking a foothold. Fast forward to 2016 when I continued to embrace Yacht Rock songs in our 80’s band sound checks and finally decided to build a yacht rock band. Luckily, Scotty McYachty decided he was ready to join the smooth and we embarked on putting a tribute band together. Because of the difficulty of the songs both instrumentally and vocally, it was no easy task. Then, the shredder musicians I had in mind weren’t ready or couldn’t commit and we found Ben Shreddin’ and Big Wave Dave on guitar and drums who were ready to ditch heavy metal and give soft rock a shot. Who could’ve imagined a motlier crew of diverse backgrounds but good-guy musicians. By the time we had our first ditch day from work to practice for 11 hours, we were hooked…and deep.

Our first gig. Hall and Oates and Brandy reigned supreme and our 70’s outfits were an immediate hit. My friends who got on board early proclaimed it was the best idea and greatest band I’d played in yet (and a pretty solid 25 year track record of good bands). But a 4 piece was never going to work fully. Next thing you know, Doctor Ira walks into Stillwater off the street and offers to jam with the 80’s band and Scott said hell yes! He comes in and wows the audience and interjects this wild energy the band needed and saxed up the tunes nicely. Suddenly, the band is playing Vegas, Yucaipa Music Festival, Lake Arrowhead, and Marina del Rey in the space of a couple weeks and the band absolutely takes off!!! We even played an early show out in Raleigh, North Carolina! Our playing accelerated, the songs gelled, and audiences began roaring.

Not surprisingly, Sirius/XM radio added a yacht rock radio station that very summer and our brand exploded. We end up doubling our saxes in the group adding Rim to the band and suddenly the Steely Dan sections burst the seams. Now, we had double jazz flute on Lowdown and even Rim dueting on piano with myself Captain Carl. Our corporate parties increased, the crowds blew up and the music took on new meaning, life, and energy. Yachty by Nature was taking off and Southern California in general was becoming more yachty. Clothes stores exhibit more flamingos, anchors, and yachtiness than ever and Spotify sees New Yacht Rock artists emerge. Even Yacht Rock Revue has now begun releasing newer yacht rock original music.

This year, Yachty by Nature opened for Snoop at Nood Beach, we appeared on the Rich Eisen show, traveled to Iowa, Vegas, Arizona, and Seattle, won Best Live Cover Band 2019 in OC Weekly, and will play at the world famous Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood. With every new fan and follower, it is humbling but the band is working harder than ever to satisfy the need for that sweet comfort of the Yacht Rock sound. This band still plays it all LIVE and encourages those bands out there to dump their backing tracks. It’s always so disheartening to see a band that has a keyboardist only pretending to play while the pre-recorded backing tracks play the hard parts and even supply the backing vocal harmonies. There’s just no soul in pre-recorded music especially for this genre that seeks to emulate the live energy of jazzy and R&B based music that requires live musicians and live talent. Thank you to those fans who know the difference between the “faking” involved with backing tracks and bands that are really playing the music ALL LIVE.

Lastly, the future is looking bright for yacht rock! Not only have we had a great record of converting the hard rockers and punk rockers, people have just been relating to good music, our funky vibe, the fun stage show, and badass music! Of course, those fun conversions happen because what we do is such a guilty pleasure. The music is contagious and the fun of the yacht party keeps bringing them in. In addition, getting to wear Yacht Attire i.e. boat shoes, captain’s hat, and funky 70’s and Caddyshack clothes, etc. will inspire you to get smooth. So, run, don’t walk to the next pleasure cruise with Yachty by Nature. The smooth revolution is here and nothing like a yacht band concert to make your day. Check the calendar and find some fun videos on Youtube to further inspire you to join that Smooth Revolution.



Carl Nelson

Keytarist for the Yacht Rock band, Yachty by Nature. Get smooth!