Singer/Songwriter Slays Even the Hardest of Hearts on Latest EP

Thursday, May 3, 2012 12:25

An Interview with Jay Nash

by Casey Pukl

After years of relentless touring and non-stop recording, rustic rock troubadour Jay Nash has finally taken a little time to sit back and relax. The result of his down time? A gorgeous 4 song EP titled, Of the Woods, that displays the deep canyons of his “musical psyche”. Track 1 is a song titled, “Stay Home,” that poignantly explores Nash’s bittersweet relationship with touring and missing his new family at home. There’s a line in the song about Hurricane Irene raging at home in Vermont as Nash tours the desert in the “stabbing heat” that will absolutely slay you when followed up by the simple chorus, ” ‘Home, stay home. Stay home, stay home,” she says.

Let me tell you the best part about the EP— that’s just the beginning.  It gets even more heart-wrenching as it goes on.

Read on to find out what Nash has been up to lately, what’s in store for his next full-length project, and just what he’s looking forward to most about returning to California!

CP: Tell me a little bit about what you’ve been up to lately! I saw that you were recently on tour in Germany!

JN: Yeah! That tour was really a crash course in getting to know everyone as quickly as possible (laughs). It was one of those tours where you’re with each other the entire time. 

CP: (Laughs) Yeah, you’ll get to know people really quickly that way. What have you been working on lately?

JN: Compared to 2008, 2009 and 2010, I’ve actually been taking it easy relatively speaking. I think I played between 75-100 shows last year. There were actually quite a few markets in the states that I didn’t get to like Portland and Seattle. But I did make it to Holland! But I recorded a bunch of stuff in 2010. That was the year that I moved out of Los Angeles; I had been there for 9 years. But I moved to Vermont, and had a baby, well, my wife had the baby (laughs). But we found a house, settled down a bit, got out of the city. I made a full length record called “Diamonds and Blood” that year. I made a full-length record with Tony Lucca, who’s quickly becoming a household name on The Voice right now.

I also made an EP with Caitlin Crosby, who is also making a big name with her latest project called The Giving Keys. It was just featured in People Magazine. But she takes old hotel keys and prints words like “hope” and “courage” on the keys and she employs homeless folks and uses the proceeds to benefit them.

But yeah, I did those three different records in 2010, so 2011 was focused on putting all of those records and touring a little bit, plus getting the hang of fatherhood. Then last year in November, I took a little trip over to Holland. That has actually been kind of a surprise market for me. In a really grassroots way, it’s built up to be a very substantial market for me. I played my very first gig in Amsterdam last April, and there were 15 people there to see the two of us playing. But then I played another show there this past April, and a little over 250 people came! I was really excited about it. There was a little bit of national radio play over there, but it wasn’t like one big thing happened. It was really for the most part, the result of people just talking about it. So that was pretty cool.

But I came home, spent December, January, and February recording at home. I wrote a bunch of songs, like 20 or so. But the first 4 are going to be this EP that’s coming out on May 8, it’s called “The Woods”. So that’s kind of a pre-curser to a full length that I’ll start recording when I come out to see you guys. I’ll be out a week ahead of the show in the studio with Bill Lefler again. That’s kind of it in a nutshell for now.

CP: Awesome! Sounds like it’s still a solid and busy time for you. 

JN: Yeah. For me, it’s pretty focused and not too crazy. I’m just doing 5 shows in California, a few in the North East all within a couple of hours of where I live, and then not too much until the end of June when I’ll play New York, Philly, and Boston. But then I’ll be home until the fall when the new record comes out.

CP: Tell me a little bit about the new EP! Is this going to be a little bit of a departure for you, or a lot of the Jay Nash we’ve all come to know and love?

JN: (Laughs) I think it’s a little bit different sonically. The production that Bill Lefler has put on it is a little more cinematic. It relies a little less on the strum of an acoustic guitar, and it sounds a little less Americana and a little bit more alternative.

Thematically it came out of a different place. I think you can tell that I was on the road quite a bit last year, and I was happy to finally come to a point where I was resting and reflecting on it. I actually hadn’t written in a while. Between the beginning of 2010 and 2011, I didn’t write much, so it had been almost two years since I really took the time to sit down and write songs that felt deeply personal.

There’s one song, “Colors on the Table” that started off as an exercise to not really filter myself. It was really just a stream of consciousness. The recording of the song, I was recording it as I wrote it. I had a guitar lick, so I recorded it, and then I found a melody, and I recorded that.  But then I took a minute to step back and figure out what the melody was actually saying. That’s really atypical for me. I usually find the story that I want to tell in the song, and that’s my starting point. That song just started, actually all of these did, with the melody. Then I figured out what the melody was actually saying and the story it was telling.

The question comes up a lot, you know, “How do you write?” This is not at all how I typically write (laughs). It’s quite contrary to how I actually write.

CP: I feel like that’s a great thing to do though. Finding a different starting point will often land you in a different sound. 

JN: Yeah, and I think it did. It doesn’t seem that different to me, but I’ve had that response from people with this one saying that it’s different. It seems like a natural progression for me, and it’s a direct extension of who I am and what I’m trying to do. But I guess that change in process did change it a little bit.

CP: You mentioned not writing for almost two years before that, so I’d imagine that was a good way to really jump-start the creative flow again. Just throw yourself into something different, and if it’s working, then great! It’s working (laughs)! Just be happy that it’s working!

JN: (Laughs) Yeah, totally. I feel like “Diamonds and Blood” was also a departure for me too though because five of the songs on there were co-writes where I actually sat down with another writer from the beginning and wrote a song. Prior to that, all the songs had been my own that someone might have come in and helped out with at the end to help finish and seal it up. But with that record, it was different writing with someone else.

It felt nice to get back to the beginning again this time around. It was nice to get back into the depths of my musical psyche (laughs).

CP: What prompted you to co-write on “Diamonds and Blood”? Did you find a particular writer that you wanted to work with, or were you just trying to find something new?

JN: It was a little bit of trying something new. I think co-writing can be a great way to break through creative dams. You can be going through the same motions of different versions of the same song, but then you get together with another person, and when two writers get together, a third entirely different personality emerges. That creates a greatness. Even if you create a song that neither writer is going to release, sometimes it can just jar something loose and break you from being set in your ways.

CP: I think it’s so interesting to hear how different writers approach co-writing and how some people love it and others just so adamantly hate it.

JN: Yeah, I think the key to it is just to trust your gut and not make rules. The more rules you make for yourself, the less open and honest your music is going to be. It doesn’t mean you should jump into co-writing every possible opportunity you get, but you just need to listen to the little voice inside— the one that’s quietly whispering the truth (laughs).

CP: What are you most looking forward to about coming out to Anthology?

JN: California was my home for 9 years. Vermont is beautiful, but California has that golden sunshine. I miss being able to get a great taco whenever I feel like it (laughs). Anthology is a beautiful venue. It’s really unusual. It’s the size of a club, but it has this grand vibe to it.

But there’s also surfing. I haven’t surfed since October, and I think that’s the longest I’ve gone without surfing since I started. So that will be awesome. It’s been too long.

Special thanks to Jay for his time! Come on out and enjoy his lovely talents next Tuesday, May 8th. In the mean time, take a listen to him on Spotify!
Jay Nash on Spotify

WHAT: Jay Nash with Jesse Thomas
WHEN: Tuesday, May 8, 7:00pm
TICKETS: $10-$18 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile