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Interview: Band of the Week – Jay Nash

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Jay Nash makes the kind of music that defies categorisation, but for the sake of this article let's call it alt-acoustic-folk-piano-rock.

Nash makes the kind of music that is fit for any occasion, warm, soulful, energetic, adult, intelligent, just a little bit country, just a little bit rock. It may not be the kind of music that pop 40 aficionados want to hear on the radio; but it is most certainly the kind of music anyone of sense and substance wants to hear on the radio, wafting from the speakers of their convertible, while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on a warm summer Sunday afternoon.

Shiny JayWith hints of alt-country nostalgia, and swimming in acoustic melodies aided by Nash's deep, gravelly vocals his newest album The Things You Think You Need is clearly a fantastic summer-sun kind of album. And it is a clear reflection of the artist himself; down-to-earth, playful, witty and occasionally profound, grounded but sentimental, sensual but intelligent, romantic but only in passing. The Things You Think You Need is definitely something you need; and Jay Nash is doubtless an artist you need to get acquainted with.

Recently this interesting man agreed to spend sometime letting me get to know him. What I found was a man whose career was nearly ended by Bob Dylan (no songwriter should ever compare themselves to Dylan), a man with the heart of a poet but the soul of a rocker. Whose love of music was inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Def Leppard, The Grateful Dead and The Band. We laughed, we cried (with laughter), we talked about his songwriting, starting his own record label and of course his new album.

So why start your own record label rather than sign with a major?

If you sign over to a major you give away everything basically. All rights, all control. Now it's not to say that we would never do that, but I think that we need to have a little bit more traction before we consider doing something like that.

Sara Bareilles is a good friend of mine — she sings on the record (The Things You Think You Need) — for a long time it was looking to be like her experience with a major, it seemed like it wasn't going to work out. I was really disheartened by it but in the last year it's gotten to be really good for her. Also when you get involved with a record label, all of the sudden there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. I don't necessarily want that. (laughs)

We wanted to make the right record and we did it on our own. We did it with some really groovy people. And now we have, what I think is a really special record, so we just want to make sure that anybody who is involved is really passionate about it.

Where do you find your inspiration for your music?

Everywhere. Anywhere. Honestly it could be anything. It could be what's going on in the world politically, it could be an experience riding a metro bus, could be an argument with a traffic cop, a rainy day, it's hard to say when you're going to feel inspired enough to reflect on it. That part of it is sort of alchemy, and it happens when it happens.

Jay laughingDo you enjoy writing songs?

Of course! That's the best part. I've heard other artists say “I don't care about anything else, I just care about the creative process”. But for me I really enjoy all the links in the chain. Writing a song can be painful at first but then it's like the greatest thing in the world when it's finished. Like actually birthing that song into the world, it's an amazing experience. One minute the song isn't there and the next minute it is.

Does the song ever change? Can you get to the recording studio months after writing the song and find that the lyrics or the music are wrong?

Yeah, sure. I mean nothing is set in stone I don't think. It shouldn't be anyway. We're always changing, the world's always changing, the music should change if the situation dictates it. The thing that can be really interesting, sometimes I'll write a song and I'll have a whole set of meanings behind a set of lyrics. And I'll sing it, then I'll sing it again two years later and it'll have a different meaning to me. I'll realise I was foreshadowing the events that were coming in my life. That I sort of knew where going to happen, subconsciously, but I wasn't ready to consciously accept it. So later on down the road songs and lyrics will have more weight, more resonance with me than they did when they were first written. It's kind of fun.

So let's talk about the album The Things You Think You Need. Is “Wayfarer” going to be your first single?

I think it is. I think so. That's what everybody's pushing for. We haven't pushed the green button with radio yet. We are doing this the organic way, we're releasing the album on Tuesday (May 20th) we'll kind of let that gestate a little bit. Then maybe somewhere down the road, maybe this summer, we will start a radio campaign, then start the physical distribution campaign, in the fall . “Wayfarer” seems to be the song that a lot of people have been responding too and that was the song that got the ball rolling with record in the first place.

Jay Nash at nightSo now that the album is released how are you feeling? Are you still nervous about the public's reaction?

No, I think people are going to like it. I'm not nervous, I'm excited. Excited for people to hear it. At the end of the day, this is the first record I have ever put out that I am completely enthusiastic about. I meant every word and every note that's on it. And I'm excited about the music that the other musicians brought to it. I think people will like it. If they don't I still have a great record, but so far the response has been good.

I will also highly recommend The Things You Think You Need. It is the best album I have heard so far this year. It's in my top ten for the year end list. You can judge for yourself by listening to track from The Things You Think You Need at Nash's MySpace space, and you can purchase it at iTunes.

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About A.L. Harper

  • http://www.addictedtovinyl.com Matt

    Just saw Jay last night with Greg Laswell and Anya Marina here in Cleveland….totally fantastic. I bought the new CD, and wow, what a gem..