WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY/For 21st Century Media
For Indie-country-alternative artist Israel Nash, it took leaving America for this burgeoning star to lay the foundation for inevitable success.
Working feverishly throughout the U.K. and Europe to build an audience and earning critical praise along the way, the ascendancy of his latest album, “Rain Plans,” finds him returning for another round of touring on his home turf in support of what will likely be his breakthrough record.
“I had never really toured or been a presence in the U.S.,” says Nash from his Dripping Springs, Texas home. “I guess I was fine with that, because I was trying to play music at some point. I’ve been really busy in Europe. That’s where my career has been over the last four years. I couldn’t get arrested at home, but I had a lot of growing fans in Europe, which gave me a place to be, a place to sell records and to be a professional musician for the first time in my life.”
Inspired by the sounds of the early 70’s, “Rain Plans” ’ vibrant nine-song collection captures Nash and his incredible band at their best. Sprinkling his work with the influence of Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd and classic Rolling Stones, Nash is poised to capture American audiences.
“I’m obsessed with the sounds of the 70’s,” says Nash. “I think the 70’s had the best records of all time. There are big elements of “Rain Plans” that I copied from that period. I just studied the way these guys made albums. It was like these get-togethers were an event. I’ve tried to emulate these styles in the way we record records.”
Hailing from Missouri, Nash relocated to New York City in 2006 to get closer to the music business. Honing his skills in the Lower East Side club scene, Nash released his independent debut album, “New York Town,” in 2009.
After setting up shop on a farm in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Nash recorded his follow-up album, “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors.”
For that project, he reached out to various musician friends to form a backing band. The band included Joey McClellan (lead guitar/vocals), Aaron McClellan (bass/vocals) and Eric Swanson (pedal steel/vocals). Nash also recruited Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) to play drums and co-produce the album.
Continental Record Services released the record in the spring of 2011. Nash then toured throughout the U.K. and Europe. The success of “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors” led to 2011 Album of the Year honors on the Euro Americana Charts.
“I’ve really moved forward in the last few years in knowing what I want,” says Nash. “Having enough people around me that balance me out and tell me when my ideas are crazy or tell me when my ideas are cool – ‘let’s do it!’ I don’t really take no for an answer. I just work hard to do what I feel is supposed to be done and to keep going forward. I don’t want to make the same record every time. I don’t want to talk about the past all the time. I just want to move and keep going forward and do the best that I can.”
Eventually, Nash pulled up his New York City stakes and headed south to Dripping Springs, Texas, a neighboring town of Austin.
“My wife and I moved to Texas out in the hills and built this house outside of Austin in the country,” says Nash. “It just was a huge impact on my life, the growth as a man and an artist. I saw the world differently. All these things started to affect me. I now have clarity and confidence. I know what I want to do, and I’m not afraid to do it anymore.”
“All these transitions happened between my last work and ‘Rain Plans,’” added Nash. “I think I went through a bit of a change in my own life, personally and in the move, that put me on that path.”
Nash used his new home as a studio and temporary residence for his band during the recording of “Rain Plans.” Fronting the same group of musicians from his previous album, he replaced Steve Shelley on drums with Josh Fleischmann. Released by the London, England label Loose Music, “Rain Plans” garnered rave reviews from music critics and fans alike.
“Everyone came to the house and lived there for 2 ½ weeks, and we recorded day and night just living there,” says Nash. “It was all these guys that know each other making music. I wanted to make this environment in which we were there just to make art. Nothing else mattered. Creating those vibes and those feelings is something that you will be able to hear on an album every time.”
“The band that I am playing with are my best friends,” added Nash. “We’ve been playing together for five years. I met them years ago in New York, and they’ve become my brothers. We’re just a very close family and believe in the creation of art and doing it in a pure way that you can share that with people that you love so there’s no weirdness or awkwardness. It’s just stripped down to being simple.”
With aspirations of being a successful songwriter and musician during his early teenage years, Nash wisely abandoned the adolescent rock star fantasy years ago, opting to focus instead on giving depth and purpose to his creativity.
“My job is writing songs,” reflects Nash. “Thinking outside the box without constraints on the art and making music that hopefully resonates with other people as well. I want to have these songs that are real, that mean something – that other people can share.”
“I want people to feel something,” added Nash. “To feel alive. To have people enjoy my music and to be around people and community. I get a lot of energy and good feelings from writing songs and being a part of people’s lives. Do the best that you can, and, hopefully, you’ve made this world a little bit better.”
IF YOU GO: Israel Nash, with special guest Birdie Busch, performs at Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, on Friday Jan. 23. Doors 8:00 P.M. Showtime 9:15 P.M. Tickets are $10. For further information call 215-739-9684 or visit www.johnnybrendas.com.
To stay up to date with Israel Nash visit www.israelnash.com