By Rob Nagy
For Digital First Media
It has been a decade since Israel Nash arrived in New York City to pursue his dream of making music his life’s work. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and his raw, edgy songs, Nash feverishly worked the clubs on the Lower East Side. The singer-songwriter was signed to his first contract by the Dutch label Continental Record Services following the release of his independent debut solo album, “New York Town,” in 2009. It wasn’t until his follow-up album, “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors” (2011), that audiences started to take notice.
Enlisting the talents of Joe McClellan (lead guitar), Aaron McClellan (bass) and Eric Swanson (bass, mandolin and banjo), the foundation of what has become Nash’s recording and touring band, “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors” was well received by critics and fans. This sophomore release earned Top Album of 2011 on the Euro Americana Charts.
“I really think that finding those guys and having them become such dear friends really encouraged me to write differently,” says Nash, from his recording studio in Dripping Springs, Texas. “I was used to playing solo shows with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica and trying to pull that off in a way that was compelling. When I got the band, it wasn’t ‘Oh, we can make these songs bigger and stronger and more powerful.’ The band was so good together that they challenged me. I could write deeper stuff and go to other places because they could help me bring it to life. That really changed my songwriting.”
“When I brought those guys to Europe for the first time and we played “Barn Doors,” my second album, we just killed it live. I just knew. I don’t know how to explain it. I just knew that there was something very special about what we did together, and it was bigger than any individual.”
Securing a foothold in Europe, success on American soil eluded Nash until the U.S. release of his critically acclaimed “Rain Plans” album in 2014.
“I had started my career in Europe,” says Nash. “I did two albums before “Rain Plans,” and it happened that my fan base was in Europe. “Rain Plans” was released in Europe, but it came out here a year later. We were finally getting to a place here in the States where my music was being listened to at home.”
“I don’t think it’s as easy to have success as an artist here as it is in Europe,” says Nash. “I don’t think people are blind to it in the States, but I do think music and the arts have been appreciated culturally in Europe for a lot longer period of time. There’s something different in general about the culture and how the arts have taken a priority. Realizing that art is something that is needed, but that it might not always yield the biggest returns financially, the culture in Europe has understood that it’s very important. It’s the idea that good art should be supported and shared.”
Often compared to Neil Young owing to similarities in his vocal style, song structure and electrifying stage presence, Nash is flattered by the comparison.
“I’m a big fan of Neil Young,” say’s Nash. “I am attracted to his approach and knowing what he wants to do — songs that are real and feel like they matter. You look at his body of work and it’s really hard to define. His output as an artist rather than just his output as a songwriter is visionary stuff. That’s what I find myself pretty attracted to.”
“What I hope to achieve in time is to transcend the genres,” adds Nash. “I’m not an artist that wants to make the same album every time. Over time it becomes genre-less. That’s my goal as an artist.”
Having recently completed construction of his home recording studio, Plum Creek Sound, Nash has begun work on a new album, the follow-up to last year’s “Silver Season.”
“It’s really just starting to unfold,” says Nash. “I’m just writing and recording demos right now. I’ve got 6 or 7 new songs. I don’t really know where it’s going, but I know the process has changed now that I’ve got a studio, which is much more of a tool or an instrument to make the next record. We have the fall and the winter pretty much off, so we plan on working on the album. Maybe it will be out by next summer. I’m really looking forward to having the time to just focus on the creation of the album and get it to the point of presentation.”
“I’m very much influenced by the things around me,” adds Nash. “I try to make a journey and a world people can be a part of. What I love about music and making records is that people can be a part of that and it can be a shared experience.”