Jay Nash writes about what he believes in. The singer-songwriter, who released his album Letters From The Lost in May, works to continually channels what means most to him and the people around him. Nash will play on Friday at the first day of Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati. I spoke to Jay about looking forward to the fest, forgetting genres and the rock dinosaurs that still inspire him.
NUVO: Some people believe that [today] is the most popular day at Bunbury, with Walk The Moon, Tegan & Sara, fun., and more. How are you feeling going into tomorrow and the festival overall?
Jay Nash: I'm just happy to be apart of it. It's kind of funny. I think it was last year, I had fans from Ohio posting on Twitter or Facebook or something that there was this great festival going on in Ohio. I kind of looked into it and was surprised to be included in the lineup this year. So, yeah. I'm excited.
NUVO: One thing in particular that I noticed on your website: your bio page. You wrote that yourself. Is writing another big part of you?
Nash: I think it's just all things creative. As far as the bio, there's just so many solo singer songwriters, and you've read that bio that says so and so writes songs with passion and heart, blah blah blah, started playing music because someone told them not to or someone told me to, someone gave them a guitar. I don't know. I just felt like I'd get lost in the fret and figured I'd just start with the truth. That little bit on there doesn't have a lot of editing or forethought going into it. I kind of wrote the history of my own personal relationship with music. I wish I could tell you that there was a bunch of pre-meditation going into it, but really I was just trying to convey the truth.
NUVO: On that bio, you mentioned your past struggles of feeling alone, and that maybe that was a catalyst to begin playing music. Do you see yourself still writing about that or are there other factors that drive you to write or perform?
Nash: Well sure. I think an artist's work is always a reflection of their own experience. Those are kind of formative experiences, and the feelings described were formative. Those feelings are formative experiences that I think will always be an undercurrent in my music. They're so critical to who I am, both that person and as an artist. As you go through life, a lot of stuff happens, and you're exposed to other art and music and it sort of manifests itself. I think that almost all art ends up being something of a reflection of what the artist has experienced. It may be a reflection of other forms of art. It can end up being a reflection or collage of what has been previously experienced. I think that's been true for probably thousands of years.
NUVO: You've mentioned Cat Stevens, among others, as being a big influence for you. Are there any current artists that may move you?
Nash: I think there's a lot of great music out there right now. Actually, I think that this is almost a good of time than any for music, especially the genre that I play. I'm always inspired by what Wilco is doing. I was really impressed by both of the records that Bon Iver made. Dr. Dog is a great one. I see those three as examples because they do the same kind of thing that I said I'd go. Blend genres and styles for a new sound. It's hard to categorize those three bands. That's something that I've suffered from for most of my career. People trying to decide if it's folk or Americana or something. One of my biggest endeavors has been trying to get people to stop categorizing music and just listen to it and enjoy it for what it is.
NUVO: You're saying it's better to go with music raw and not worry about the side stuff.
Nash: Yes, let people combine them. Let people combine elements of electronic dance music with folk or Americana. Let it be weird and different and something that they've never heard before. I don't think I've ever had a lot of interest in mainstream pop music, or striving to create mainstream pop music. A lot of mainstream pop music is undeniably catchy, it's just not what I've set out to do. I don't think that's what everyone should set out to do. I think it would be really boring. At the same time, whatever you feel [as an artist] motivated to do, whether it's being a folk singer, or another specific thing, or a [combination of] a bunch of different sounds, following your own personal truth and seeking a sound that resonates within you is going to breed success and breed resonance with an audience.
NUVO: As you become more popular, how do you deal with the pressure to create a sound that resonates with other people while also staying true to yourself and your original work?
Nash: In a way I've been very lucky. I've been able to circumvent without having any outside pressures to sound a certain way. My only endeavor in making music is to make something that's true and that I believe in. I try to make art that I believe in and get it out in a timely fashion. My philosophy is that great music gets heard eventually. So, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to that type of pressure. The only pressure is coming from within to make something that holds up against the best record that I've done in the past.
NUVO: Your album Letters From The Lost came out in May. How do you feel the fans have reacted to it so far?
Nash: It's been overwhelmingly great. It felt really good to have that wind down first leg of touring that record. I'm feeling really grateful. I kind of stepped outside of the sound that I have cultivated for the past two full length records and EPs. I created a new sound for myself. In some ways, the differences are subtle. In other ways, the differences are stark. I was a little bit nervous going into it. Will anybody like these songs? Are people going to be put off because the previous record had been performed live in a studio with a killer band? The records have been more about the sound of the band than anything else. This record was a little bit more of a mad scientist record built from the ground up in the studio. Me playing a lot more of the instruments and maintaining a vision for how the songs should sound. It was a relief and rewarding experience to see the people are finding resonance in songs and the record.
NUVO: I noticed on your Facebook page that you are a big fan of musical biographies. I've always really wanted to get into them. What makes them so appealing to you?
Nash: When I first started playing music 15 years ago, the paradigm of being a rock and roll star was to be crazy and die young. Now, there's all these guys like Keith Richard, Bruce [Springsteen], Pete Townshend, and Tom Petty that have been doing the rock and roll life for 40 years and have families and are incredibly wealthy and play in stadiums and their music still sounds incredible. I think that that is so inspiring and offsets the guys who burnt out and didn't make it, or blew out their voices, and ended up descending into poverty or drug addiction. It's incredible to me that the guys who beat all odds to even get a foot in the door to manage to have survived it all and the scandals, addiction, and everything that has come along with it. That is just incredible. I'm still finding inspiration but taking notes.