Seattle – With several festivals under his belt this summer (like his stellar appearance at Bumbershoot), Israel Nash is getting ready for a busy fall season.
With bandmates Joey McClellan (guitar), Aaron McClellan (bass), Eric Swanson (pedal steel), and Josh Fleischmann (drums) behind him, the singer-songwriter heads out on an extensive tour in support of his new album Silver Season. The follow up to his acclaimed 2013 release Rain Plains, Silver Season is at once expansive and cinematic, yet intimate and introspective – a gorgeous project that reflects the group’s maturation and cohesiveness.
As summer was coming to an end down in Dripping Springs, Texas, Nash spoke with Best New Bands about his Bumbershoot set, the new album and upcoming tour, his band of brothers, and more.
Caitlin Peterkin: I really enjoyed your set at Bumbershoot, it was the first time I’ve seen you.
Israel Nash: Seattle’s an awesome place to come up, an opportunity to meet a lot of fans and bands.
CP: What other festivals have you played? Any favorites?
IN: We’ve done some festivals in the States, and we’ve done some European festivals. I feel like all the festivals are different but very similar. They’re such different flavors, depending on where you’re at, like Bumbershoot is very much a very Seattle festival. [Pickathon, in] Portland is outside, that was really cool, like all these different stages, trees intertwined with each other, crazy-looking places.
CP: It was so great to see how Seattle responded to your set at Bumbershoot.
IN: Yeah, it’s cool, like KEXP, they found my last record when it hadn’t even been released yet in the States. They’ve been champions, been really good friends, shared a lot of my music, so it’s cool to see that grow, from a place where we didn’t have any fans, now a place we see people at our shows.
CP: I want to segue into the new album… Judging from “L.A. Lately” and “Parlour Song” [at Bumbershoot], the audience resonated with those. I’ve also had the chance to listen to the album a few times – it seems moodier, sweeping in scope, but cohesive. Can you talk to me about the album process, how you made it?
IN: The way the album kind of works, is, you make an album, you’re busy touring on that album. With Rain Plains, we were already touring in Europe, but the album didn’t come out until a year later, then we were touring the States. So all between that time you write songs. That’s kind of where the next album starts, you’re either on the road, or at home, in that time, you’ve got one album finished so you start writing songs, and then somehow that turns into another album. For Silver Season, I had a bigger goal that didn’t completely come all the way through, but initially it was supposed to be one piece of music that went through the entire album – you would have no silence, just these transitions into other themes, and we achieved some of that.
Silver Season became this idea of really encapsulating this period, this 49 minutes of time, to be in a different place. I’m not really a “singles” songwriter or like pop radio. For me, songs are like books, or movies, pieces of art that require your attention for longer than three minutes. It’s a body of work so that’s what I set out to do. Not everyone likes to listen to albums all the way through, but I do, that’s why I love to make albums. I’m hoping that people that enjoy that or want that, maybe discover they like that, that they can actually put an album on and just be in another place for a little bit. I tried to do that with a lot of the music, that’s what I proposed to the band – it’s a listening album. Moreover, speaking of time and that kind of idea, one of the themes of the album to me is the idea that time is something we made, this is a piece of our lives, these are songs about real things, whether it’s driving to L.A. in the RV with the band, leaving L.A. or something, being at home at the ranch, real songs, it’s just this kind of season in our life right now. Hopefully other people find their time and their season.
CP: With the album title, Silver Season, is that what you and the band are in now?
IN: Yeah, I think now, again, this idea of what is time, what is success, what have you done in a year, what have you done since the last album, you know all these things that mark our lives, this is the season that we’re in. It’s definitely not the “golden years,” but it could really resonate to me as – being an artist, being a grown man, being in a different spot as an artist – maybe this is what “silver years” feel like.
CP: When I listen to the album…for me, it’s been a new experience getting back into album listening, when my dad gave me a record player a few years ago. I grew up in the age of mp3s, hit singles, and I loved that when I listened to the album it transported me, felt almost mystical, spiritual. You were raised by your dad who’s a pastor. Is that where you find your spirituality, does your background influence you?
IN: I think if anything it made me aware, without a doubt it influenced me. I’m very distant from organized religion, from that sort of celebration, but I think through the relationship of my parents and through that I can see different ideas around me. I’m kind of tempted by this idea, there’s very, very much spiritualism about the music, because it’s a part of me and that’s, I think, about music being a real reflection of me. These are real songs, real things, as simple as they can be, just the truth. For me, I really found a lot of spiritual awakening living in the country and Dripping Springs, seeing spiritualism in something that is around me, that’s in nature, that’s in the relationships that we share with other people, which is really beautiful thing to me. I didn’t always realize that, in the last couple years those thing have influenced me so much, I realized that these are the things I should be writing about. If you can hear it, that’s awesome, if you can hear it in the music, and hear spiritualism, hear relationships, those emotions, I was emotional when I wrote it, it’s really an emotional piece of work, so I think that people getting a response from that is what it’s supposed to do, it’s supposed to be sincere. I’m not trying to take people for a ride or anything, but just giving something to people, and I think there’s very, very much the spiritualism within my songs and the record.
CP: I hear, on the last track, that choir at the end, a gospel tinge. What other influences do you have, who inspired you musically? There’s the obvious connection to Neil Young, I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that! But what other musical artists influence you?
IN: Kind of like you, I really discovered a lot of records and stuff from my dad. Growing up with classic rock, I was very much into the idea of playing in a band. As I’ve grown I became obsessed with the art and craft of songwriting – it lends itself to taking people down places, it’s a reflection of an artist, so I think any songwriter who can do that, have really gotten me. You find these songwriters you see pieces of yourself in, and vice versa, which almost makes sense in a weird way, people cut from the same cloth or something. So I like artists who do that, write from a real perspective, kind of grabs me, so like older artists like Jackson Browne, Pink Floyd, and also, from a musical perspective too, I’m very much a singer-songwriter, but the band are my closest friends. We’ve been playing music since out in New York, years ago, very, very close. Bands like that, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, I grew up with this idea of wanting to be in a band, having this group of guys, this team of people, these brothers. That’s what we got, we’re very close. Some of this classic rock stuff like Floyd, and I got into more punk, progressive rock in the last few years, like stuff like Yes, stuff like Mike Oldfield and Tubular Bells, more musical pieces. Newer artists like Tweedy, I’m a Wilco fan, all these guys that are honestly doing something similar to me, or I’m doing something similar to them, not so much self-imposing, just playing songs, I think it’s about people, people go through something and here’s where they are at in their lives, whether they be a songwriter, whether they be a fan, just people you know, I’m just really drawn to artists I feel like I see myself in and I can respect what they’re doing: being real and giving themselves to what they do.
CP: Yeah, a sense of authenticity, I get from Jeff Tweedy, I see how you can be cohorts. Going back to the guys, the band, it was cool to see you jam at Bumbershoot. The bassist and guitarist are brothers, but I get the sense that all you guys are linked. So with the live show, touring, what is your favorite part of being out there together?
IN: It’s funny, like when we did Bumbershoot, they’re fly-in dates – it’s funny it sounds so rock and roll! – we just fly in, fly out a day later or something. They’re not easy flights by any means, red eye flights and opposite-ends-of-schedule flights. Those shows are great, but the other piece of the whole thing I love, it’s not just writing songs, it’s not just playing in a band – I do love being on a stage and being able to talk to fans and be in that position, I love being on the road and touring. I also love my family and my home – but I love being on the road touring, so that difference between a tour and Bumbershoot, you’re on tour, three days in, so instead of doing all this stuff one show, it’s a different sort of progression, I think, which obviously led to our relationship. We toured heavily in the States, heavily in Europe, as a band, all over – the UK, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Sweden – and so were really dependent on each other. All these countries, Western countries, we’re not afraid for our lives, but it’s a different world. We started experiencing different things, and when you experience things that you never experienced before and you experience them with people it’s like you all tend to become closer than you ever imagined, so we all experienced such incredible things together for the first time, and that’s been a partnership, a brotherhood, something bigger than music, all this really is. We’re fortunate we can play music, fortunate we can have so much apart from friends and loved ones. We do stuff together all the time.
CP: You’re extensively touring this fall. – I’m excited to see you at The Crocodile! What do you hope audiences get from your live show, what do you want to convey to those audience members in the crowd who may be new to you?
IN: I think that I’m more than some song, or album even. It’s the whole thing, it’s not just an album. Seeing us play is an experience, it becomes bigger than one song or one album, it becomes this movement of some sort, and I love that, to see how that’s built in Seattle. When we come, I want to present the album Silver Season, this idea of preserving the album front to back, some musical journey, you can take it in your own world, and I want to do the same thing in show. When I was younger, I really wanted shows to be less of bro high fives, and one of an emotional place, a spiritual place, where people can feel whatever they want. I’m not saying I’m in charge of that or I control that, but people can feel what they want, and that’s an amazing thing. People come together and that’s something we talk about regularly, we’re excited to have all these people in a room. Because I think when people are like that, things happen, things are contagious, life is good, and things can be spread around. I take them on a musical journey with this record. We have new material, we have old material, so we’ll have a longer set. It will be a long period of just awesome music and this kind of encapsulated time.
CP: Yeah, you had such a short set at Bumbershoot, there was no banter!
IN: I write long songs, we’re like, okay this set has to be 28 minutes of music, only two minutes of talking, so let’s just focus on playing the music!
CP: Circling back, about your silver season, you said you haven’t hit your “golden years” yet. What do you think your golden age would be?
IN: That’s a really good question…When you’re an independent musician doing what so many others are doing, you go from being young, maybe not knowing how the music industry and all its aspects work, you just want to write songs. As you go on, life happens, changes, you grow up, but you’re still that guy that wants to write songs. You see this isn’t real life, there are so many people that are rich and that’s all you expect when you are young. When you’re young you don’t know what you’re doing until you look at it really, you just experience things, and then a year later, “Oh, I’ve been on tour for six months for the first time this year,” and I just grew a lot. For me, seeing older musicians, musicians that are in their 60s – I don’t mean like Neil Young or somebody, it can be various artists, it can be a bass player for a major band and he’s been doing it his whole life, maybe not everyone knows him, not everyone is Googling or interviewing him – but these people have been doing it their whole lives, just being a piece of that. There’s a point when you’re a musician, you’re wondering about this idea, “Am I gonna make it or am I not.” Life, it goes on. I guess what I’m looking forward to, I don’t fear being older, I look forward to it. I don’t want to rush it, by any means, just watching the people around me, knowing who I am. I feel like life is going to be awesome. It will be interesting to see it unfold in front of me, and I can be at the helm of that story.
Israel Nash is on tour this fall. For dates, and more information, visit israelnash.com.
With degrees in journalism and music, Caitlin’s written for Paste Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and MajoringinMusic.com. She loves cheese, laughing at GIFs of corgis, road trip sing-alongs, and connecting with people over good beer and good music.