Interview: Jay Nash
Thu, 06 Nov 2008 08:39:09
Jay Nash Videos
It's easy to get fooled in Los Angeles. There's so much glitz and glamour that it's not hard to lose focus on what matters. However, alt folk songsmith Jay Nash has yet to fall prey to the city's material mentality. That's a warning that he conveys on his new album, The Things You Think You Need. However, it's not all didactic, Nash has penchant for massive, hypnotic melodies and softly strummed chords. He's got some experience around the Los Angeles scene booking shows and doing sound at Room 5. In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com, he discusses collaborating with Sara Bareilles, songwriting and what we really need.
Where do you typically draw inspiration from?
I'm the same guy. I've always been true to my roots and what I've grown up listening to. This time around, I had the opportunity to have some of my heroes play on the record, and I got to really camp out in the studio. I became totally immersed in the creative process. All of the records that I made before, with the exception of A Stream Up North, which I recorded on an island, were all put together piecemeal. We'd do an initial session. Then we'd get together a couple of weeks later and do some guitars. A couple weeks after that, we'd do some vocals. The fact that I recorded the new album all at once was great.
Did it help focus the album more?
Absolutely! I think it made the record a lot more cohesive because we were in the moment the entire time. When you go into a recording studio and you first put down a track, you have that magic between the songwriter and the different musicians playing on it. That initial spark is a lot like it is in any relationship. The spark's everything. It's hard if you're recording something over a period of six months to maintain that energy the entire time, but in this case, we were immersed in it from start to finish.
How do you start writing?
It happens a few different ways. I'm sure other writers say the same thing. Sometimes, a lyric comes first. Sometimes, a melody comes first. The ideal situation is when they come together at the same time. You go through the moments where it's like they can come anytime. Whether I'm sitting down with a guitar when it happens, or I'm in the middle of a deep sleep, my favorite songs happen instantaneously. The lyrics and the music form at once together. We worked to get the songs right. They were pretty good to start with, but we really spent a lot of time on them.
What's the story behind "Keep On Talking?"
It's interesting, man. That song is kind of a sleeper. A friend of mine and I were talking about a mutual conversation that a guy and a girl might have. When you feel chemistry with another person, you want to maintain it. If you give too much away too fast—like if you tell someone too much about yourself—it changes the course of the relationship. That song is a meditation on that idea of maintaining the initial excitement and keeping everything perfect. That song is a favorite of mine.
How did the collaboration with Sara Bareilles come about?
Sarah's an old friend of mine. When I first got to L.A., I remember hearing her. I was driving my 1994 Toyota pickup along Sunset—where it gets all curvy going through the woods. I remember hearing this voice on the radio on the KCRW weekend show. The song finished, and the guy announced that it was a girl named Sara Bareilles from UCLA. I became aware of her then, and I kept an eye on her. I sent her an email, and I told her I thought she was amazing and that I hoped we played together at some point.
A few years later, I started booking this venue called Room 5, which was on La Brea between Beverly and 1st Street. It was a tiny little upstairs bar, from an Italian restaurant. When I started booking there, I had Sarah come and play. We just become best friends, and then we both started playing the Hotel Café. We found ourselves playing on the same nights some times, so we started playing on each other's stuff. We always had a nice connection. When we were making this record, we finished all of the basic tracks. We were just doing harmonies, so I asked Sara, "Do you want to come sing?" She said, "Yes sir, I'll be right over." She came in. I told her the concept of the song. She took my raw interpretation of what should happen and turned into the masterful performance that her singing is on the record. You know how there's that track on Dark Side of the Moon with that epic female vocal solo at the end of the song? I thought we could have her be like this ghost—the girl that exists in the song. I thought Sarah's voice could represent that ghost. She just did it in the coolest way possible.
“Art gets lost in favor of popularity. Relationships get lost in favor of material items.”
What was it like working in the club scene?
I was booking the music. However, I was at every show I booked, trying to make the artists sound as good as I could. I was nurturing them and cultivating them, pairing them up with other bands that I thought they'd fit well with. It gave me a chance to go behind the scenes and see what was working for some people and what was working for other people. I got a better understanding of not only music, but the music business too. I try to do good work in all facets of the things I love to do. That's what I tried to do with Room 5, and it bled over to my music.
"Forgive Me" was a great way to end the album too. What's up with that one?
I don't want people to feel sad. There's definitely a lot of weight within the record. I like to end my records and my shows on an up-note, so people walk away with a little bit of hope.
Where did the album title come from?
Sometimes the things you think you need aren't what you need at all. They're just things that you fixate on. Art gets lost in favor of popularity. Relationships get lost in favor of material items. That's the derivation of the album title, and it means a lot to me.