This is Jay Nash’s life. No way around it, no chance of it changing. The man is a songwriter and musician, and whenever he gets his chance to do what he loves, he will be doing it. When it comes to music, he’s in for the long haul.
“I’ve been doing it for so long and it’s kind of been my refuge, and my church, my muse for as long as I can remember,” said Nash, who has taken a break from his duo with Josh Day, The Contenders, to get back out on the road for a solo tour that hits Stage 3 at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC tonight. “My favorite part of my work existence is when I’m actually playing music. The thing about going out and playing these shows on the road is that as much as I hate being away from home and being away from my family, for at least 90 minutes every day, I get to be on stage playing music and connecting these songs that come from the core of who I am with a room full of people. That is what it’s all about.”
Nothing much has changed for him over the years. There have been bands, songwriting projects and solo material in the life of Nash, all of it in some way, shape or form a reason for the Vermont resident to go out and play. Just wrapping up some gigs with The Contenders, Nash didn’t close up shop for the upcoming holidays. Instead, he released a single with Erin McKeown called “Where To Start,” and it was back to the road.
“We met a few years back at a show, and we have a bunch of mutual friends,” he said of the collaboration with McKeown. “We had a fun pow wow and said ‘we should do something, let’s make something.’”
They did, with the single hitting the mark in a number of areas, from its Hendrix-esque “Little Wing” intro to the lyrics and performances of both Nash and backing vocalist Garrison Starr.
He hopes to work with McKeown on a bigger project down the line.
“Maybe if I say it out loud it will come to fruition faster,” he laughs. “Her and Natalia Zukerman and I have been talking about making a Grateful Dead covers album of some kind that focuses on the songwriting component of the band and how it is a great vehicle for harmony and melody, which I think is sometimes overlooked.”
Then there’s the first full-length Contenders album, which Nash and Day hope to release sometime next year.
“We’re trying to figure out the right way to release it, and the conclusion that we’ve drawn from doing it ourselves is that we have higher expectations and we have to give the songs from the EP a little bit of time to gestate in the public’s ear and see if anybody comes forward as being interested in helping us get it out into the world. It makes more sense to just be strategic in how we take that project out into the world, rather than just carpet bombing and playing every market we can possibly get a gig in.”
In the meantime, Nash is solo again, and in a lot of ways it’s his first love, and one he won’t give up.
“As much as I love The Contenders project, there are definitely songs from my catalog that don’t get the airtime that I wish they would and there’s elements of my performance and of my repertoire that I missed,” he said. “I can’t try to force a Jay Nash show into a Contenders show. They’re two different things and I want them to be able to stand independently and exclusively of each other, but support each other through their existence. I do enjoy both and I’ve said it for years that I never intended to be a solo artist, but the music we’re playing in The Contenders is the music that I always wanted to play but never had a chance to do it.
“But after touring so much as a solo artist, I do kind of miss it and I realize that I do need to have this well-balanced existence, and do both,” Nash continues. “And I think one feeds the other. From a creative standpoint, when you take it back to writing the Contenders songs, there are things I know I can’t indulge myself in doing because it just doesn’t make sense for the context of The Contenders. And I think for The Contenders songs to be the best that they can be, I still need to do that stuff and air those kinds of ideas and concepts out. They have to have a chance to breathe.”
And while it appears that Nash is the hardest working man in the music business and one being pulled in endless directions, that’s just the way he likes it. The way he sees it, being diverse keeps things fresh and keeps him smiling.
“I think if you do one thing exclusively long enough, you’re gonna start to get bored with it and it’s gonna start to lose its spark, and you want to avoid that as much as possible,” he said. “You want to stay excited.”
Jay Nash plays Stage 3 at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC tonight, November 14. For tickets, click here