Whiskey-Soda: Hi Israel, thanks for taking your time to answer some questions for our Readers. We are here in Zurich, at the very cool club „Bogen F“ and I was wondering, what comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland?
Israel Nash: I haven’t spent much time in Switzerland, this is maybe the fourth time to play in Zurich, but each time it’s been like we’ve been going from somewhere so far away, get in just for soundcheck in the club and after the gig we wake up early to go somewhere else. Last time I was here I dig it to walk around by myself – that was my first time to actually see a small part of the city. Sometimes it’s hard to make an incredible judgement about a place because in reality you spent so little time there. You’re always inside of the venue so long. But I dig it to go walk around for about an hour, that was in March when I was here for the last time. I think it’s a beautiful city, I think of it as some kind of an exotic place in Europe that’s kind of tucked away. You get there, and everything’s a little bit more expensive as well.
WS: I stumbled over your music about a year ago, over your new album. I bought myself a new music magazine where it was presented. I listened to your album and I was absolutely blown away. But I haven’t heard of you before, I have to admit and I think a lot of people who aren’t in this kind of music you make, don’t know your name. So can you maybe present yourself from your point of view: Who are you, what kind of music do you stand for and what’s important to know about your music?
IN: My Name is Israel Nash and I stand for an idea that I think music should be real, a song should mean something. To the person writing it, and it should be performed in a live way, it should be indelicate and real as well. It’s just the thing that I do. I’m a songwriter, and I’m proud of that. It’s something that I’ve been doing and pursuing my whole life, since I was twelve years old. Maybe it’s also the only thing that I’m good at, but I feel that I get what I was just supposed to do. Other people, friends along the way, they don’t play guitar any more. They don’t pursue anything. I was never that guy. But for me, it’s just what I was supposed to do. The thing is about being a real person and being a real artist, inspired by the things around me, my family and the world around me. And pursuing making art based on that, to give something real.
WS: You have to tell us something about your alias name. Israel Nash is not your given name, is it? Why Israel? I can think of one or two inspirations to „Nash“….
IN: My father was a minister, I grew up in a very religious family and they felt the want to name me Israel. They’re not jewish, and Israel is a fairly typical name in spanish-speaking countries. I think it was a expression of their journey through their faith. So that’s why it’s my name.
WS: I read in other interviews that you’ve got quite some impact in the UK and Scandinavia. As Americana has to be considered as a
niche in German speaking countries, is there some kind of special Feedback that differs from the usual feedback you get in the States, that’s where the music comes from. Also „Country“ has a special recognition. There are some „German Country Bands“, they’re really embarassing, singing in German and everything and most people just rolling their eyes.
IN: First of all, I think all these labels have become unproperly defined. You know: „Americana“ – some people cringe to that idea. I don’t think that that music is. I think of „Americana“ in a general sense, it’s really american music. That’s a really general category. Obviously, there’s a lot more depth going on. I think this label is sort of unfortunate.
WS: Which label do you prefer for yourself, for you music?
IN: I call it my own term, which is „Deserted Folklore“. Which is of course some branch of americana music. For me, a lot of my growth has been in Europe. „Rain Plans“, it just came out in the states two weeks ago. I had kind of an interesting path. My first record came out on a small label in the Netherlands, from there on, things just kind of started growing. Here, I had a team around me, but for some reason, that wasn’t happening in the States. It was almost frustrating, things were growing in Europe steadily, but I couldn’t afford to touring the States. I just hadn’t the people behind me that are needed to support the growth of an artist, so I stopped playing the States. And with „Rain Plans“, it fell through, we didn’t have a label to put it out. And I didn’t want to release it independently, I really wanted to have a team of people that could really work it. What I thought it deserved. Finally everything worked out, it just happend to take some time. So the album just came out in the States. So it’s kinda funny: I just had interviews on the phone from the States, now the States are picking up. We’re leaving here at the 14th and we fly to Nashville, meet the rest of the band and play the AMA’s in Nashville. And then we’re on tour for a month. The US are supporting the album for the first time. I’m really looking forward to that because it will be a new period in my life, playing at home. It’s really ironic, but it happens to artists. It happened to Jimi Hendrix, you just go where people wanna hear you play and you can make a living out of it. For me, that was Europe for the last three years and finally I got some people that wanna see me in the States. Now we can go there and we already have this experience on a professional level.
WS: So if I understand it right, the impact the album made in Europe made it possible for you to bring it out in your homecountry?
IN: „Uncut“, the british magazine, ranked it in the top twenty americana albums of 2013. From there, KEXP, which is a radio station in Seattle, was a great supporter of me and the album, awesome people! Kevin, their Program director gets all the magazines and discovered the album. He bought an import copy because it wasn’t available in the States. He started playing it and from there a few other things finally fell into place. Which was rewarding, because on some levels it felt frustrating over the years and I’ve been asking myself: „What’s going on?“ So it feels very rewarding and more natural now, I feel more mature through it, it’s not new. At the end of the day, playing in the States is no different than playing in Europe on many levels. I mean, you’re playing shows, and you have people coming. So it has been exciting to go that way and it feels natural. It’s been nice, yeah.
WS: You talked about it already, but I asked myself if you ever considered to pusblish the album independently using a crowdfunding platform. As a music journalists, I’ve seen some great projects coming up over the last years only by the support of the fans. So is this something you ever considered, to publish „Rain Plans“ independently?
IN: You know, it is independent. I don’t think there’s a very easy way to release an album worldwide by yourself. There’s so many people, distributors and everything, just like many cogs in a big system. It’s just the nature of the business side of things. The moment you play music and you’re making a living on it, you’ve entered in some sort of business arrangement by its nature. It’s hard to keep this separated as an artist. When you’re going on the road as a grown-up man, noone is making much money of it, but you have to live and survive. And I think the best way to do that is to surround yourself with good people, people that are as good as I am in their profession. If you have a publicist who loves the album he works so hard or a label who supports it, it’s great to see that family come together and I think it’s about building a good team.
WS: What Band/Album would you choose to convince a newbie to
americana music? Maybe you’ve got a insider tipp, maybe a band not well known or underrated? Close friends but maybe also classic bands, whose music you adore?
IN: That’s a really tough questions. A recommendation? Well, a band that I recently discovered, in the past six months has been a band from the UK from the late sixties called „Pretty Things“. They were part of that kind of movement in the UK of artrock, prog and fusions of that with almost even blues stuff. I’d say: Listen to their album called „Parachute“. It’s a beautiful piece of music, it has guitar rock elements, it has musical progressions like medley-type-stuff and it’s really well executed. They’re incredibly good musicians, you can tell. That’s unfortunately something I am missing too much. I love the heavy classic bands like Led Zepplin or Pink Floyd, all these incredible musicians. It’s real, handmade music. That’s what I’m into. It’s a lot of older stuff, but it’s hard for me to point one out. I mean, there are albums that I’ve been listening to since I was 19, there’s all these emotions I went through. That’s why an album feels classic. But there’s also a lot of new material that I like.
WS: I want to ask you about a special moment. Can you remember how you felt when you got asked for your first autograph?
IN: I can’t remember exactly, probably I was asked by a buddy. But when I was in Europe for the first time, I played at the „Take Root Festival“ in Holland. We are actually playing it again now, in a few days. I just had out my first album „New York Town“, it was brand new. And I know I signed records, but I can’t remember the first one because it was just overwhelming. There were 20 people lined up to get a record signed all of a sudden. Just the whole experience was overwhelming. I was so nervous to play that show, that’s not the same anymore today. But I remember the hardest part was back then I tried to write everyones name to dedicate it personally. I do that today when someone asks, but I don’t do it automatically because I was spelling names incorrectly constantly. And you don’t want a signed album with the wrong spelling of your name. So I had people writing their names down and stuff. But you know: It’s been overwhelming, some mix of overwhelming and bizarre. It’s almost like a dream. I also remember it because I was on that tour with my wife, it was our first time in Europe together. From the pay, the record sales and the merch sales of that show we made like 1800 Euro. And I remember her saying to me: „You CAN make money on this“. Of course she ever since said: „Oh, you can loose money in this“, too. But that was such a cool time in my life. First record, being in Europe for the first time, meeting fans for the first time. My music seemed to have made some sense at some level and we finally saw a little bit of money coming in. It was an excitig time! Now it’s an exciting time for new reasons, there should always be exciting times. An album to me is like a vision, this big thing you gotta figure out all these details on. It’s not just songs, it’s the whole thing. And the first thing to doing something big is to get excited. I think Excitement changes when you get older but it hasn’t to be ever be gone. I’m excited living this life, I’m excited about the people that have chosen to be around me, all these relationships. I can do what I wanna do, all this family and friends mean so much to me.
WS: So you wouldn’t change this life if you had the opportunity. Like someone getting to you, offering you a good job with a good salary and enough free time to go on making music.
IN: I have a masters degree in political philosophy, I have an education. My parents at that time felt that I should have a backup plan. So my bachup plan was to be an attorney, it was a very distant backup plan. So I could have had a job, it just wasn’t what I was meant to do in this life.
WS: Are there any unfulfilled or yet unreached artistic dreams you have? Something like „I would love to do this or that some day“?
IN: Well, I have 15 acres of land in Texas, I bought a house there and I’ve got some land. There’s a big area that’s been washed out over the time and I wanna turn that into a pond and wann have it stocked with fish and want to build a dock. So, that’s my dream: I wanna build a pond. Music takes me around the world, I see a lot of things, experience things in a cool and exciting way. I wanna build a pond. I like the concept of it, because, it won’t hold water by itself, the ground has to be treated. It has to be clay based, rocks have to be put in, alge needs to grow for fish, it’s not just putting a garden out. There’s so much beauty in the land, there’s also beauty in man-treated land. It doesn’t have to be these two separate things. I spend a lot of time in cities, I used to live in New York City, but I gotta love to be on the country. I got a marriage between living there and being a part of it. I don’t want to exploit the land, but I want to use it and value it. There’s good water on the land, too. No thirst no more.
WS: And I can figure if you’re really doing it some day, there certaintly will be new inspirations for great music. I think that’s great ending sentence for the interview.
The raw, unedited Interview with Israel Nash took place in Zurich, Switzerland at September 10th, 2014.