Feature: Israel Nash, On the Lower East Side, There Was A Bar.
When I met Israel Nash he had just finished building his own recording studio on his ranch near Austin, Texas with his great friend and musical confidante Eric Swanson. After a meeting of minds discussing his new album Israel Nash’s Silver Season we took a stroll down from the Loose Music offices, past Ladbroke Grove to one of London’s oldest and most enigmatic markets Portobello Road.
Israel Nash has been making music for a while now. His large following in Europe, particularly in Holland and Belgium, where some of his largest concerts and early record sale successes have been, helps to get him back to our shores all the more often.
His early albums were released under his full and real name, of Polish decent, Israel Nash Gripka. I was struck about the recent subtle name change and the use of the possessive in Israel Nash’s Silver Season, the new album. “I wanted something a little different, something perhaps an author might have, something to give to title a little more mystery and atmosphere”
The songs on the last two albums are ultra personal; school shootings, moving house and his daughter are three such influences. “I like to write songs about this part of my life, real things that affect me. I think that’s how song writers work to write about what makes you sad, if you feel sick, if it has a profound affect on me”
This seems also to be the Loose mantra that their artists write about deeply sensitive things..wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Their roster includes The Handsome Family, Courtney Marie Andrews, Frankie Lee, Sturgill Simpson and The Treetop Flyers to name a few.
To enable Israel to write and record the way he wants, he moved to a fifteen acre ranch on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. The existing house was very 1970s with shag-pile carpets and wood panelling so a whole lot of work had to happen. The overhaul included building a recording studio, Plum Creek Sound.
Eric and Israel built the studio themselves as a place they could “keep working and keep making art” but also to rent the space out to other bands. In the past, Israel’s recording space might have been in a room in his house or in the back of the bands’ touring RV. “There is very little we didn’t do ourselves. We built it from scratch and had to learn some skills. We had builders to do the foundations but the design and the metal arch we put that together”
“We were out there from sun-up to sundown for three months to finally get it ready for recording the new album.”
Although Israel Nash writes all the songs, Eric Swanson is a big influence on how the albums sound, he plays on all the songs using slide, pedal steel guitars and also mandolin and acts as assistant engineer.
Eric has been with the band since the Barn Doors And Concrete Floors release. The same group of musicians has been together since 2010 and, “touring shapes the way the records become.”
Israel Nash grew up in Missouri and from a young age played music, originally learning piano. Although he loved the open spaces of Missouri, he wanted something more and relocated himself to the Lower East Side of New York.
There, in a bar called The Living Room, he met other like-minded individuals including Joey McClellan, who was working behind the bar at the time (and is also in Midlake) and his brother Aaron McClellan who play guitar and bass in the band. He also met Eric and Ted Young who engineered the album.
“On the Lower East Side, there was a bar called The Living Room..there still is a bar”
Walking down Portobello Road in London we talk about Ladbroke Grove and how an important an area it is for music, from being one of the centres of the Notting Hill Carnival to Sound Systems and Joe Strummer. As we get close to Rough Trade Records, Israel mentions they did an “in-store” there last year.
We could not resist a peak inside the Rough Trade shop and we talked about how The Living Room bar had not only shaped his musical output but had also given him a new range of friends from Nathaniel Rateliffe to Ryley Walker. Looking through the albums we check his many influences including Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.
Israel is touring Europe again soon in 2017 with Band Of Horses and has a solo date on 22nd February 2017 at The Islington, tickets available here: Israel Nash My Ticket
He has had one or two songs chosen for soundtracks including Rain Plans for the film Captain Fantastic. He continues to record in the new studio and has recently issued a collaborative EP called Neighbours with The Bright Light Social Hour a band from Austin, Texas.
Simon Jay Price was walking and talking with Israel Nash and Eric Swanson, in and around Portobello Road, London.