Jay Nash is a Vermont-based singer-songwriter whose latest album, Letters From the Lost, will be released May 14. He recently took the time to answer some of Wanda Waterman’s questions about learning music, new funding models, and why he needed to make his latest album in his home studio. You can read the first part of this interview here.
The Early Education of a Musical Autodidact
Much of Jay’s musical education seems to have been driven by obsession.
?When I was between 15 and 16 years old,? he says, ?I became, quite literally, obsessed with Charlie Parker’s solos. And I was getting so far inside those solos, which were just notes. For him it was stream-of-consciousness, but I was unfurling these changes and these lines that spilled out of him. I kept playing them back very slowly until I was starting to memorize them. They really spoke volumes to me.?
It was shortly after this that Jay began thinking of playing guitar and singing as a means of expressing himself with both music and words, of providing melody, musical arrangement, and a story all in one. The rest is history.
The Advantages of Making It at Home
He says that having his own studio was the ideal condition for him as a singer-songwriter and admits that Letters From the Lost could never have been produced anywhere but at home.
?The sound of this album was heavily informed by the fact that I had my own creative space in which to explore outside the confines of the clock.
?It was a very different process than any I’ve experienced before. I would say, Oh, I’ve got to write a song about this, or I would write the song as a stream-of-consciousness, where the melody and lyrics come simultaneously and you sit down and take five minutes to write the song. This is really exciting when it happens.?
Paying the Piper
?The making of the record was entirely funded by fans. It’s the second record of mine that I’ve funded this way. I think models like PledgeMusic and Kickstarter are great?they’re making it possible for music to take place that wouldn’t otherwise happen?but my reticence about using those two was simply that I didn’t want that to be the total focus of my interaction with my audience.
?I didn’t want my initial contact with a potential listener to be Help me make this record! For some artists this can be exactly the right thing; they’re very interactive and comfortable with sharing every detail of their lives. I don’t mind sharing things with people, but my primary focus is making the music.
?Having said that, I set up my own fan funding arrangement on my website, where I offered five different packages that people could purchase. Then I made a couple of email announcements in which I said, Hey, I’m making a new record. If You’re curious about being involved, click here. So I wasn’t shoving it down people’s throats. A casual fan wasn’t going to do it; those who would donate were those who’ve already made my music a big part of their lives.
?As far as putting the album out, functioning as my own label, a lot of that was funded by my previous recordings and the producing I’ve done for other artists. I also produce music for television. I hope that I’ve planted enough seeds to cultivate a sustainable career. All signs point to the belief that I need to keep doing what I’m doing, as long as It’s fun.?
The Next Horizon
After seven solo records and five EPs Jay’s now thinking of being in a band: ?This may be my last solo record,? he speculates.
He’s now touring western Canada with Ivan and Alyosha, performing as a solo act, and they’ve made a good impression on him.
?I’m hoping I can coerce them to join me for a song or two. But after that I’m doing a tour supporting the release of this record, and I’m bringing a drummer along with me?Josh Day, a long-time acquaintance from the time I spent in Los Angeles. He’s an incredible drummer, great singer, great producer, great all-around musician, and a real disciple of Levon Helm of The Band. I’m bringing him out to play 25 or 30 shows with me; I hope that leads us to finding some common musical ground so we can look at starting a band together.?