Published on January 27th, 2019 | by Nigel Cartner0
Israel Nash Interview – January 2019
Before his show at Deaf Institute, Manchester, I had the honour of meeting and interviewing Americana singer/guitarist, Israel Nash, whose music has served to inspire me for many years. His fifth, and most recent album, ‘Lifted’, is another sterling piece of work that stokes the senses and delivers yet again in taking you to a place in your mind’s eye that you never knew existed.
Throughout the conversation, on and off the record, he reveals more about himself that leaves me feeling that this is a deep guy whose attitude to life and creativity is exemplary. We were able to discuss his new album at length, as well as get an insight into how his writing has changed over the years, the studio he’s built, and why SXSW sounds like a lot more fun if you’re lucky enough to run into him.
NIGE: It’s great to have you in Manchester. Is this your first time here?
ISRAEL: This is the second time. I think the last time was about four or five years ago. I don’t recall where it was we played exactly but I think we had about 80 people there or something. Sometimes it’s hard to get to all the places in the UK that you need or want to go to, but it’s good to come back here. This is a great venue and I’ve got a lot of friends who have played here.
NIGE: What does it mean to play in the UK?
ISRAEL: I think I’ve been able to come to the UK since my first album, so I’ve had good fans here since the first record. Obviously, the history of rock ‘n’ roll is here in the UK, and there’s a lot of inspirations from that on the new album, for example, George Harrison and the ‘All Things Must Pass’ album and that orchestration and bigger sounds. You guys invented that shit, so I think there’s a nice home for the album sonically.
NIGE: New album ‘Lifted’ has been out six months now – how has the album been received in Europe and in the UK?
ISRAEL: There has been a really great reception for the album. Fans are out and records are selling so it gives us a reason to keep making them. The UK has been a strong European country really attached to the album. There’s been some strong German attachment too, so there’s been some good markets and that’s why we’re able to come out here.
NIGE: Where does Lifted rank against other albums?
ISRAEL: I think you love the albums in their own ways that are representative of your life at that time with the person you were and the ideas you had. ‘Lifted’ is the most recent one so I think it’s the clearest reflection of me and life at the moment. It’s the first record I was able to write entirely in the studio that I have and just work there by having instruments and resources around to create and come up with some production ideas.
NIGE: I read that about how you used the elements around you at the ranch where you live to come up with these production ideas. Is that something you always wanted to do and a reason why you moved to Texas?
I think I just wanted to live in the country. I grew up like that and I’d been in cities a while. I wanted to have a place to be quiet and make records and write songs. So, I think that space and chapter in my life has influenced the sound. I moved there before ‘Rain Plans’ and the records since then have shown I’ve grown, taken in new ideas, and progressed to not make the same record every time.
The studio has garnered more interest and added another level of production where you can make sounds and get them out of your head more quickly. I was chasing ideas and that turned into this idea of getting sounds that were representative of the moment and place to show the reality of truth.
NIGE: I read that you retreated to Dripping Springs to get away from the political situation going on in the US. How much of the album is influenced by the politics in the US?
I think the part which that inspired is not the lyrical or song content or tone of the message. It was really just right after the election and everyone was sad and worried. It was just an energy that you felt scared, you know. I think it was just that energy that I had to not feel like this and get out of it. It was on ‘Rolling On’ where I realised about these messages of moving forward through music would give me a space to get lost and not feeling shitty. The idea of the album is to lift my spirits and other people’s spirits and that’s ultimately where change and good things happen.
NIGE: You mentioned building your own studio, ‘Plum Creek Sounds’, at your home for recording. What was the thinking behind that? Was that for your own benefit?
ISRAEL: Yeah it was just a dream I always had to have a space there to make the records and it’s now the headquarters where we use to rehearse. Once we moved to Texas, we bought some land and had some space to build a studio and that was the plan. Eric (pedal steel guitarist) helped me and we built 70% of that thing ourselves. The first record we made there was ‘Silver Season’. It took a while to build but it’s been cool to see its purpose and be able to use it.
NIGE: Do you have other bands using it too?
ISRAEL: Yeah. Joana Serrat, who’s supporting me tonight. Her last album is called ‘Dripping Springs’, which is the name of my town, and she recorded out there with me and the band. So yeah we make records and bring artists out there and I’ll do production and the band will play. They’ll be people out there who just do their own thing and be out in the hills in the country. We get people from all over coming over.
NIGE: How has your writing changed from when you first started?
ISRAEL: I was thinking about this earlier on. I think when you’re 13 or 14 and getting into art and poetry, maybe sadness was the only feeling I related to in song. And there’s inspiration in that because it moves you to do something and breathes life. It sounds crazy to wait for bad things to happen to write a song, that’s just part of the emotional spectrum that songs come out of still, but I’ve realised that not just emotions, but searching for inspiration and seeking it out can make me think, oh that interests me and I need to follow through with that and know more about it, which is what leads to some late night BBC search on YouTube and think (for example) how did they get that drone sound?
There’s stuff that inspires in other ways that have changed for me and by having that it gives you a larger subject matter and gives you the opportunity to write more songs and that’s where I’m at now – finding those themes that are exciting to me and just seeing what songs come out of those ideas.
NIGE: The song, ‘Rain Plans’, featured in Captain Fantastic. How did that help the band? Are there any other plans for your music to be featured on TV/Film in the future?
ISRAEL: I think it helped because it was a great film and not some silly rom-com, so it was cool to have a song in a reputable film. I’ve had some fans say they heard the song through the movie and they’re at shows because of that so yeah it always helps. We had a TV placement a couple of weeks ago too.
NIGE: What does the future hold after the UK tour? Another album?
ISRAEL: Maybe I don’t know. I got some stuff going. In the past, I had a habit of making an album and go tour it and then make another one. I’ve realised that I can’t write a lot on the road. It’s not a very conducive place for me to do that, but I’ve noticed that writing is like an anchor for me so when I’m home for three weeks I set myself goals in the calendar in the down times to work on an album.
We have stuff going on back home and more things we’ll be announcing over here and going back and forth playing some more shows. The big one I got coming up is the SXSW Festival where we have a party at my ranch every year and open it up to 600 people.
I would’ve liked to have delved more into Israel Nash’s party that he holds at SXSW, but we got a little side-tracked and I was conscious of time. However, part of me thinks that the party at his ranch sounds like such an exclusive an awesome event the details should be left to the imagination…and maybe only through Israel Nash’s music itself could you conjure up some idea as to what happens out there.
To read the review of Israel Nash’s show at Deaf Institute click here