Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Jay Nash is the consummate troubadour. Having spent the best part of the past four years on the road, Nash has played everything from seedy backstreet bars to lavish theaters and auditoriums. And, in doing so, has become somewhat of a regular here in Ventura. Last time through he paired up Joey Ryan, and he has even been known to grace the Zoey’s stage solo. But when Nash returns to town on June 7 it will be with a full band in tow. In brandishing a new album, The Things You Think You Need, Nash is preparing himself for yet another long stint on the road, but not before his smoky vocals and soaring melodies gets the tour rolling right here in Ventura.
VCR: You are quite the chameleon in the live setting. I have seen you play with a band behind you, throwing songs back and forth with other musicians in the round, and with just an acoustic guitar in your hand. Is this a conscious decision to highlight different sides of music?
Jay Nash: That show you saw where we were in the round wasn’t really indicative of the tour we did. I was on tour with Joey Ryan and Garrison Starr and we made the decision that day to do it in the round, rather than do individual sets. I had laryngitis and I thought “God, there’s no way I could sing a whole set.” But I’ve done the in the round thing in Los Angeles at a venue called Room 5 which I started back in 2003. There’s a Monday night ongoing series of four singer-songwriters around for years now, so they were both keen on that and they said “Let’s do it this way — it’ll be fun!”
In venturing up the coast this time, you are bringing the full band with you.
When my band is around I definitely like bringing the whole band up there. They play with other people so that’s not always possible. But I think it’s really important for any musical setting to mix it up and not do the same thing every time. You know it’s gotta be fresh.
You have a new recording tucked under your arm. Talk me through the genesis of The Things You Think You Need.
I met the producer, Chris Seefried, at a gig at Hotel Café in Los Angeles. We were both playing on the same bill that night and we just got talking over a post-show whiskey. It was a mutual admiration club. What I have always loved about his band, Low Stars, is their stunning Crosby Stills Nash and Young-like harmonies, and he had some admiration for what I do. We had this moment of reckoning where we were both like “I like where you’re coming from.”
And how did an album arise from that?
We talked about getting together and playing, and the first time we got together we quickly got excited about doing an entire record together. I was just starting to work with a new manager at the time and he was able to find some funding so we could make a real record. We made the record without the help of a record label. Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows is on it and we got Don Heffington — who’s played with Bob Dylan and Lucinda Williams — to play drums. We just ended up with this all-star cast of characters who hung out and played these songs with us for the month of December in 2007.
You mentioned the recording is being released independently. What’s the reality for an independent artist with a new record to push?
The reality is, that if you’re gonna take a stab at getting any sort of traction, you’re gonna be extremely busy. I’ve been touring fairly regularly for the last four or five years now and have little pockets of people that come out to shows all over that place. So I have a nice foundation there. But it’s shaping up to be a busy year. And hopefully it will be a fruitful one, too.
Is being out on the road so intensively something that you cherish?
Yeah, it is. It’s the thing I’ve always wanted to do, even before I had any fans anywhere. In those first few years we would play a beautiful music hall one night and the next we’d be in a double-wide trailer roadhouse bar. It was amazing and challenging on different levels and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Is that how you still want music to be? Do you still want to have those experiences?
I definitely prefer the way things are now! I’ve done enough of the trial run kind of gigs that the charm has worn off some. But playing music with my friends is always fun no matter where it is, but I definitely prefer the shows where people turn out and the sound is great and where we’re operating under ideal conditions. Those are the shows I look back on and think, “Oh, that’s as good as it gets.”
June 7, 8 p.m.
at Zoey’s Café
451 E. Main St.