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Jory Nash: The Facebook Interview

On April 7, 2010 Roch Parisien conducted a live, interactive Facebook interview with singer-songwriter Jory Nash, one of an ongoing series of interviews presented by Roch Parisien’s Rocon Communications.

Jory’s award winning album “New Blue Day” has racked up big airplay on folk-dj list across both Canada and the U.S., including the Galaxie FolkRoots Channel.

What follows is an edited transcript of a that conversation, including questions posed by fans.

Roch Parisien
Thanks everyone, for coming out for this evening’s FB Interview with Jory Nash! Jory, welcome…

Jory
Good to be here, Roch!
April 7 at 7:02pm ·

Roch
Jory, for the longest time, you seemed to be the precocious, up-and-coming young buck of Canadian FolkRoots. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it’s twelve years and six albums later…where has the time gone? And how has that evolution looked like on the inside, from new guy to established artist?

Jory
Good question…where HAS the time gone???
I will say this first…it seems slower to me, mostly because I’ve spent most of it taking baby steps to try to carve out a fanbase, build a reputation as a performer, etc.

I used to feel supremely confident in my ability to be successful as an artist, but my confidence in my actual art wasn’t as pure. Now it might just be reversed. I’m confident about the art and less so about my ability to actually make a living doing it longer term.

Roch
Ok, I want to get back to the confidence thing, but first – do younger artists now come to you for advice? Who would you consider your mentors, and do you feel a responsibility to play a mentoring role yourself now?

Jory
Younger artists rarely, or *sometimes* come to me for advice, and I’m ready to help anyone who asks. I get asked more often for opening slots at my gigs, which I understand, but opening slots are mostly out of my hands these days. I do continuously talk with my peers about ways to survive as a musician; how to write better grant applications, etc. At conferences like the OCFF, I will often volunteer to be a mentor and that will set up situations where advice is sought and given. But I don’t get as many pure advice-seekers as you might think.

As for my own mentors…again, I’m always asking my peers for advice…in the beginning people like James Gordon, Katherine WheatleySteve Ritchie from Tanglefoot helped me with practical advice. Now it’s just an ongoing thing, because even “successful” artists need advice, help, criticism, etc.

Roch
It seems like some fans who posted advance questions, want some career development advice from you. Peter Timusk asks:
“Jory, do you still have a day job, or are you a musician full time?”and also… “How much capital did it take to launch your career? Do you have investors? Does the mafia have a piece of you?” Perhaps this is a good place to discuss the “roots musician as a career option” you alluded to earlier…

Jory

Well Peter…thanks for the questions!
1) No day job. I used to help run a children’s summer camp for 2 months a year but I retired after last summer. I still do occasional outdoor ed work with a friend’s company (called ALIVE Outdoors) but for all intents and purposes I do music full time
2) The capital question is impossible to answer with a simple number…music, especially at the independent level is like any start up business…you always have expenses, and you try to increase income from gigs, CD sales and other sources like royalties.

And as I’ve made more money from music I’ve increased the budget I spend on making an album. So the capital to launch a career would be in the tens of thousands, perhaps even multiple tens, but it’s an ongoing thing that defies absolute quantification.


Roch

Jory, that all sounds relatively positive, especially the full time thing, and yet a short time ago, you rather ominously stated: “less [confidence] about my ability to actually make a living doing it longer term…” Explain?

Jory
So true…I’m an optimist, and a realist. The reality is that CD sales are down, gigs (especially in the US) are harder to come by (and with the dollar at parity it means income from US touring is relatively lower than it used to be) and there is intense competition for gigs amongst so many talented artists. The realist in me KNOWS that I might one day have to consider doing something else.

Roch
Say it ain’t so! Ok, I was going to save some of these “heavy” questions for a little later, but we seem to be getting into it… Jory, you come across to everyone as one of the honestly nicest people in “showbiz.” Easy going, sensitive as a person and in your songwriting. As someone who’s watched you from within the music industry from the beginning, I get the sense that you’re not always comfortable with the self-promotion and marketing aspects of your chosen profession. Putting the spotlight on yourself, is this something that you sometimes struggle with?

Jory
Great question, Roch (and thanks for the kind words that prefaced it). Yes, I sometimes get weary of trying to “sell” myself, trying to convince people to book me, listen to my music, etc. Music, like most artistic pursuits has more rejection than success for the vast majority of its participants.

But I’ve chosen to be an independent artist who controls all aspects of what I do, so I come face to face with the highs and lows, whereas artists who have management can sometimes be sheltered from the lows. And since this is my choice I have to live with the rejections and celebrate the successes. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Roch

I have a theory that it’s an issue of the natural low self-esteem that goes hand in hand with being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan…?

Jory

Ha! But if that’s true, then I would have had no success at all…

Roch
Good point! Well it would nice if they would at least pull it together tonight and help knock the Rangers out of the playoffs! Seriously though, I recall giving you a bit of a hard time earlier in the year, when, with your new album showing up on end-of-year US DJ lists and charts, you chose to play some smallish house concerts in Western Canada rather than attend the Folk Alliance conference in Memphis and build on the US momentum…

Jory
Yes, I remember! But those house concerts helped pay my bills, build a fanbase in western Canada and I also got to showcase in Calgary in front of the AD of the Calgary Folk Fest… so while there was opportunity lost at FA there was also opportunity gained.

As chief cooker and bottle washer of my own little business, I’m constantly having to make that kind of decision…and at this stage in my life I tend to go more for the sure income over the potential bigger payoff. I wouldn’t argue that I made the right or wrong decision.

Roch
I understand…yet if you can’t “go for it” when you have a new album getting positive notices, and US folk-dj airplay and charting, then when? It seemed a bit of a conservative retreat, and while I understand it, I was also saddened about what that might say, going forward for you and other Canadian indie roots performers. This maybe sounds more downcast then I intend, so just slap me up the side of the head if you like…

Jory
Well, if it makes you feel better I started to book that western tour a year before I went and didn’t even know if the new album would be ready in time. Plus, I plan on attending NERFA and probably FA this year, so hopefully all the momentum won’t have been lost.

Roch
Ok, I’ll let you off the hook for this time, then… hehe
Usually, I like to start light and then get heavy, but we’ve done quite a bit of “heavy” mood already, so let’s lighten up! Jory, your bio states: “Jory Nash is a Toronto-based, independent singer-songwriter. His music blends elements of folk, jazz, pop, country, soul & blues. There is little or no influence of salsa, didgeridoo or dub reggae in Jory’s music.
The obvious question is: what have you got against salsa, didgeridoo, and dub reggae??

Jory
Well, salsa and dub reggae are awesome but I just don’t/can’t play ’em. But didgeridoo is a weird, monotonous cacophony of sound that will never be on any record I produce…(now don’t be hatin’ all, you didgeri players…)

Roch
So much for the Australian tour! I’ve always wanted to ask you about your unique singing style…it’s not falsetto, but there’s some kind of “shaping” of your voice going on, in an almost “instrumental” fashion, if that makes any sense. How would you describe your singing style and how that evolved?

Jory
Tough question…I know my voice is “different”, and is almost NOTHING like my speaking voice (which can be a shock to people who hear me talk first).

I’ve always liked tenors, with higher mid-ranges, like you get with a lot of soul singers. Sam Cooke especially comes to mind. But I don’t have a great lead falsetto (I use it for harmony in recordings, but live it’s a bit thin), which differentiates me from the same soul singers I like to emulate.

I also went to theatre school for years and learned to project. One thing that has changed over the years is that my diction has improved…if you listen to my early records you can’t always hear what I’m saying because I slurred words like Rickie Lee Jones. Now I’m much more conscious of good diction, to the point that people joke. David Newland once said I’ve never met a syllable I didn’t like. He’s right.

Roch
Interesting, because my next question was going to be: Would it be fair to say that in retrospect, on the earlier albums, this voice styling comes across as more deliberate, more “mannered” almost? On more recent recordings, the singing sounds more natural, like you don’t feel a need to conceal yourself behind the voice-as-instrument as much…

Jory
Yes, but that has as much to do with my lack of knowledge, experience, etc in a recording studio. I’ve learned how to sing better on a record (whereas live I was always more loose, in a good way). Microphone choice and placement in a recording helps too. I remember listening to the last few Stephen Fearing albums thinking how much I loved how his voice sounds. So I e-mailed him and asked. Turns out he stands 3 or 4 inches closer to the mic than I had been doing. So I experimented and now that’s how I do it too.

I also used to make records in 4-6 days. Now I tend to take a couple of weeks to record. Not racing makes ALL the difference in terms of performance.

Roch
While we’re on the subject of styles, you use several guitar styles as well…

Jory
ALWAYS! Because every song is different, the RECORDING of each song can be individualized. When Paul Simon records, he brings 30 acoustic guitars to the studio and tries different ones on different tunes. I don’t have nearly that many but I understand the reasoning.

I like to make records that have multiple textures…that happens in both the writing and the production phases. And production isn’t just about what kind of instrument plays which note, but what mic you record which instrument to play what note.

Roch
I understand your stylistic range is about to expand, in that you recently acquired a new electronic keyboard, and Char Westbrook asks:
How will having a new keyboard be incorporated into your songwriting do you usually write material with a guitar? Will you play the keyboard at performances? I remember in Oshawa you played the piano for a tune or two…

Jory
Yes, I picked up the piano today from a great store in Blyth, ON called Pianovations. But it’s actually still in the box because the piano stand didn’t arrive…tomorrow I go and buy one.

There is an upright piano at my folks place but I can’t go there to rehearse/write very easily anymore so I needed something for my little condo (so an upright was out of the question). I plan on writing a TON on the piano this summer and would like at least 2 or 3 solo piano tunes on the next album. I’ve never started an album with a piano song and would like to do that, if I can write the right one. Strong first tunes on any album are CRUCIAL.

The digital piano I bought is a really good one, and it weighs almost 80 pounds…so it won’t be making it to many shows, but at least the option is there if I want to bring it.

Roch
Jory, your signature has long been your headgear, and Peter MacDonald asks: “How many hats does Jory own?”
So how and why did you come to be a connoisseur of chapeaux, and how many now?

Jory
HA! It always comes around to the hats…

I currently have 212 hats, as I picked up another 3 on the western tour (people give me hats after show now! It’s awesome!!). My first hat was a gift from my father when I was 16, an Australian cowboy hat that I still wear (and which finally fits). I started wearing them onstage because I had read somewhere that Little Steven from the E-Street Band never played without a hat or bandana and I wanted to emulate him. For awhile I LOVED Bruce Springsteen & the E-Streeters more than any other act.

The downside is that people sometime assume I’m bald underneath. Nothing against the baldies of the world; I’m sure one day I’ll be one but not yet. So now I sometimes DON’T wear a hat just to show ’em the locks. Ultimately I just disappoint when I don’t show up with a hat. I’ve been typecast, or rather I typecasted myself…

Roch
Rats! Another clever question pre-empted:”For many folkroots performers, the signature chapeau is often a tell-tale of signature premature balding…is there something you’re not telling us?”

Jory
Well, I did just cut my hair really short yesterday. And some hats don’t go well with short hair, but others do. So there are some that haven’t been worn in awhile that might soon get dusted off…

Roch
Dean Verger asks: “Interesting interview, and in some ways sad. The technology boom is slowly cutting some of the branches off a once healthy tree. What other music related endeavours are you trying to keep the whole tree alive?”
I believe Dean is referring to the fact this tech is allowing this new opportunity for interviewing, while cutting off the lifeblood for some of CD sales via music downloading, etc. Any thoughts?

Jory
My first thought is: Hi Dean! Dean is a great artist and longtime music presenter who I haven’t seen in awhile…I hope all is well!

As for the question…it’s adapt or perish. CD sales ARE down. They’re not going to zero, because enough people will still want to buy CDs after shows. And for me the digital downloads are way up with this new album, but the net result is lower income from music sales. The only way to combat it is to try and play more live (more live gigs equals more CD sales/ gig guarantee equals more income) or find new revenue streams from the creation of music, such as song placement in shows, movies, commercials, etc. Easier said than done and so far I’ve been unsuccessful but I’ll keep trying.

Roch
Jory Nash ringtones? Jory Nash hoodies?

Jory
Jory Nash ice cream! Jory Nash socks! Jory Nash tattoos!

Roch
The possibilities are endless! Fans, let us know what Jory Nash merch you want to see!

We briefly alluded earlier to touring, in Canada and the US, and you have a reputation for unusual things happening to you on the road…can you share a couple of examples?

Jory
Hmmm… one time I got caught in the cross fire of a big crack deal in a North Carolina motel. Good times. I spent the entire night watching my car through the door viewer hoping they weren’t stripping it for parts.

Another time I slept in a storefront window in a rocking chair. I had been promised “accommodation” after the show. Accommodation meant I was a storefront mannequin for people to gawk at.

Another time at a club in New Hampshire…well, you’re just gonna have to come to a show to find out.

Roch
Storefront window in a rocking chair…ah, inspiration for “Ballad of Easy Chair” perhaps? 😉

Jory
Ballad of Easy Chair happened before that. Waaaaaay before that.

Roch

You have a reputation for your between song stories… Roots Music Canada asks: Jory, do you believe in memorizing stories for delivery in your stage banter?

Jory
Yes! I approach my stories as I approach songs in a set…they should be rehearsed, but not stale. They should be strategically placed to help build momentum in a set. And they should be regarded as a means to entertain, like a song.

I have a lot of friends who are stand up comedians. I learned a lot about telling the same joke/story 1000 times and still being able to keep it fresh.

Roch
There are a few recurring themes in your songwriting I’d like to explore…One is the recurring presence of ghosts…appropriate more than ever for 2 reasons:
1) “the ghost in the machine” that just cut off the FB chat on this page…
2) I had the opportunity recently to lay one of my own to rest.

Jory
Hmmm…I haven’t really thought too much about ghosts as a recurring theme but I guess it’s more than a minor one. I don’t even believe in ghosts as an actual entity but I do believe we all struggle with the reminders of people/events that have passed that we either didn’t properly close or acted in ways we wish we hadn’t.

I’m not sure I ever lay my ghosts to rest, time and rationalization just dull or shine their impact, depending on whether it’s good or bad.

Roch
The natural environment, often expressed through particular seasons, seem to play an important role in your songwriting.
“Tangle with the Ghost” was a very autumnal album (beyond the fact there was a specific song called “autumn song”); but summer gets a lot of focus, with songs such as “The Summer Hunter” and “When Summer Comes”…

Jory
Yes…the passage of time as it relates to the summary of my experiences is a common theme. Summer especially, probably because of the years I spent at the summer camp. For awhile it was the most important thing in my life, more than school, music, anything. So I fixated on it. In one of the earliest radio interviews I ever gave the DJ introduced me as Mr. Summer himself, Jory! I thought to myself…”uh oh, time to start writing about something else”.

Roch
The camp was a family project, yes, and important to your evolution as a songwriter as well, on many levels I gather…

Jory
Yes…both my parents attended as staff in the 50’s (where my father was actually Winnipeg Folk Festival founder Mitch Podolak’s counsellor one year!!) and then my mother became the director in the mid 80’s when I was still a camper. she retired two summers ago and I retired last year.

Roch
Did you get to hone your singing and songwriter skills in front of impressionable campers there?

Jory
Damn right…I used to sing Arlo Guthrie‘s Pickle Song…kids thought I wrote it. I also would sing My Ding-A Ling by Chuck Berry until the inevitable parental complaints began.

I actually started playing guitar because of camp…I had a counsellor who sang Fire & Rain at a campfire when I was 15…I thought to myself…I want to do THAT!

Roch
There seems to be one specific song per album that tips its hat to the Blues, almost as if you felt an obligation to pay one visit to the crossroads per recording…some old deal with the devil that you’re upholding?

Jory
I love the Blues! Just not a full album’s worth…there are usually 2 or 3 per album that follow blues progressions, but I camouflage them a bit. From the new one “Atlas Takes A Ride” is 12 bar, but so is “Before You Get There”…but you’d be hard pressed to call it blues unless you break it down structurally.

Roch
You also seem to like tacking an historic event from time to time…”King of the Dust” from Folk Jazz Blues and Soul is a favourite…

Jory
Thanks! It’s got 10 verses…longest tune I ever wrote…Conversion of Pearl Hart is another example of a historical event put to music. I like that kind of song…think Edmund Fitzgerald for inspiration…but again, a full album of songs like that would bore me. So I tend to take everything I like and try to cram them stylistically into an album, such that it still works as a cohesive set of songs.

Roch
I think there may be a bit of an-joke going here, but Jim Ansell asks:
Will you be “re-learning” “King of the Dust” for live solo performance? (either that or “A Kiss for the Great Unknown”…hahahahaha)

Jory
Well, Jim knows that A Kiss for the Great Unknown is a song that I thought I wouldn’t be able to play solo…it’s got so many layers of instrumentation that I was unsure it would work solo live. But I’ve found a way to do it, and have started including it as a regular set piece. The other one, King of the Dust, really requires me to go and relearn the words. 10 verses, Roch…I’m no Rain Man. I forget things sometimes…

Roch
Cheat sheet on stage?

Jory
NEVER!!! One of the things I do not like is a lyric cheat sheet…I can’t get into a song the way I like to if I’m following along lyrically…and then what happens is I get lost anyways, can’t find the right lyric and fuck up. No good at all.

Roch
It’s not often we see Jory Nash really biting, bitter and cutting, which is why a favourite song of yours for me, has always been “The Acoustic In-Between”. It’s the one time where you’re spitting venom and seem willing to slip the songwriting shiv into someone…do you regret this seeming anomaly? Do you still perform this?

Jory
Oh, my bitterness is still there, lurking beneath the surface. It shows up in individual lines, and is often directed at myself. But I remember writing Acoustic In Between and thinking about exactly WHO I was writing it about and WHY. And I love singing it; it’s just that I need Jason Fowler on stage with me, as it’s written for two acoustic guitars (the Acoustic in Between refers to several things, but it directly references the instrumental break in the middle that was written for the two acoustics).

I had a similar kind of vitriolic tune ready to go for New Blue Day but the few times I played it for people it didn’t connect. but I’ll keep trying to be angry, just for you, Roch. 🙂

Roch
Excellent, we need to see more of that primal, primordial, Jory…. 🙂
So the new album…Critic’s album of 2009 in Penguin Eggs magazine…you must have been pleased!

Jory
I was! I am! I kind of had an inkling something was up because when I was on tour out west in Feb, I got an e-mail from Roddy, the editor/publisher and he wanted to interview me and it had to be soon. Luckily, he’s located out west and the next day, in a Starbucks somewhere north of Edmonton I met the writer, Mike Sadava, and we talked for 2 hours.

I thought I was likely in the top 10 but was very happy when I found out it was at the top.

Roch
As well as the satisfaction of the recognition, you must also be satisfied with the album itself. Despite the continued variety, it seems the most “album album” of your releases, vs. a collection of songs.

Jory
Well, I think it flows better than FolkJazzBlues&Soul…I could never get the sequencing quite right with that one. But I’ve always felt Spaz Loves Weezie was the most cohesive thing I did production-wise, and the very first one, One Way Down was pretty much 80% written about the same girl. Ask my fans to identify which of my albums is their fave and you’ll get it split down 6 ways…

Roch
Some pretty dark but touching moments on display here…”God don’t know me anymore”…”Elegy”?

Jory
Yeah…dark, but not cutting or bitter. 🙂 More personal, though I’m ALWAYS cognizant that too much introspection can make it impossible for the listener to put themself into the song. Joni Mitchell is a master as being introspective and inclusive.

Roch
You know, I was about to wind us down here, then remembered I haven’t asked you anything about your annual Gordon Lightfoot tribute event…a quick word…8 years now, amazing. And this year, with Mr. Lightfoot himself an active participant…

Jory
Yeah…Gord came down again on the 2nd night, guitar in hand, and closed the 2nd set, It was pretty special. But each act only gets to do 2 tunes, and after Gord did his two tunes he started in a third. What the hell was I supposed to do then? Give him the hook? Ah, we let him do a third tune. 🙂

Roch
I want to see the YouTube video of him getting the hook at his own tribute concert! 😉
Those of us outside Toronto are still waiting for you to take that show on a serious cross-country tour!

Jory
I plan to…probably when we reach our 10th year in 2012…right now Gord is very active, very busy touring himself and the LAST thing I want to do is to tour a project that competes with the man himself for audience. But when he starts to slow down (IF he starts to slow down) we’ll get ourselves out on the road, making sure people never forget those great songs…

Roch
Jory, it’s been brilliant of you to be this patient with the process… Let’s finish off with: what’s next for Jory Nash, recording, touring… And where can the faithful best engage in that old fashioned tradition of exchanging shekels for music?

Jory
It’s been a pleasure, Roch! Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your great series of Facebook chats…

What’s up next for me? Grant applications, a summer of gigs and songwriting. If all goes well and the funding falls in place I’d like to be recording again in late 2010 and releasing a new CD this time next year.

And as for my music…easiest way to obtain it is through MapleMusic where people can buy CDs, mp 3 albums or singles. It’s all good…

Roch
Thanks to all the visitors who lurked and participated! Jory, thanks again, and goodnight all!

Jory
Thanks again to everyone who posted questions or took some time to follow along. Feel free to be my Facebook friend …one can never have enough Facebook friends! 🙂

Thanks again to Roch for all his hard work putting this together… Oh, and the Leafs lost tonight, badly. Thanks goodness I had something better to do than watch that mess!

Click to read Roots Music Canada’s review of Jory Nash’s new CD, “new blue day”

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1 comment

  1. avatar
    Jim Ansell 31 August, 2010 at 21:49

    Ok, I’m a pretty hard core Jory fan and was at an acoustic JN house concert soon after this. Thank you again Jory for re-learning “King of the Dust” and performing it flawlessly that evening. Definitely a highlight of my 2010 live music fixes.

    As for this interview? Highly engaging, as are JN recordings and performances. And as the SVFF will be!

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