Israel Nash is one of the most promising new artists to come out of Texas in quite some time. It’s a bit ironic when you consider that Nash is relatively new to the state—and that he’s not really a new artist at all. The pastoral roots rocker first gave it a try in New York City, moving there from his Missouri home in 2006. After a few years of frustration stateside and some success in Europe, he relocated to Dripping Springs in the Texas Hill Country, where he recorded 2014’s beautifully understated Rain Plans, which caught the attention of public radio stations around the country, including WXPN. MLT editorial director Hobart Rowland recently sat down with Nash for a revealing chat just before he took the stage for a June 24 show at Valley Creek Park in Malvern.
MLT: How did you wind up living on 15 acres in Dripping Springs?
IN: I met the guys in my band in New York City, and they were from Texas. It got to that point in New York where it was time to get out of there. I just didn’t have much of a grip there. It’s fun to go back there now and play to 140 people.
MLT: Why New York?
IN: I moved there to play music. I’d just gotten my master’s in political science, and that was my fallback plan—maybe I could be a professor. But, really, all I ever wanted to do was write songs. My wife and I were there for five years. At that point, I wasn’t even touring in the states. I’d quit my day job as a director of an after-school program in Manhattan, and I was touring in Europe behind [2011’s] Barn Doors & Concrete Floors, which we made in a barn in upstate New York.
MLT: There’s a definite sense of place on Rain Plans, too.
IN: We recorded it in my house in Dripping Springs. I’d just gotten away to the country after working in the Lower East Side and living in Brooklyn.
MLT: Was it always the intention to build a recording studio on your land?
IN: Right now, the studio at the ranch isn’t much more than a barn—it’s not finished yet. I had no idea how much I’d fall in in love with the place—it’s such a peaceful place to be. So the idea of making music there seemed really attractive. And I needed my own space for my wife and [2-year-old] daughter.
MLT: Your gritty, soulful voice has been your trademark, but it’s much less prominent on Rain Plans—almost like it’s just another instrument.
IN: I enjoyed taking my vocals down on Rain Plans and experimenting with different elements of sound. It seems to be the trend these days.
MLT: Do the Neil Young comments bother you?
IN: No. Well, it does get a little old, but everyone gets compared to someone.
For more info on the XPoNential Festival, visit xpnfest.org.