Although Israel Nash has incorporated some new sonic textures into his latest long-player, Topaz, fans can still expect to hear the qualities that they’ve grown to love in Nash’s previous albums. Thanks to co-producer Adrian Quesada, Topaz blends horns, soul rhythms, and fat guitar tones into Nash’s signature hazy psychedelia. The result is a cohesive album that is simultaneously familiar and fresh. Nash has also expanded lyrically, including political themes with his heartfelt storytelling. Here, Nash talks about the new album, how Texas changed him, and what he’s looking forward to.
How did relocating to Texas in 2011 affect the trajectory of your sound?
You get out here and it’s just a different kind of place. One of those geographical places that is overwhelming to look at firsthand, those kinds of things that you don’t see in many places around the world. I just love the Hill Country. And it really inspired me to make some music that sounded like the way that it looked out there—big open sky, awesome sunsets, amazing stars. You see forever. You can see the tower in Wimberley which is 20 miles away. There’s something cool about that duality of being isolated, but also being kind of wide open. It changed something in me altogether.
How was the process of creating Topaz different from that of your earlier albums?
I’ve had the studio for almost five years now. Topaz was the first record where I knew what was going on in the control room. That just takes time to learn. I always loved writing songs. I never wanted to be a great engineer. I think this record was the first where I had a lot more confidence like that. I didn’t depend on necessarily having an engineer here to do something. I could just sit here by myself and try a bunch of different guitar pedals and dial in something and not feel like I’m wasting anyone’s time and just have some leisure. I could see what works and slowly shape stuff by myself.
I know you worked with Adrian Quesada on some of it. You have a very distinct sound as an artist and Adrian has a distinct production style. Were you at all worried that your sound would be lost or diluted by working with him?
No. Adrian and I have known each other and been fans of each other for a while. We’ve always talked about working on something. It was actually my wife’s suggestion because she knew I was trying to keep busy and do some stuff. I did this outside of my normal band that I’ve used in the past. I wanted to keep it kind of Austin, just to make it easy. Where we could just say swing by Wednesday. With my guys it’s a flight, it was just so many things to organize, and you have to have space for everyone to stay. And it just made it really simple. I had just done a few things with Adrian, and he played some guitar and a couple shows with me and we had made a fun cover song in his studio. And I have a production style, too. So I just really wanted to have someone to share and bounce ideas and get some good techniques. He’s got a cool distinct guitar sound, and I love his drum sounds.
I got to hear some of the Black Pumas stuff before anyone else. It was just like some demos. If you’re familiar with Adrian’s catalog, it goes everywhere. I mean, everywhere. He inspired me to be on that path. That it was fun to blend a little bit of Motown and some ’70s funk elements and sounds with like, acoustic guitars, and full piano, and slide guitars. You get a little bit older, and you start challenging yourself in ways where it’s like, I think I could write something that sounded like this. And I think it becomes easier, and more fun to do that. Adrian and I had a really good chat about this. We were just talking about how really once you have a groove, you have everything.
Typically your live performances are defined by the energy and chemistry of your band, but more recently you’ve been posting solo videos as the “Analog Quarantine Band.” Do you see yourself continuing the stripped-down live performances, or are you ready to get the band back together?
Oh, man, I’m ready to get the band back together. Doing stuff by yourself is fun, and you want to come up with creative ways to do it. But it’s like five times the amount of work when you’re by yourself. You have to bounce in and make sure it’s recording. It’s fun to help you learn how to do a bunch of stuff, for sure. I miss having a band together and just kind of cracking something together. So I’m starting to see some things change. For me it’s been so isolating. I haven’t tried to record the band or play shows. I just haven’t been motivated to do that in the time we’re in.
I think that there’s gonna be some stuff happening sooner than later. I kind of got exhausted and just chilled out here for the last six months. I’ve been in my own world, for better or worse. I think releasing an album—this is the most familiar thing of the pandemic for me. It feels familiar.