RR LogoKirsten Nash Releases A Feather And A Scale

Kirsten Nash 2016 Photo TwoFrom the artwork that adorns the front cover, to the graphic design of the CD cover, inside and out and the songs that comprise A Feather And A Scale the new album from Canadian singer, songwriter and musician Kirsten Nash, this is a masterpiece. Oh did we happen to mention that the artwork on the front cover is a painting by Nash, just one of the many gifts that this artisan possesses. The graphic design is by Heather Aston.    

Kirsten Nash vocals are sublime and they are showcased in her song “Easy Gets So Hard,” with its mix of R&B, Soul and Funk grooves and rhythms. Kirsten Nash’s saxophone is superb, Darryl Havers’ organ compliments nicely and adds texture and Pat Steward (The Odds, Bryan Adams, Matthew Good) is his incredible self on drums.

“I think the lyrics speak for themselves. We all have dreams and things that we want to do and things that we think maybe are going to be easy. We go down that path and it turns out to not be as easy as you thought it was going to be.  Life just takes you where it is going to take you. It can be rather tricky to deal with it. Sometimes easy just gets so hard. That is basically what (the song) is about,” says Nash.

She describes the new album as being about life and says that the initial inspiration came about when a friend of Nash’s youngest son, experienced his mother’s dying when she was still quite young. Left behind, were her two sons and a husband.

“That just hit me so hard, having two young boys myself. I think the worst thing is saying goodbye to your children when they go and the next thing to that is to say goodbye to your children when you go.  I was getting haunted by her and the whole album became about life.  It is about life experiences and not about one person or one instance, but it is just about life that happens to you and life from the perspective of not being eighteen anymore, not being thirty anymore. I am going to be fifty-five in March (2016). I am speaking about things that somebody who is in their twenties doesn’t know yet. That is where I feel that I belong in this thing, which is where I am a fifty-four year old woman who has lived through a lot of stuff and I want to share with people that sometimes “Easy Gets So Hard.” You think you have this and you think this is going to go the way that it is going to go, but sometimes (it) just goes around the corner and at the end of the day you still get through.  It is going to be okay. It is the world from the perspective of somebody’s who has been in it for a while.

We already have Taylor Swift and I love her and Adele. I adore Adele and they are fantastic, but they are speaking about things that women think about in their twenties. I love them and I respect them as artists, but they are not saying anything to me that I don’t already know. I want to tell stories to them and to people my own age and older, from a different perspective. I don’t think there are a lot of people doing that, because popular music is quite a youthful culture. It is getting more youthful all of the time with everybody dying. The whole CD for me is a journey of that and from that perspective,” says Nash.

When asked about the freedom that she enjoys in expressing herself at this point in her life and career, Kirsten Nash says, “It is fantastic and it shows up in the music. When you are young you are so insecure and you are doing this, because you are hoping to get a record deal and you are doing it, because you are hoping that your friends like it. There are all of these reasons even though you love the music and the art or whatever it is and there are a lot of other chattering voices or at least there were for me.  People would say, well you have to have a hit song or your song has to be this or it has to be that.  We need to know how to sell you and we need to know what box to put you in. If anyone says that they are completely void of that in their youth when they are trying to get into the game and how everybody tells you that it is supposed to be played is lying.

Eva Cassidy never got a record deal, because they didn’t know how to categorize her. She was one of the most gifted vocalists of our generation and she couldn’t get any attention.

Look at how music is now. It is so formulaic.  It is the same writers, writing the same songs for the same people, over and over and over again, because they know how to sell that.

I think the music (on this album) will speak for itself. I am not buying any predisposition to not believing in what I am doing.  A lot of people would think that it is pretty ludicrous for me to even be even stepping back in the game like I did when I was fifty. A woman at fifty saying, oh I know, I think I will go start making records again. It (that stereotype) is everywhere, except for a lot of men. For women it is what it is.

I thought Adele was great, because someone was talking about her weight or something and the way that she looks and she said, ‘Funny, I thought music was meant to be listened to and not looked at.’ I am paraphrasing. Isn’t that awesome?  I thought that it was a fantastic response.

We women do get judged by our covers.  I was just talking to a friend of mine who is experiencing alopecia and she has a great attitude about it.  When she first started going through it she was very forward (and told) people about it. The more that she talked about it more women came out of the woodwork and said oh my god look at this and they were all going through it, but they were afraid to talk about it. It was because of the shame and they were going, I’m a woman and my hair, my hair. I don’t buy magazines except when I am on the ferry and I was on the ferry yesterday, so I bought a People Magazine and I bought Vanity Fair and there were all of these ads that said how to look young again and don’t look your age.  You should be younger. It is horrid. It is creating such terrible dissatisfaction. It is why they make money, because if you are happy with yourself, they are not going to make any money. They are not going to make any money from you if you are saying actually I’m feeling pretty good. I don’t need a new dress. I don’t need to get my hair done, because it is okay. What the media tells us is buy more, have more, please don’t be happy. They don’t put ads out for broccoli.  It is good for you. Kirsten Nash 2016 Photo One

They recognize women as these fragile, insecure things and that we are gradually getting out of it, but there are still a lot of us that are way more concerned about the external than the substance of what we bring to the table.  I thought, I don’t need to add to that and that is a part of what I am trying to do too is to say, you are still relevant. We are relevant. I am not going to let somebody try to make me disappear. It’s crazy.

My son was I think catatonic for a day (when David Bowie died) and it actually made him sick. He adored David Bowie, but my son is not like a normal twenty-two year old.  He was so shattered, because he is a real musician and it was like the day that art died for him and now we’re left with Bieber. That is what you get when you don’t want to pay. That is the caliber of everything and I don’t want to knock Bieber, he’s fine, but he just got there too young.  That is what they want to sell, so little girls can sing along with it. There’s no real melody and any idiot can sing along.”

The title song “A Feather and a Scale,” demonstrates Nash’s ability to weave a good story and her ability to match the mood of the music to the scene changes, as it begins as a funky up-tempo story about Jake whose intentions towards women seem somewhat dubious and during the last half of the song the music slows down, is a little smoky and contemplative. This song may very well be the most well written song that you hear in 2016. Christine Jensen (alto sax) and Joel Miller (tenor sax) serve up some delicious grooves. Kirsten Nash’s vocal do do da do dos are reminiscent of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”

“I used to really be into Egyptian mythology and the goddess Ma’at was the goddess of justice and she had these scales. If your soul wasn’t as light as a feather you would be cast down into the darkness. You had to live a good life for your soul to be light and without any worries or any regrets and clean of sins. I didn’t know that and I had somehow missed that story as a kid. I was taking my dog out for a walk one day and right in my path was this lovely white feather with a little gray tip. I remembered reading something about a feather on your path being a good sign that you were doing the right thing. At that time all of these songs had been coming into me for this CD, starting with the last one (“Where Does the Time Go?”). I was starting to get a little bit tired, because as you know I work pretty hard and I was feeling a little bit depleted. I thought should I keep doing this, because the whole music industry is so messed up and maybe I should just paint. I really loved doing it, so I was just having this internal conversation and then I happened upon this feather. I picked it up and I brought it in.

I started thinking along the lines of at the end of the day you have to do what is right for you. It has to be about the journey and it has to be about your soul and not dying with regrets. For me if I have something in me creative, it is like a baby that is going to be born. I think if you try to hold that in and you don’t follow your passion for whatever reason, it is going to bite you. It is going to come back and bite you. I decided at that point to completely throw off all of the shackles and thinking of anything in terms of popular music, of anything in terms of getting it on the radio or any of these social things, (such as) what kind of music is it or what kind of song is that? I (decided) to write completely and utterly for my soul it was going to take for the next CD (now the current one). Damn it I was fifty-three at the time that I started doing it (A Feather And A Scale) and nobody cares anyway, so if there was ever an opportunity for someone to do whatever the hell they wanted to do I had that opportunity. I could pay for it and I could do it, so I did.

“A Feather and a Scale,” for me was about being able to have the lightness of soul knowing that I did follow my path and I did what I was supposed to do. I didn’t sell out to anybody. I just did exactly what my spirits were telling me to do. I started thinking about this whole CD as a street where on the sides of it were these buildings with windows and stories. It was outside of me and not even as a part of me. That was “A Feather and a Scale,” and then all of a sudden I went in and I heard these glasses tinkling and I heard this story. I felt this scene happening on the street and I started seeing these characters coming alive. That is what wrote that song.

There is that one line when it says, ‘At the bar they’re smoking absinthe with their pipes,’ and my son Austin and I were in Brussels and we went into a renowned bar. There were these guys smoking absinthe and it was a fascinating thing.  It inspired that (song) and I just handed myself over to the process. It was quite weird. That is how that song came about,” she says.  

The song “A Feather and a Scale,” preceded the painting on the front cover, by about a year. Nash says she did her painting after all of the recording was completed.

"First of all I was searching in my mind for images for the cover but I couldn’t think of what I wanted to do. Then I did what I sometimes do; sit down with a magazine or ten magazines. I go through them and I start cutting out images that jump out at me. I actually didn’t find much from the magazines that time but I cut out a couple of little things. Then I went online and I thought to myself ‘Scales, I need to see pictures of scales.’ It just started coming to me in my head after that. I found an antique scales picture, and thought, okay there’s one and so I printed it, then cut it out and pasted that on my background paper. Then I was off, it all came to me, as did the rest of the photos.

Then I saw the woman on the right hand side as a model from Vanity Fair or something like that and I cut her in half. It was for a perfume ad or something. She was dressed like a flapper girl and that is what I wanted, so I thought that was the perfect image. Within fifteen minutes I made the collage and I started painting them.

(The musicians) are Storyville. It’s an image of King Curtis’ band in Storyville (was a red light district of New Orleans form 1897 to 1917).  There is King Curtis in there with the saxophone. He might have been cut off there actually.

There are two sides to every conversation, how it is said and how it is heard. If you are in a good mood and somebody comes up to you and says, hey Joe how are you doing? If you are in a bad mood and someone says that to you, you are going to take it totally different.  It is the same with a song. If you are in a happy mood and you hear a song, you hear it one way. When you hear it and you are not in a happy mood you hear it a different way. The same thing happens with every life experience, it is all about your perspective. To me that is what came out of this little box of chocolates. With all of these different things you can look at them in so many different ways. With every life experience you can look and you can say is this good or is this bad? You can try and quantify it and you can try to peg it. Truth is in flux and there is no such thing as absolute truth. There is nothing that anybody said that is absolutely true that hasn’t been disproven. Whether that is an emotion or a scientific fact, life is in the river and life is in flux. I wanted the (picture) to be an interesting thing. I wanted it to draw you in and to make your imagination think, why are those little red beetles crawling up there? I wanted to put it together without really thinking of the whys. I wanted it to be an exploration for me to look after and go why did I do that? What does this mean to me? It all means something and on any given day I will have an answer. I think that is good, because if you look at it and you go oh there’s a dot on the paper. Well it’s a dot, okay. You are going to lose interest eventually. If something is kind of interesting you are going to go I never noticed that before and I didn’t think of it that way. Hopefully, (the cover and the painting) will be timeless.

For the most part the musicians that appear on A Feather And A Scale have a long history with Kirsten Nash. Drummer Pat Steward and Nash went to college together and after college were roommates for a while, she has played in several bands with and recorded with pedal steel player John Ellis and guitarist David Sinclair played for Nash’s musical The Bird and the Waterfall, which performed live and filmed. The bass player is Rob Becker, who has recorded with and / or toured with Barney Bentall, Patricia Conroy and Lee Aaron to name a few. We have already mentioned saxophonists Christine Jensen and Joel Miller and Vince Mai plays trumpet (Michael Bublé, Tom Jones, Sarah McLachlan). On all but the song “A Feather and a Scale,” Kirsten Nash plays her tenor and soprano saxophones on the songs in which the instruments are featured.

Nash co-produced her album with Tyler Johnson and John Raham was the sound engineer.

Although, the musical flavors are different the collection of songs written by Kirsten Nash and recorded for her album A Feather And A Scale deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as two of Canada’s other great songwriters, Gordon Lightfoot and Bryan Adams.

Please take time to visit the website for Kirsten Nash.

You can also read the Riveting Riffs Magazine 2013 interview with Kirsten Nash here.              Return to our Front Page

This interview by Joe Montague  published February 7th, 2016 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved.  All photos and artwork are the exclusive property of Kirsten Nash and are protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved This inteview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved