Singer-songwriters are ten-a-penny these days, but try finding one with as fresh a vision as Nina Nastasia. Camillia Pia gets the beers in
Nina Nastasia is incredibly merry. The talented NYC-based songstress has just arrived in Ireland for a run of UK dates and has spent the day reacquainting herself with old friends and the local whiskey she loves so much. When we finally pin her down for a chat, after numerous failed attempts, she is apologetic, funny and sweetly slurring – which couldn’t be further from the intense character we have come to know from her beguiling folk offerings over the years.
‘I’ve been drinking for several hours,’ she giggles, ‘and I have no idea what I’ll be playing on this tour yet. Probably a mix of songs from all five albums, the same old shit,’ she laughs again. ‘It’s just me over here this time, I left the band at home and although I miss them it’s good only having to worry about one person needing to pee and getting to soundcheck on time.’ A new album is on the cards, Nastasia has spent the last few months penning material and making plans to record it, but she is not ready to air any of the songs yet or indeed talk about them. ‘If I told you about them then it wouldn’t be a surprise,’ she smiles. ‘I have a list of musicians that I want to work with and my goal is to finish an album this year but I can’t say any more other than I really need to get something out soon.’
It’s been nine years since Nastasia started making music (stunning Steve Albini-produced debut Dogs was released to critical acclaim in 2000), but the singer admits that she still gets nervous at the prospect of playing her songs live.
‘Sometimes you think, “Oh shit, I shouldn’t have done that” whereas with a record you get to correct all your mistakes before you put it out’, she explains, and she also hasn’t yet fully adjusted to the idea of talking about her work. ‘People come up and tell me what they think my songs are about and it’s really interesting but...shit, actually I don’t want to talk about this. Can we scrap this question? Talking about music in general is weird to me, like I don’t really understand it. Why would you?’ Has she ever enjoyed speaking to journalists? ‘Reviewers are funny. Sometimes they critique my records and talk at length about the sound of a particular instrument that has never actually been played on any of them,’ she laughs. ‘It’s so lazy, like read the album notes, it’s all there for you.’
Despite her humorous disdain for us lowly scribes, today Nina Nastasia makes for a warm, playful and refreshingly frank interviewee. She loves the fact that beautifully raw last effort You Follow Me (a collaboration with Dirty Three’s Jim White) received mixed reactions because ‘it’s good to provoke, whether it’s good or bad’ and when we ask her if she’s pleased overall with the path her career is taking, she answers in a similarly honest vein. ‘I am very happy with everything at the moment. When I look back, sure I think I could have done things differently on particular records, but each of them is a snapshot of me at that time and I don’t really regret anything about them at all.’ In an increasingly generic and media-savvy music scene, cynics often bemoan the lack of genuinely original personalities. But they really shouldn’t worry when Nastasia is sitting right under their noses.
Nina Nastasia, Stereo, Glasgow, Sun 3rd Aug