by Scott Roos
photos by Yellow Bird Photography
"I've lived in the Moose Jaw area my whole life. Never moved away. I've done a lot of travelling, or used to do a lot of travelling, but Moose Jaw area has always been home," explains an energetic and congenial Megan Nash in a recent telephone conversation with NSMZ.
Nash grew up on a farm just north of Mortlach, Saskatchewan, but as a young musician, Moose Jaw was obviously her natural stomping grounds. Her story is a familiar one to a degree. When you live the rural life, there’s not much to do. If you don’t have cable then you rely on one or two channels for your entertainment. And the internet??? Nash grew up when dial-up was still a thing so it was unreliable at the best of times and nonexistent at the worst of times. Music and songwriting, then, grew out of a natural yearning for an outlet to share her thoughts and feelings.
"I started writing songs around 2007 when I was 17 and that was the driving force for me playing music at all. Songwriting is always what I wanted to do," says Nash.
The epiphany to begin a burgeoning songwriting career came from tragic circumstances, but once she got going she has not looked back since. "I was always interested in music growing up but I didn't really have any friends that played music or anything like that. When I was 17 my grandpa passed away so songwriting came out of a place of grief and needing something to help process and I found songwriting to be quite cathartic. It can be a really great tool for working through emotions and processing events. So that's kind of what I've been able to use songwriting for and I'm really grateful that I found it when I did and that I've been able to use it not only as a way of making a living but also as a way of trying to make sense of things that happen to me and things I experience," Nash said.
What developed with Nash over time was an almost grunge inspired alt-country sound. Nash’s voice, a mixture of Pieces of You and Spirit era Jewel and Tragic Kingdom era Gwen Stafani, exudes a passion an vibrancy rarely heard from similar artists in her genre. It’s not like she worships at the altar of 90’s rock but she also doesn’t shy away from it.
"I do remember listening to Gwen Stefani in high school actually. I would never really have thought of her as an influence but I definitely listened to her a lot so maybe she was and I just didn't notice. In high school I listened to her growing up but it's kinda weird but I was just on the tail end of getting access to the internet. I was in a rural area so I didn't grow up with it. I didn't have it when I was really little so I was still a big compact disc listener. I think around 2004/2005 and preteen years around 2002 we still would have had dial up. I don't know if you recall downloading songs with dial up but it took forever to get a song. So I didn't really do much of that. So to discover music it was mainly listening to my parent’s CDs and then when I got older it was listening to different CDs from my friends. I also grew up listening to a lot of country radio. The school bus I rode on always had the country station on," says Nash of some of her early influences.
Being from Saskatchewan obviously the country vibe is also evident in Nash’s music but it’s more subtle; hence how she is sometimes called an alt-country artist. "I feel like country music is such a deep influence that will always be there but it's underlying. It's so deeply ingrained that it maybe won't be as obvious as some of my more current influences. I write quite often in a pop song format which is a very country thing to do. I do a lot of songwriting facilitation work and quite often I will reference country songs for different song structures. There's a lot of things with country songs that I really like and reference as a songwriter. When I first started playing music I really wanted to be a commercial country artist because that's what I knew and that's what my peers celebrated and that's what I wanted to do. But life has taken me a different way and that's totally fine," states Nash.
That different way is a sound that is all her own. It’s part grunge, part Lilith Fair singer-songwriter, part country twang and part folk. She also harnesses a very powerful intensity in her songs due to her clever and well placed use of dynamic contrast. The louds and softs do their work to bring many of her songs to an emotional fever pitch in concert with the amazing control she has over her voice. Everything she writes and performs, as a result, is impactful and the use of dynamics plays a pivotal role.
“I've always tried to keep dynamics in mind and also I'm not a very proficient musician on the guitar so I feel like dynamics for me was something like 'okay well if i can't go somewhere else musically because of my own technical limitations, well why don't I try to evoke emotions this way in a way that I can control'. I really love singing and I really love arranging too. I think about dynamics a lot,” says Nash.
You can hear this use of dynamics in Nash’s latest single entitled “My Own Heart”. Nash has been busy during the pandemic writing and recording. But, like most artists, she misses the stage and the interaction with her audiences. She’ll be doing a drive-in concert with her band Megan Nash and the Best of Intentions this coming Wednesday, July 21st at the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts. It’s going to be a great time and also a rare opportunity to see one of Saskatchewan’s rising stars and great talents. Nash will be no doubt be in her element at the Rawlinson and, at press time, tickets are still available and can be purchased here: bit.ly/EARCMeganNash. The show will start at 7:30 with gates opening at 6:30 pm.