After a decade of friendship, singer-songwriter Jay Nash and drummer Josh Day are about to take an epic road trip. They’ll start traveling across the U.S. to introduce their brand new duo, the Contenders. The band takes its name from one of their new songs, “The Contender,” and that invigorating track can be found on their upcoming EP, Meet the Contenders.
In late 2013, Nash was at home in Vermont, letting his mind wander after his family had gone to bed.
“I was still running on rock ‘n’ roll time, fresh off a tour of consistently late hours,” he tells CMT Edge. “I was sitting on my couch with my 1960 Gibson LG-0, having a nightcap and thinking about my musical life, friends and heroes. I thought about how privileged I was to know so many incredibly talented songwriters, artists and musicians … some of them famous and rightfully so … and some of them virtually unknown or barely scratching the surface of relative obscurity.”
He adds, “Those were the people who got me thinking. The contenders … the people who had been making music, in some cases, for a decade or more, who had mastered their craft, ridden the roller coasters of success and failure and then soldiered on to travel and play night after night, sometimes for thousands of people and sometimes for dozens.”
After sharing the idea with Day, they started working on the lyrics about their musical heroes — without being overly specific. By email, though, Nash is more willing to name names.
“I think that Josh’s playing might be a bit more informed by country and bluegrass music than my approach is. He grew up on Willie, Doc Watson and The Band. I grew up on The Band, the Grateful Dead and Sam Cooke,” he says. “So our starting point, the place we really first saw eye to eye, musically, was with The Band. The countrified, folky rock ‘n’ roll that Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and especially Levon Helm was a great reference point.”
Not to say classic country doesn’t inform Nash’s own music, though.
“I have listened to enough Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash and George Jones over the years that I’m sure their phrasing and approach have influenced and affected the way that I sing and write songs,” he observes. “The greats all have an unshakable resonance, I dare say permanence to their songs. In a way, that was one of the things that we were striving for while we were writing these tunes.”
Meet the Contenders will be available on vinyl on the upcoming tour, which begins Oct. 15 at Joe’s Pub in New York City. Look for the EP digitally on Nov. 18. Check out the upcoming Contender tour.
Photo credit: Anna Ulery / Anna Ulery Designs