Stephanie Nash sings honesty
To singer-songwriter and musical theater veteran Stephanie Nash, music isn't just about words on a page. It's not just a tune in your head or background buzz for the drive to work. It's gritty, it's real, it's cathartic and it's all about honesty.
To Nash, life is a musical, and, when the orchestra swells, sometimes a song is the only way to be honest. The difference? Nash doesn't wait for the chorus line. And, unlike Annie and Oklahoma, her musicals don't always have a happy ending.
"If I sit down to write a song, there's a reason I need to write it," she said. "There's something I'm purposefully trying to say. I've never sat down to write a song and been like, 'I'm going to write a song now.'"
To Nash, music is about truth, communicating what words alone can't.
"It comes from my training in musical theatre, where every song has a purpose," she said. "It has a journey, it has a thought process ... musical theatre, its root is when speaking and words aren't enough, people sing. I think that's why I started writing music. Because I had so many things that I wanted to say or couldn't say, so I put them in a song. Music has always, I think for everyone, helped us get in touch with what we're really feeling, or what we're trying to express."
And, like life, the expression isn't always pretty.
"My music is very emotional, but not soft," she said. "It's honest. And sometimes uncomfortable, for others. But I think that's important."
Nash, an American Musical and Dramatic Academy graduate, took a break from Manhattan buzz for the somber quiet of the Appalachian mountains of Boone, less than an hour from her home town of Lenoir.
It's here, with the help of Appalachian State University's student-run record company, Split Rail Records, that she's recording her first album. It was here, last March, where she won the Music Entertainment Industry Student Association's UNPLUGGED songwriting competition, pushing her toward local fame.
And it was here that she got that gritty inspiration for all that honesty.
"I moved back because of some family things," she said. "It was only going to be for six months, but, you fall in love, things change."
Three years later, it's the loss of that love that inspires her album and, despite the outcome, she wouldn't change a thing.
"Living here has definitely changed me as an artist and inspired me as an artist in ways I hadn't expected," she said. "Just the community here. When I moved back from college, all my friends from here and from high school were gone, so I made this incredible new group of friends and got to know my family more...
"While living in the city is great artistically ... it's really life that you write about, and I feel like that's what I've done over the past three years. I've lived."
And now it's time for the 24-year-old to focus on her career. Her new album, Insert Name Here, comes out of that push. It's instantly relatable, even in its name. After all, who hasn't loved and lost?
"We toyed with several different names ... but then I thought about the album as a whole and what it's really all about," she said. "There's nothing truly specific about it ... I don't want to say it's a break-up album. That's what it came out of, but it's also about being in love and losing it, and going through that. That's why I said "insert name here," because it's not just about my person. It's about your person, or his person or her person ... and it's opened up so many conversations."
Nash plans to return to Manhattan after she finishes her album, but there's still plenty of time to see the local diva in the making. Check her out at Koncepts Hookah Lounge (809 W. King St.) June 26 at 10 p.m. Cover costs $3. Want to hear more? "Like" Stephanie Nash on Facebook.