Interview with unique rockers The Nadas

The Nadas latest release Almanac is slowly but surely starting to garner the attention of the media, and Laura McDonald from the Denver Music Examiner hopped on the bandwagon to get the latest on what the band is up to as well as how the process of writing and recording a song each month effected the band’s creative process.

Intervivew with unique rockers The Nadas by Laura McDonald for the Denver Music Examiner

Des-Moines based rock band The Nadas just released their seventh album, Almanac. The record is fantastic, filled with one alluring folk-country tune after the next. The album was written and recorded virtually live, giving fans a chance to watch the band’s every move via a live stream on their website. Not only that, the band released one song per month throughout 2009, wetting listeners’ pallets for when the album dropped on March 16th. The Nadas- Mike Butterworth (vocals/guitar), Jason Walsmith (vocals/guitar), Jon Locker (bass), Jason Smith (drums), and Becca Smith (violin)- recently passed through Denver on their way to SXSW. I got a chance to talk to Walsmith about the new music, their online communmity, and how they use their musician status to help those in need.

The Nadas’ home is in Iowa and they have a large and loyal fanbase there. But Denver has always been good to them. “Colorado sort of rivals Iowa,” Walsmith tells me. “Denver is a great place for us. It’s just full of music fans.”

The Nadas’ new album was just officially released, but they have been slowly releasing one song per month over the course of the past year. The approach is unique and so is the music. Bigger and fuller than their previous albums, Walsmith explains that the new music on Almanac flowed naturally from the band. “I think it was a natural progression,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily going to get bigger every time. I fully expect there to be an acoustic record next, but you never know. We have a lot of new friends that are great musicians that were hanging out in the studio that helped us make this record and I think that’s part of what you hear. There were several songs where we went in and were like ‘Ok we’re just going to do a stripped down, simple version’ and then two weeks later it’s got full orchestration and strings and all kinds of stuff.”

The band streamed the entire recording process live from the studio. The idea to approach it in this unconventional way just sort of happened. “I don’t think it’s necessarily revolutionary in its pieces, but the way that it was all put together I think is pretty unique,” Walsmith says. “We’ve been streaming our shows for a long time and streaming goofy stuff, like going down the road in the bus or breakfast in some weird diner, and so we kind of were doing that anyway. We thought that it might be an interesting peek at the process.”

In the beginning it was unnerving for the band to be constantly under the watch of their fans. “At first it was really scary because writing a song is not necessarily that pretty of a process,” Walsmith admits. “It’s sort of like when you’re drawing a picture and it doesn’t really make sense until you get mostly finished with it.” But the fans were patient and supportive. “Our fans were pretty understanding,” Walsmith continues. “Not everybody would enjoy watching that, but the people who did get into it enjoyed it and were forgiving in the process. Same thing goes with recording, the first time I’m singing some of those parts it’s pretty sketchy and I sometimes sound like a prepubescent boy in choir. It’s really scary but people were cool about it and we got used to it. It ended up influencing the project in a good way, just kind of feeding us this energy off people who are interested.”

Fans of The Nadas interjected their thoughts during the process, but the band didn’t let listener comments run the show. “We really tried to ignore that as much as possible,” Walsmith reveals. “We enjoyed the interaction, but we also tried to discourage and ignore input for the most part because it wasn’t necessarily about that.” He pauses to think. “I will say that a couple of times the feedback influenced us, especially one song in a major way,” he reveals. “We were writing another down-trodden, sad song and all the people online were like ‘Come on, enough of this already, write a happy song!’ So we instantly cranked out a happy song for the month. And that’s why that song is on there.”

The Nadas have built themselves a flourishing online community and are thankful for what the internet has done to bring the band and their fans together. “Our community, between ourselves and our fans, has always been the biggest part of our band,” Walsmith relays. “Social media networks allow that community to thrive and interact around the country, not just one show at a time. I’ve sort of turned into a geek with it and spend way too much time on Twitter and Facebook.” Walsmith doesn’t see much of a downside in the online world. “It’s sort of distracting sometimes,” he offers. “Sometimes I wish I could unplug, sit with a guitar, and just be a musician.”

The Nadas recently reworked and rereleased the song “Wrecking Ball” and are selling for $1 to raise money to help rebuild Haiti. “The catastrophe and tragedy inspired us to do it,” Walsmith laments. “We’re in a unique position where we have people’s attention for entertainment, but sometimes it can be helpful and purposeful. All we really have to give is music and people know they can go directly and donate anyway, but this way allows us to help raise awareness and attention.” Benefiting Haiti is not the only charity work that The Nadas take part in. “We always try to get involved when things like that happen,” Walsmith adds. “There’s not a whole lot you can do as an independent working band, but that’s one thing we can do. And that song just seemed eerily appropriate. I think the new version that’s not on the record is the better version. It took it from being a poppy song to being a heartfelt, emotional song. I hope people get a chance to hear it.”

The Nadas down-to-earth, hard-working approach to rock and roll is refreshing and so is their music. If you feel like your lacking something in your life, pick yourself up a copy of Almanac by The Nadas and let them make you whole again.

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