If you’re a blues dancer in London, chances are you’ll have had the pleasure of dancing to the one and only DAN NASH!
The very first time I DJed at a festival (Blues Baby Blues 2013) I was scheduled to follow his set. I’ll never forget the warmth and encouragement he gave to a very nervous DJ Tracy. Dan and Ray were so lovely to me; complimenting me on my choice of music. I don’t think they realised how much I appreciated it at the time.
I’ve heard Dan play more times that I can count and he always inspires me with his energy and musicianship.
When I learned Dan would be playing at European Blues Invasion 2015, I asked if he’d have time for an interview.
On the night, I had to go outside and persuade him away from one of his famous ‘smoke-breaks’. (Luckily bribing him with Bourbon turned out to be a good strategy and we found a corner where we could chat awhile.)
Me: How would you describe your music style?
Dan: I guess I just pick up on blues classics and give it my own interpretation.
Me: What were your early music influences?
Dan: The Beatles. I listened to Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album. Then I wondered, ‘Where did rock’n’roll come from?’ The blues, of course. Then I started listening to Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding.
Me: How did you come to learn guitar?
Dan: I was 13 years old. My big brother was the biggest influence. He is the best song-writer and musician I’ve ever known. My middle brother was an actor. He went to Lee Strasberg School. They both had guitars. We all wanted to learn. I never had lessons, I’m completely self-taught. I had to buy guitar tuition DVDs, but I learned mostly by ear.
Me: What did you do after that?
Dan: I was lucky enough to find styles of music that appealed to me. I played Funk and Soul for 10 years.
Me: How did you get into blues?
Dan: My dad married a woman and moved to Tennessee. I went to visit every few months and in 2007 I went on a road trip. I was knocking on doors in Mississippi and Louisiana, asking,
‘Who’s the best musician in town?’
They would invariably invite him to join us, or we would go and find him.
I did that every year for 4 years. Weird thing was, when I went to Mississippi Delta they were surprised that I was playing acoustic.
The biggest confidence boost I got was when the old guys told me I was authentic. Then I knew.
Skip James – his style was particular to a village in Mississippi. Bentonia, it was called. There was a third generation guy I wanted to see there. I went there, found the guy and he sent me to a harmonica player named Bud Spires. He used to play for Jack Owens. We jammed all afternoon. Then he said,
‘Yeah man, you can pick.’
Me: When did you start playing gigs?
Dan: After that, I primed myself to put myself about instead of playing in my bedroom. All you need is one person to say something to you at the right time in the right way to inspire you.
I’m lucky to have found a passion. Lucky to have found a blues community in London to share and collaborate with. They recognise that it is a very important tradition. If you can play it, it’s your job to teach it to other people and pass it down. I’ve read every book I can find on blues.
Me: Tell me about the harmonica players you work with.
Dan: Ray (Wallen) was the first person I played with in a duo. The encouragement I got from him was incredible. He’s 15 years my senior and a massive part of the London blues scene. He’s a catalyst and what I call ‘a cuddler’. Everyone loves Ray.
Ray introduced me to Marco (Farris) who actually has more credentials than any other blues harmonica player in London. He was just 16 years old when he jammed with Louisiana Red.
I was walking down Tottenham Court Road one day when I saw Errol (Lynton) playing harmonica. I gave him my card and called Ray to ask if he’d heard of him. Ray told me that Errol was huge. Errol runs a blues jam down in Clapham and I’ve never been. I should go.
Me: Tell me your plans for the future.
Dan: I’m just doing whatever I can to enjoy it. I want to continue professionally. 15 years ago I was young and hungry. There was no live scene. Now it’s changed so much. It’s great. I’m really lucky.
Dan, I think we’re the lucky ones. Thanks for taking time to chat to me. Let’s do it again soon. The bourbon’s on me.