I was introduced to Byron Nash through my friend Meryl as her husband, the very talented photographer and cinematographer, Josh Franzos, has been working with Byron on his first music video as a solo musician, titled: Introducing.
Meryl emailed me a few weeks back saying she thought Byron would be a great person to feature in my #StylishPittsburgh campaign, and after a little ‘Googling’ and Instagram stalking I knew she was right. I discovered that Byron is a bit of a local celebrity – he’s in two bands: Formula412 and PLAN B and is launching a solo career – and he has a strong image that comes across as genuine and true. It’s obvious that he considers his look but his rock and roll sensibility is not contrived in the slightest, I feel like it truly represents him. I was interested to meet him and find out more about his music and his image!
We met at Big Dog Coffee in Southside (I know, not very rock n roll) before walking to Hot Metal Bridge to shoot some photos. I was a little early, and a little nervous too (he’s a confident guy with a strong presence!), that is until Byron walked in. As soon as he stepped through the door my nerves vanished, he has such a warm and friendly personality that I instantly relaxed.
We chatted for well over an hour about his life, his plans for the future, his passion for music, his Mum and the huge influence she had on him and his career, and we talked about his style and image and how important these two things are. I could have listened to him for hours, he’s such an interesting character and the determination and passion he has for his music and career is inspiring! I don’t think I’ve met anyone as determined and focused as this guy is!! He has worked – and continues to work – damn hard to get to where he is today, he’s constantly learning and honing his craft.
When he’s not writing and playing music, he’s bar tending at the Harris Grill which he obviously enjoys. For Byron bar tending isn’t just serving customers, it’s an opportunity to meet new people, to network, to spread the word about his music and build connections. It’s clear that he never stops thinking about his music or his art. He sees opportunities around every corner and he seizes them all.
This interview is an insight into the life and mind of a driven and talented musician. It’s hard to give Byron the introduction he deserves, so I’m going to stop writing and let you read his interview. Enjoy!
|Photo credit – Josh Franzos|
First off tell me a little bit about yourself and your life as a musician in Pittsburgh.
I have been involved in the Pittsburgh music scene since about 1997. Before that I was just an avid concert-goer. (1991-1996) Out of college I landed an internship at a free music magazine called Rock N Roll Reporter. (now defunct)
I originally got the internship for graphic design. However, once they realized I did a little writing, was super-passionate about music, and had extensive rock/metal knowledge–I quickly moved from art intern to Local Music Editor, then to Managing Editor. I had been playing guitar for quite some time, but never was in a band. I started my first group Sporadic while working at the RRR. There I learned the music business, behind the scenes, interviewed many top name acts, saw a ton of concerts and was taking photos for the magazine. I also learned a lot about promotion and marketing and honed those skills while figuring out my way as an up-and-coming musician in the Pittsburgh scene. It was such an amazing and unique learning experience that shaped who I am as an artist and businessman today. Years later after the magazine closed, my first group broke up, I had my second group Alma, and I joined n Formula412– a live rock n hip-hop band that did some pretty big things. I am still in Formula412, and recently started Byron Nash & PLAN B which is sort of a solo-pet project of music that I’ve written for the past ten years and/or collaborated with my friend Evan Thorsen (guitar) that no one has ever heard.
What instruments do you play, how long have you been playing and what influenced you to play?
I am a guitarist first and foremost, but also play bass, drums, and keys. I also have gotten really deep into music production in the past few years that has been such an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much and it has done nothing but push my musicality to the next level.
What influenced me to play? Well, looking back I would say my Mom, because she was such a music fanatic that I was fortunate to grow up in a household that had so much culture and different styles of music playing at all times. She had a killer collection and from an early age I knew music was the end-all-be-all for me. I didn’t really play an instrument until my late teens, but before that I was simply a fan–a serious fan. All I did was want to play music, however, I didn’t even know if I could play. I took music classes as a youngster, but didn’t really connect to it until much later. I am sort of a late bloomer. Artist-wise, Rick James, Prince MJ, EWF, Funkadelic and all of those big soul groups from the 70’s and 80’s made me want to dream about being a musician. Momma bought me my first guitar from the local music store in the mall. I guess that started the journey….
I often hear people say that they don a different hat and step into a different persona when they’re on stage. Obviously image plays a huge part in this! How important you think your image is to you as a musician?
Well, I, —we are visual people so image plays a role. However, I feel like if what you are conveying isn’t real, genuine or honest, it is just that…an image. I feel like your “image” should perhaps be a truthful extension of who you really are as an artist and person. For example, MJ was one of the greatest performers and entertainers of all time, but was terribly shy. But, that said, he was assertive on stage and was totally dialed into his persona.
For me, I was groomed on artists like that. My onstage persona isn’t that far from who I am as a regular day person. What I wear isn’t that far of a stretch. I feel like bands and local artists should take the stage like they give a fuck. I think if you look like you looked like you just mowed the lawn, got off work then strapped on a guitar, there’s a loss in presentation. I grew up in an era where people cared about that. They gave the WHOLE package and experience. At the end of the day, it is really only about the music, but I do believe that if you are asking people to pay $$ to see your art, give them a show from top to bottom. Be honest with who you are. If you are a grimy metal band who sweats and headbangs, wear what works for that because that audience wants and expects that. If you are a jazz cat, rock a suit, if you are more of an entertainer, find your lane and do what works best for you. For me, I love Fadoras. Sometimes I get dressed up, like a bluesman would. I like the class of it. But, other shows, I’ll will totally rock a tank top, kicks and the hat and it works just as well, because it is honest and is something I would wear anyway in regular life. I grew up around fashion and had a Mom who modeled and was very fashionable, so I think it is just in me, even though I didn’t realize it for a very long time. For years I used to hit the stage looking like a bum. Not so much anymore.
|Photo credit – Stephanie Strasburg|
Do you have an off duty and on duty look that you tailor to suit?
My look is pretty true to form. The same things I would wear onstage is what I would wear anytime. Very honest at this point.
Music is a big part of my life, and watching live music is one of my favorite things to do. It definitely has an influence on my style so I wandered if it has much of an influence on what you wear?
I grew up watching award shows with the family, and later in life when I was taking photos of major artists I think I became more aware. My background in Heavy Metal was sort of anti-fashion and rebelled against any pre-thought “outfit” consciousness. Then again, there was another side of metal that was very theatrical and was very pre-thought, and I embraced that as well.
But, as I opened myself to more styles of music and was seeing so many different genres live, it began to play a role in me developing my own thing. I still keep my metal-sensibility in a lot of what I wear, for example: I will rock a metal T shirt with dress shoes. On me, it makes total sense. But as I became more experienced, and older, I just kept adding and subtracting to my style. A lil’ Rock N Roll here, a lil’ jazz there, a lil’ Hip-Hop over here, a lil’ blues over there etc…All of these styles are me in some capacity, I just pick what I am going to wear based off of the style of show and my mood. Also, once I became more involved with being filmed and doing music videos with Formula412, that made me much more conscious of how things would translate visually. One time in the early Sporadic days, we were playing live on TV and I had my keys in my front pocket and it looked so stupid and unprofessional on camera. Things like that made me dial in how I wanted to represent myself. This isn’t a dis to local artists, but I never wanted to make myself “look local” ever again after that.
|Photo credit – Stephanie Strasburg|
Is there something you’d never be seen dead wearing?
Super baggy clothes. It looks dumpy to me. I did do that at one point but I was more stuck in transition between metal, and jam bands where fashion plays a zero role in presentation.
One of the things I noticed straight away when we moved here, was how proud Pittsburghers are of their city! I’ve met quite a few people who’ve moved away from Pittsburgh but been unable to resist a pull back to the city, what do you think it is that makes Pittsburgh a great place to be and makes locals so proud to live here?
I think there’s a realness to Pittsburgh, A genuine, hard-working, blue-collar pride thing here. But, the city has grown so much in the last fifteen years. The culture in service industry has really broadened a lot of it, as well as brought and bridged a lot of areas, and people that probably would not be connected if it weren’t for that. From the Steelers, to the Pens and Pirates, there’s a strong sense of pride. Now I am starting to see that pride carry over into other realms like service industry and National music biz even with Mac Miller and Wiz being so successful, —-all of those things combined are now informing the world that Pittsburgh is a force to be reckoned with. We got some stuff going on.
What are your top three things that a visitor to Pittsburgh should do to get a real feel for the city?
I’d say if you are a visitor, hit our cool neighborhoods, Lawrenceville, downtown, Bloomfield, Shadyside, the East Side and find great dive bars. Peep our restaurant and food game. Do some tourist stuff like hit a Bucs or Steelers game. Then ask your bartenders where to go. I am a bartender and we know where all the cool shit is happening. If WE don’t know, we are the most connected to someone that does.
Pittsburgh gets a bad rep as place to live and for its style what would you say to that?
As far as living, if it were that bad I would have left. The cost of living compared to anywhere else is second to none. The space you can get here for $1000 would be a closet in Brooklyn or DC. Every city has flaws but our perks to me are pretty good. I will say this, Pittsburgh is not like Philly, DC, NYC or Baltimore where you walk outside and the cool scene or stuff is right there on the corner. Here, you have to get integrated, get involved, and figure out where the “IT” factor is. You gotta put some work in. Our art, music, food, education, medical, and progressive movement and event scene is off the charts, …if you pay attention. You have to dig a little, but it is so going on. Don’t sleep us one bit.
What’s your favorite local band, other than your own?
Ok, I am gonna seem like a real jerk. I was way more involved in the local music scene some time back. I was so in touch. The only reason I am not is because I work so much at Harris Grill as a bartender, and the other ‘free’ hours I am working on my music with Formula412 or PLAN B. Because of me being focused on my music, craft and business, that is the only reason I haven’t caught a lot of local acts lately. That’s gonna change soon. I will say that my favorite “local music” thing to do is to catch Roger Humphries and Dwayne Dolphin on Thursday nights at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy in the North Side. These are the elite jazz heads in town. And there, you will hear the best musicianship go down…FOR FREE!! Those cats slay the game. I have the upmost respect for what they do!