The Contenders - Jay Nash and Josh Day - make music overflowing with both grit and heart; their songs, centered around two-part harmonies, guitar, and drums speak of wanderers and highways, lovers and losers, good times and missed chances. Their new album, Laughing with the Reckless, which friend and fellow troubadour Joey Ryan [The Milk Carton Kids] has called an album of “infectious rhythms and sublime two-part harmonies,” will be released on November 3rd and today, TDC is excited to premiere one of the album's tracks, "Not Enough." Penned by the duo, "Not Enough" is an honest, guitar-led, harmony-laden roots rocker that relates the ups and downs of road life, pulling from the duo's actual experience.
"The drive was long and no one spoke
Our nerves were shot to hell
But the bottle turned and the whiskey flowed
For a minute all was well"
Jay Nash relays the story behind the song,
This song was originally inspired by what was to be our last show of our inaugural tour back in 2014. Our second to last stop on the tour was in Seattle, and the venue that we played was probably a bit of a reach for us. We were a brand new band on our first tour and our show drew about 75 people... which was amazing. Except for the fact that we were playing a 400-capacity room. The last show of the tour was to be in Wenatchee, Washington, which is a quick 2.5-hour drive from Seattle in good weather.
Things were looking pretty good for that show, with 75 percent of the tickets sold out in advance. It was shaping up to be a great way to close out a tour. The catch was that there was this massive storm system descending onto the Northwest from the North Pacific. Josh and our support act, Javier Dunn, had been watching it for a few days and were a little nervous that it was going to bring snow to the mountain passes between Seattle and Wenatchee. I was probably a little headstrong, having never cancelled a gig under any circumstances. I was intent on trying to get there.
We set out from Seattle at 11 a.m. At 4 p.m., we called ahead to the venue to let them know that it was looking like we were going to be late for soundcheck. At 6 p.m., we were the proud owners of a new set of snow chains (for our rental minivan). Shortly after that, they closed the interstate. We returned to Seattle at about 10 p.m., tails between our legs, feeling shattered from a white-knuckle trip back down the mountain.
Heated words were exchanged on that trip, and it came damn close to being the end of The Contenders. In the end though, the experience provided the kernel of inspiration for this song. We used that as a jumping-off point and rolled in a few other road-worn experiences to paint a collage of the mentality of the touring life. We touched on this concept before in the first song that we ever wrote, "The Contenders" from Meet the Contenders. With all of its trials and hardship, we find the psychology, connection and mythology of life on the road to be endlessly inspiring and alluring.
With Day further noting, Jay's story is shockingly accurate of what happened. He can sometimes embellish or downplay situations, so I'm very proud of him for letting the truth be known! At the end of the day, it was a terrible idea... BUT, we did get this song out of it!
The duo further expand on the recording process for the song,
Jay Nash: Man... the biggest thing that sticks out to me was trying to find the tempo where it would make people want to move and sing along, without feeling rushed (or dogged). I had a lot of fun recording the guitar solo. Funny thing is that the solo on the record is actually the first or second pass. I played it another 27 times after that, but I was having so much fun with the part that I just kept playing it over and over again. Oddly enough, I actually captured that pass as a little Instagram video:
Josh Day: This was a fun one to record, but, as Jay said, the tempo was a bit of a bear. Most songs have a sweet spot tempo-wise, and sometimes it comes very easily in the writing/recording process. Other times, as with "Not Enough," it takes a minute to figure out where it "feels" best. We had to make sure it passed the "head nod" test. You know the one... the song comes on, and you can't help but nod your head to the groove. That's the goal.
For the past decade Nash has journeyed the U.S. and Europe solo, selling over 60,000 records without ever putting ink on a conventional record deal while Day could be found playing with the Kruger Brothers and John Oates, touring with Sara Bareilles, and drumming for Jennifer Nettles. With their individual experiences influencing their sound, Nash describe The Contenders music as "Americana, Harmony, Backbeat, Honesty, Narrative. Or... if I had to put five words in a sentence, I would just say, "It’s all about the songs," with Day adding, "Groove, Americana, Harmony, Grit, Soul."
Just for fun, we asked the duo if there was anything besides music that you could be contenders for, what would it be?
Jay Nash: Probably not anything. I used to be pretty aggressive about hucking myself off of cliffs and skiing crazy stuff in the back country when I lived in Wyoming, but I don’t think that I would have made a very respectable living doing it. Maybe I could be a competitive eater, if I really put my mind to it. I do have a voracious appetite. Josh makes fun of me a lot, because I’m so food driven that it often dictates our day schedule when we’re on tour.
Josh Day: Yeah, I would say probably not anything. At least not the two of us together. Jay and I are very different people in so many ways. For example, you would NEVER catch me throwing myself off a cliff, especially not on skis! I'll just hang at the bar, and relax. That's way more my vibe. For me, music has always been a huge part of my life, and I honestly have no clue what I would do without it. I even have an education degree... but, its to teach MUSIC.
As for what's next for The Contenders, Nash says, "We’re just excited about this album finally getting out. Laughing with the Reckless is available now for pre-order on iTunes and is out everywhere on November 3rd. We’re in Europe right now, for a string of dates in Germany, Holland, and France. Our U.S. tour kicks off on November 8th in Boston, and from there, we move on to New York, Philadelphia, DC, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Spring Lake, MI, Columbus, and finish in Nashville. We’ll pick up again in January in North Carolina, and we expect to stay fairly busy throughout 2018 touring this album and hopefully digging into writing and recording the next one when the schedule allows."
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