Off The Stage: Nathan Kalish

Photo credit: Amy Thorne

For most casual fans of music, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives.

Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates artists’ paths to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.

Alt-country artist Nathan Kalish released his tenth LP, Songs For Nobody, on April 10th. On Songs For Nobody, the curious wanderer and son of a missionary has taken his astute observations and made a gritty collection of tunes exploring everything from America’s culture of corporate greed to the emotional strain that life on the road can bring. Like the troubadours who have come before, Kalish forgoes finger-pointing, using his music as a mirror to reflect the state of society to his listeners. Kalish, who normally would be on tour at this time, has been quarantining in Michigan; he has started a weekly live stream series called “Coffee Van Kalish” which airs each Saturday morning from his van at 7:30 a.m. ET (Joshua Ray Walker joins him this week!). Kalish recently told us what he’s been up to in Michigan farm country:

“Sometimes, I catch myself staring across one of the four empty farm fields on each side of the old schoolhouse where I’m staying in Michigan; sometimes, I probably don’t catch myself doing that. It’s been unseasonably cold this year and the old brick building is heated by a wood stove. Since I’ve been here, we have burned through almost two cords of wood.  I stack it and occasionally chop the larger pieces down to a more practical size for the stove. 

My main companion has been a deaf dog named Dori. I couldn’t remember her name for the first few weeks and it didn’t matter because she doesn’t respond to my calls anyway. I recently released my new album with all the fixin’s and my tour would have started this week. It’s hard to think about the two years of work I put into this project to just see the pinnacle of my effort be erased by coincidence.  

In a way, it’s kind of a relief because I don’t have to be disappointed by low turnout or album sales.  As a small business owner, I am being forced to take a rest which is something I would never do on my own. The album has been getting really good reviews, better then I expected. On the other hand, I get sad because I regret missing all the great shows that would have happened. It’s a constant back and forth between these two sentiments until my morning coffee is finished. 

While cooking, walking the dog four times day, bathing, and playing guitar for four to six hours a day or until my hands hurt, I live a pretty busy and fulfilling life. Occasionally, at night, the wind comes over the fields so hard it shakes the house and startles me. It’s a reminder of the tornado I woke up during a few months ago in Nashville, where I usually live, that destroyed my apartment complex.  At the time that seemed like an apocalyptic anomaly, these things just seem like an everyday phenomenon now.  

Each Monday, I put the mask on and drive into the small town of Vicksburg where I send CDs out to people around the world who have placed orders. I am very grateful to my friend for letting me use this place to recharge my energy.  She has been picking up extra hours at the hospital as a nurse a couple of hours away. Working 12-hour shifts day after day, she only comes around maybe once every week for a day or two.  I have been finding my purpose in domestic tasks which is good for me. Without purpose, I start to get depressed. It’s amazing how much time you can fill with even with the simplest of daily tasks. I am very grateful for all the folks who have listened to the new album or ordered a hard copy. I haven’t received a stimulus check yet so that has been a much-needed revenue. 

I have had a good time doing the live stream concerts, at first it was pretty strange but now I look forward to the connection it creates. I read that Tennessee is opening back up next week so I plan on driving back down and attempting to put some sort of life together until the next adventure begins. Hopefully, I can get back on the road when it’s safe and play music again.”

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