It comes down to vulnerability.
When you let reality and circumstance wash over you, and make the conscious choice to allow it to shape the way you see the world, you can erase the footprints of the past and start anew.
For more than a quarter-century, Leigh Nash’s instantly recognizable voice has been a fixture in modern pop, from her days as frontwoman for Sixpence None The Richer to her more recent artistic output.
Now, with the world having been reshaped in so many ways purposeful and not-so-much, Leigh has opened her creative self up to new experiences.
She’s called on muses she’d kept just below the surface, and reached out to personal superheroes to help her define present reality.
The result is The Tide, Vol. 1, a six-song set that uncovers and shines brilliant light on Leigh Nash as songwriter, song interpreter, collaborator and, always, singer.
“I think the thread is vulnerability, just being open to whatever the creative thing is that whispers in our ear,” Leigh says of the half-dozen songs featured on the initial volume of The Tide. “Listening to it…trusting it. It’s being vulnerable to the moment, to the songs, to the music, to why I’m on this earth.”
The world knows Leigh best as the delightful pixie-esque voice atop massive global hits such as “Kiss Me” and “There She Goes” with Sixpence, but she’s worked long and well to define her perspective though her songwriting output, choices showcased definitively on this project.
“What I’ve found to be true with my songwriting is that I seem to serve a story or song better when it’s something that just happened naturally with me, like an encounter or conversation,” she says. “I guess I tried it back with Sixpence, but as an adult now — I guess that’s what you call it at 45 — I’m just now starting to feel a little bit more at home in those songwriter shoes.”
Combine those choices of subject matter — honesty with partners in times of strife, recognizing others’ perspectives in periods of trouble, identifying blessings in the everyday — with the choices made in songs to cover, and mesh them with voices both iconic and close to home, and The Tide reveals an artist at the peak of her powers.
“These are a collection of songs that I’ve had that are my favorites, and just hadn’t had their due yet,” Leigh notes. “So this is an exciting opportunity for me to get them out there, and work with some of my heroes, too.”
Leigh’s creative partners on The Tide include her husband and longtime songwriting partner Stephen Wilson Jr. on “Made For This,” a Butch Walker-produced track penned in the midst of the circumstance-forced closeness of the past year. “Stephen and I were pretty good about not fighting because we really couldn’t afford to,” Leigh remembers. “With us all being so close in proximity, you don’t want to have a knock down, drag-out fight simply because you’re stir crazy.
“But we definitely had a few fights, so we decided to lay a blanket out in the back yard and write about it. I knew the first line had to be ‘I hate you,’ because I’m such a good wife,” she laughs.
While Wilson’s participation was pretty much inevitable, Leigh also took the opportunity to swing for the fences singing partner-wise, reaching out to a country and pop music legend she’d loved since she was a kid for the “what have I done this time?” lament “Never Again, Every Time.”
“It’s simple. I grew up in Texas and grew up loving Tanya Tucker, as a little girl does. She’s incredible, and has been for so long,” Leigh says. “I never thought in a million years that I would get to sing with her, but I was delighted that she loved the song and was willing to be on it with me. It was definitely the best day of the whole year.”
Another long-time “wish list” voice for Leigh was Vince Gill, who counterpoints her plaintive vocals on the song “God Gave Me Horses,” a tale of regret and redemption.
“What he added to the song was just wonderful,” Leigh says. “It’s one of the songs that’s closest to my heart, and it was a dream come true and the best-case scenario for that song with that tenderness in his voice.”
The Tide’s final original track, “Good Trouble,” a collaboration with Ruby Amanfu, stands a both memorial of the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, and reminder to look at the perspectives of those around us, friends/neighbors/humans who might be living a very different reality (and have been for far too long) despite being an arm’s length away.
“I started writing the song with my friend Matt Maher, and we got a lot done, but we discussed what the next step was and that the song was really unfinishable unless we had the other perspective, the black perspective,” Leigh remembers. “I didn’t know Ruby all that well but I reached out to her, and she sent back this magical verse within half an hour.
“I had chills and was in tears, and I think she surprised herself,” Leigh says. “That was something neither one of us had expected that day, but it ended up getting written in a day.”
The two remaining tracks on The Tide — covers of Elton John’s classic “Your Song” and of the venerable hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour” — show not only Leigh’s instincts in choosing songs to interpret, but her tenacity in choosing duet partners, as well.
For the timeless hymn, Leigh enlisted gospel music legend CeCe Winans, a dream partner with whom she’s enjoyed her personal interactions with for many years. “I had wanted to sing that song with her forever,” Leigh says. “I got to sing at her daughter’s wedding, so I think, in her mind, she was thinking — somehow — that she owed me. And she doesn’t, but I’ll take it!
“I love that hymn, it’s always been one of my favorites and getting to sing that with her is definitely a highlight of my entire career.”
As for the Elton John cover, Leigh makes no bones about the gifts of Raul Malo, the longtime Mavericks frontman, and wanting to pair up with him. . . vocally, she insists.
“I’ve always wanted to sing with Raul Malo. Always, always, always, and he knows it,” Leigh says. “I made a very inappropriate comment at a party once suggesting what we sing together, and I was so very much hoping he’d forgotten what I said and he had not. . . and neither had his wife.
“When the idea of him doing a verse in Spanish came up, he easily worked up the phrasing and just knocked it out of the park,” she continues. “The most amazing thing about that recording is that we got to do it face-to-face, and in that 45 minutes we were singing, I just felt a lot of kismet in the room. It felt really, really good.”
The power found in letting those moments wash over you can be cleansing, freeing, resetting. Music, in the chaos of the “constantly on” culture of the day, can be that way, too. . . if only we let it. Leigh Nash has made a career of letting those moments in, and redirecting them back out.