Dusty Nichols lives in the shadows of the Grand Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming where he has many irons in the fire. Aside from playing live in numerous bands, he has released a EP based on John Steinbeck’s East of Eden as Canyon Kids with fellow musician Bo Elledge. These days he is trying to break into the composing world. I recently a chance to sit down and chat with Dusty, check it out!
What are you up to in Jackson?
I’m in a few different bands-I play with a group called Uncle Stack and the Attack and we have a weekly residency. I’m also in Maddie and the Groovespots where we play funk/jazz/pop. That’s a bit of a different sound for Jackson, but we’ve been received pretty well. There’s a lot of country and bluegrass, but there’s a burgeoning scene for new music too.
Who are the Canyon Kids?
Canyon Kids actually isn’t a band. I was in a group called Elk Attack with Bo Elledge, and when they broke up we remained good friends. Later we decided we wanted to record an album. It was mainly a recording project, so we raised money via kickstarter to rent out this beautiful stage in Jackson. Bo recently moved to Charleston, SC and so now we’re promoting the album from different parts of the country.
Can you talk about how Steinbeck’s East of Eden influenced your songs on the Canyon Kid’s EP?
I read an interview with Jimmie James, who is one of my favorite musicians (My Morning Jacket is one of my favorite bands) where he was talking about a book that changed his life; I can’t remember the name of the book, but he said that it was a big influence on his solo album. East of Eden is my all-time favorite book, so I decided that I’d write a song for each character. I ended up only getting three characters, and the first song is an instrumental piece that I thought would fit well in the landscape of the Salinas Valley.
Are there different challenges writing a concept album versus a regular old song?
I actually really liked it, knowing that there was something very clear that I wanted to write about. Sometimes I sit down to write a song and I have no idea what I’m going to put in there, but it was easier to have this project where I am picking from a book that already has so much to say.
You’re also involved on the production side of things, how did you get into that?
I just forced my way in. I started doing live sound stuff, and the place that I was working had a Pro Tools HD rig, and I convinced the guy I was working for to let me be the sound guy. I always wanted to learn how to do that. Most recently, what I’m really trying to get into is composing for promotional videos and commercials. There are a lot of ski movies that happen in Jackson, and I’d interested in breaking into the composing for those movies.
Are you veering away from songwriting then?
Well, it’s still songwriting, it’s just different. I see that there is a greater need for this sort of thing and I’m trying to figure out something that is more sustainable for me. There are a lot of guys that have broken into the composing world. Guys like Johnny Greenwood who did the soundtrack for There Will Be Blood and The Master.
What’s it like working with a whole bunch of people rather than just one group?
It’s great. Jackson is one of those places that has a whole diverse group of people, it’s astounding actually. For the Canyon Kids album we brought in a whole bunch of people. We probably had fifteen people playing on this album. We just reach out to the community and it delivers every time.
What’s next for you? Do you have any musical goals?
I’d love for the Canyon Kids stuff to get recognized and it would be great to tour with that music. I’m also headed into the studio pretty soon with one of my bands. Until that happens I’m really focused on the composing.
If you could have one historical super-fan for you music who would it be?
What would be your crazy amenity on your rider?
I’ve seen some crazy ones working backstage. Andrew Bird only drank Mexican Cokes and ate organic sushi. I guess I’d only want brown M n’ Ms in a bowl.
If you could collaborate with any musician who would you play with?
I’d probably go with Jim James from My Morning Jacket. Not only because I’m a huge fan, but he also seems like a cool guy. I don’t think I’d work well with Thom Yorke.
by Kyle Smith