Sixpence None The Richer In 2012

Sixpence None The Richer came into this world after Matt Slocum and Leigh Nash met while both were teenagers in the early 1990s. Although the band’s roots were deeply planted in both musicians’ religious backgrounds, Sixpence has been successful in the mass-appeal pop music world as well as in the Christian music universe

The band’s third effort, 1995’s This Beautiful Mess, received a Dove Award for best album and the band has toured with contemporary Christian music heavyweights such as Jars Of Clay and Sara Groves.

Nash talked with Pollstar a week before Sixpence’s new album, Lost In Transition, arrives in stores Aug. 7. In a very candid conversation, Nash talked about the band’s ups and downs, including its 2004 breakup and 2007 reunion as well as her first husband, her second marriage and the business of Sixpence None The Richer.

Photo: Tec Petaja
Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum.

While a teenager you sang in your church before meeting Matt Slocum, which eventually resulted in forming Sixpence None The Richer. What did you learn about singing during those early years?

I think it helped me to kind of hone my skills. Well, at least be able to get up in front of people because I was painfully shy when I was young. Not around my family – I was quite gregarious and kind of the comedian of the family. But as soon as I got in front of other people I just clammed up and turned bright red anytime anybody spoke to me. So it was really nice to be able to get up and sing about something so personal as my faith in front of a group of people, because it was especially intimidating.

So I think it kind of helped me begin to cut my teeth though it took many more years before I felt completely comfortable on stage. Actually, I still don’t. [laughs] Guess I’m still working on it.

Are you able to channel that nervous energy into the performance?

I have been. Sometimes more than others. There was a period where I was so out of practice that I was getting really, really nervous on stage, but that seems to be ebbing away. …. I’d rather be a little bit nervous than not nervous at all.

Has that ever happened? Has there ever been a time when you were completely calm before going on stage?

I think it must have happened. We did a lot of big shows in Italy – huge festivals where massive artists were performing before and after. We played one, I think in an arena in Rome. Sting [and] the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing. There must have been thousands of people and I can’t remember being stressed about it. I must have been in another world. I don’t know what I was thinking. Right now, I think I’d probably say, “I can’t do that.”

When you’re appearing at festivals, do you have time to check out the other acts on the lineup?

If there’s a band on the schedule I like I’m definitely going to try to see it. But festivals are usually very hot and my skin is white and pink as a little piglet. So I tend to stay in the shade [as much] as possible. But the rest of the band sees a lot of shows.

How did you meet your Sixpence None The Richer partner, Matt Slocum?

He was visiting the church I grew up in and heard me sing. He was struggling with the loss of his father at that point and had written a handful of songs. He wanted to hear my voice on the songs, at least one in particular called “Trust.”

We were on a bus going on a church trip. He was four years older than me and at that time it might as well be 20 years. He walked by my seat and threw the tape at me, not in a rude way, but he was real shy, too. And he asked if I’d be interested in singing [the song]. I listened to the song. … and that’s where it all started.

Did you receive a lot of support from your parents?

Absolutely. It was over the summer, in June. I was 15-turning-16, my birthday is the 27th. My parents and I flew up to [Eldon, Ill.,] and recorded at a studio there and I was probably away for two weeks. It was a lot for me. I’d never been away from home that long. We were with a bunch a guys, there was no other girl there. We had a producer, who became our manager, and that was my first experience being away from home with the band. It was amazing. … By the time school started, I think there were only a handful of people who knew it was me on the record. My parents were very extremely supportive. They trusted Matt tremendously.

When listening to those first recordings, can you hear the person you are today?

I can. It’s really interesting. I just got a truck that only plays cassette tapes. We happened to be moving at the same time … and we found our original demos that I did when I was 14. … I can hear myself. It’s me but it’s shocking. I just can’t believe anything happened from that demo. As far as me as a singer, I don’t hear anything appealing in it. But you’re your own worst critic and that’s definitely the case with me. I’m a little too hard on myself all the time.

Can you ever listen to your recordings and not be critical?

There’s always moments on the records that I feel like, “Wow. That was a good moment for me.” But, yeah, sometimes it’s hard to listen to certain things and wish you could go back and do it again.

Every producer I ever worked with, I felt like I always wanted to sing more and keep doing take after take. But they always seemed really happy earlier than I would have have been ready to give up singing. I’m sure they can tell and have an ear for she’s getting tired or it’s sounding the same every time. They have a better ear for that stuff than I do. But I’m way too critical. So it’s a little of both. I can enjoy [listening] but only to a certain extent.

Do you have any routines or exercises for taking care of your voice?

I do. I studied with this great, really famous vocal coach named Brett Manning … learned his method and actually taught it for six or seven months. So I learned some techniques and vocal warm ups that I didn’t use before. That whole time period for me learning that method strengthened my voice and I’m capable of doing a lot more with it than I could before. I’m vocally stronger than ever.

What can you tell us about the new album, Lost In Transition?

It’s a record we’ve wanted to make for six years. We did an EP (My Dear Machine), we made a Christmas record (The Dawn Of Grace), then finally started in the studio and were able to record. We were signed to a label at the time and then the bottom kind of fell out, which tends to happen with Sixpence for some reason. Not that it doesn’t happen to other bands but we’ve definitely had more of our share of business troubles over the years.

So we [finished] the record and the label we signed to was not in the same place as they were when they signed us. [They] were not able to kind of fulfill their end of the deal to make it worth it for them to put our record out.

Business-wise, that’s what happened and why there’s been such a delay. But we are now in a position to put it out. … It’s finally happening. I couldn’t be prouder of the record. I think it’s a brave and refreshing record. I love it very much.

And the title – Lost In Transition – Does that refer to the band itself?

I think you could look at it a lot of ways. We definitely transitioned from young people to people in our thirties. So you’re friends and band members transitioning through all kinds of things. … Also, having a period where we turned away from the band for a while, wanted to call it quits, then wanted to make a record, made it and then there’s another delay. So there’s all kinds of transitions going on and it seemed like an apt title for this record.

How do you balance your personal life with your career?

It’s really all about my personal life. Since I had my child, my son’s eight, it’s really been all about Henry. I haven’t put a lot of emphasis on my career. I worked and did as much as I could, but for me there’s really no competition between Henry and my career … He’s definitely No. 1.

I had an 11-year marriage with his father. We still very much parent him together and he’s one of my great friends. That helps a lot. We do the best we can.

Do you think Henry might be the next musician in the family?

I think he probably has some skills. He might have a really nice voice. I hear it when he talks. Our voices are kind of similar. … He likes to play guitar and drums. We’ll see, but we’re not going to encourage or discourage it.

He sure has the background for it, what with his mother and father being musicians, plus you’re married to a musician.

He’s a really great guitarist and songwriter but he’s also a scientist. It’s great that Stephen [Wilson], my husband, can help Henry with homework. That worked out nice.

Photo: Jason Moore
House Of Blues, North Myrtle Beach, N.C.

How do you begin writing a song?

It’s happened a lot of ways. I used to come up with a melody and write words to it. Lately it seems like words will come first and then I’ll carve a melody around those words.

I’m thinking all the time. Every once in a while I’m bound to think something that at least I think is a little bit profound and write it down. It doesn’t mean it always turns into a song but I enjoy trying. My husband Stephen is really prolific and could probably write two songs a day if it was his job. He’d love it.

Do you read a lot?

I do read a lot … I’m typically in the middle of a couple of books at a time.

Have you ever thought about writing books?

I have. I’ve been asked to write a memoir. For some reason, I struggle too much with self doubt or thinking that people wouldn’t want to read it. But I will continue and if I’m lucky enough to get older I’ll just have more stories to tell. … I enjoy writing. … It just has to be the right time where I have the mental space to tackle it and make it mean something to somebody else.

Regarding the business side of Sixpence, are you and Matt the sole members, essentially owning the band 50/50?

We just invited our bass player to be in on a partnership with us. Now it’s Justin Cary who has been our bass player for 15 years, Matt and myself. … It’s a new thing but I’m super happy about it. He’s fantastic. We love him dearly.

Do you have a philosophy about life?

It’s changing all the time and hopefully getting a little sharper and less complicated. I’m just trying to roll with the punches. I think that’s the best way to put it. I am a person who has faith and I think loving is an act of faith. I’ve had low points, a lot of struggles in my life. And [my mother] always told me to say my prayers and do the next thing, whether it’s the laundry or the dishes or taking Henry to school. Basically, to say your prayers, leave it there, and keep going.

I try to keep it simple because I’m a crazy, crazy gal. I’ve got a lot of eccentricities … super weird.

What advice can you give a 14-year-old teenager singing in his or her church who might be talented enough to make it in music?

I would say to keep their humility. First and foremost, be humble about what you do, be diligent about what you want to do and try to surround yourself with good people who are knowledgeable and learn from them.

Photo: Tec Petaja
“But you’re your own worst critic and that’s definitely the case with me. I’m a little too hard on myself all the time.”

Upcoming dates for Sixpence None The Richer include Austin, Texas, at Waterloo Records July 31; Austin at Antone’s Aug. 1; Dallas at Trees Aug. 2; Little Rock, Ark., at Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom Aug. 3; New York City at Mercury Lounge Aug. 7; Nashville at 3rd & Lindsley Aug. 12; and Uncasville, Conn., at Wolf Den Sept. 28.

Click here for the Lost In Transition presale and here for the Sixpence None The Richer website.