A kid growing up in Baltimore is driven by two contradictory impulses. The first is to get as far away from the city as possible. The second is to return as quickly as possible. Certainly it was the desire to escape the streets of Baltimore that drove a young Whalen Nash to purchase a one-way ticket to Amsterdam in 1984 with the hope of launching a career as a European busker. For close to a year, Whalen, guitar in hand, ventured out of his low-rent, third-floor garret on Haarlemerstraat towards the crowded Leidseplein, where he shouted folk songs over the noise of the street, trying to earn enough Dutch guilders to eat for another day.
The busker’s life was tough, particularly for a young songwriter hoping to perform quiet folk ballads for intimate audiences. Despite vowing never to return to Baltimore, Whalen, after a long and arduous journey, found himself back in his native town, hoping to carve out a place in the city’s singer songwriter circuit. Before long, Whalen teamed up with his brother, bassist Rick Ivy, and the duo successfully wrote and played their own music for five years under a variety of names, including the Churchmice.
In the early ‘90s, Whalen again left Baltimore for an extended traveling tour that took him as far as Japan where he performed with his then musical collaborator, Grateful Ted, showcasing American blues music at a variety of cultural events. By the mid-1990s, Baltimore’s call was once again impossible to ignore. After returning, somewhat disillusioned, Whalen found himself working at a movie theater, barely playing music and seldom writing songs. In the late ‘90s, however, something happened that would begin a slow, permanent change in Whalen’s perception of himself as an artist. He met the woman he would eventually marry, and she was from Austin, Texas.
Falling in love with Rebecca involved a simultaneous courtship with the music of Texas. Slowly, but steadfastly, Whalen began to absorb the storytelling traditions, poetic imagery, and hauntingly personal performances of Austin artists like Blaze Foley, John Dee Graham and many others. Gradually, inspired by this newfound connection to authenticity Whalen started writing songs again.
In 2011, Whalen moved to Texas with Rebecca so she could be closer to family, and for two years Whalen worked on their East Austin home while writing songs. Baltimore pulled him back in 2013, and Whalen began the pattern of driving back and forth from Austin to Baltimore that has characterized his recent life. Whalen performs regularly at various venues and open mics in both Austin and Baltimore. When traveling back and forth between his two homes, Whalen also frequently stops along the way in cities like New Orleans, Nashville and Galveston seeking out specific open mic songwriters stages.
Whalen Nash’s solo debut album, This Cowboy Came From Baltimore, is his attempt to synthesize the inescapable influence of his Baltimore roots with the revitalized artistic identity his move to Austin generated. The songs on Nash’s debut flirt with conflicting notions of sincerity and parody, with the paradoxical pull of wanderlust and the longing for roots, the security of a loving relationship and the uncertainty of separation.
Produced by Stephen Doster at EAR Studios in Austin, This Cowboy Came From Baltimore sports lean arrangements and spare acoustic instrumentation, which are perfectly suited to support Nash’s world weary lyrics and sardonic story songs. This Cowboy Came From Baltimore will be released through Atticus Records in September in vinyl and digital formats.