Rob Nance
Gig Seeker Pro

Rob Nance

Durham, NC | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Durham, NC | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Solo Folk Rock




"Rob Nance- Signal Fires"

Rob Nance is an unknown to me, despite this being his sophomore release. Yet this is simply one of the best albums I’ve heard in some time, blessed by that odd hybrid of southern soul I’ve grown to love from fledgling exposures to Eddie Hinton, Hour Glass recordings or, most accurately, the country-blues-rock invention revealed on those first few Allman Brothers albums. Think southern rock via country blues and a distinctive sense of a soul of its own.

However you choose to define it, Rob Nance exudes it in spades on Signal Fires – a truly off-the-wall recording on his independent label. From sunny cascades of acoustic guitar and deftly finger-picked electric hollow-body to the weeping loneliness of pedal steel, accented by the style of staccato, brushed snare effect that conjures a steam train picking up speed. Vocals that are far from standalone, yet possessed by a ghostly, eerie edge in all their imperfections. Ten simple tracks devoid of anything epic are, rather, music-fired conversations melding heartfelt vocals to very basic musical accompaniment, as if all the same instrument. In fact, it’s often the music and each arrangement that make Signal Fires so special, merging a lifetime of influences to arrive at a distinctive place few others would lay claim to. These original tracks endured the rigors of the road long before they were recorded and it is this process that seems to have created songs locked in some rough, steel-wool tapestry. There are few holes or spaces left for the listener to fill in – every step is laid out as Nance and Company creep across a barren landscape to arrive at no place in particular, creating an uncomplicated, simple soundtrack in the process.

There are no obvious hooks. You won’t find a drum solo or any showy lead guitar. There are many instances of vocals so off that anyone else would’ve re-recorded them – which is the only reason this release can’t score a 5/5. However, Signal Fires works hauntingly well – all piano, harmonica, propulsive drums, country-tinged guitar lines and those emphatically sad harmonies.

Opening with a ghostly acoustic guitar intro, “No Gold” adds stunning pedal steel, electric guitars and drums played with brushes, achieving a sad, mournful, southern rock/country feel that builds and builds but is never resolved. It just ends. Dickey’s “Jessica” comes to mind. As if holding his breath, Nance’s vocal follows the bass-led “Landslide Town” – like a dry leaf chasing the current of a small stream. It is paired with Mike Runyon’s distinctive piano – one of the band’s key strengths, coupled with a larger-than-life synth effect, adding further tension. “Different Ways To Lie” ups the ante with its energetic, upbeat attack, benefiting – again – from Runyon’s piano and the smart touch of uncredited harmonica as Nance retains his tired, weathered tone, his melodic electric guitar riding shotgun throughout. The distinctive guitar lick behind “Nightbirds” becomes its key hook as a massive wall of swirling B3 meets the rhythm section halfway. The disc’s best track is found in “The Breeze” ­– the penultimate horse-ridin’ song, featuring stunning piano, further distinguishing itself by Nance’s wounded-bird vocals and the harmonies of Andrew Constantine. An uncommon change in time signatures and the burst of energy it provides to what might otherwise be a downtrodden dirge of a composition, “The Breeze” delivers a quiet grace while mining subtle strengths to bristle the hairs on your neck. More comparisons to the Allmans’ sound will ensue – with a double order of Chuck Leavell. The title track provides a mellow, somewhat gentler version of the above as piano and drums merge with the delicate touch of acoustic guitars. “Shelter” continues their bluesy, country fare – a strong acoustic number – yet Nance’s vocals falter, falling out-of-tune more than once. The wickedly powerful organ leading “On My Way” can’t offset Nance’s occasional off-key vocal – revealing a somewhat limited range – while his guitar gently weaves throughout, lacing things together into what is otherwise a beautiful country ballad that begs re-recording. Not to be outdone, “Dear Shadow” leans on B3 prominently, providing another upbeat highlight. The catchy “Getaway Man” presents strong acoustic guitars in a lovely unison yet Nance’s voice heads south again, scuttling what is otherwise a standout composition.

This is clearly a band – the prominent bass lines of (brother) Jordan Nance and crisp drums of Ryan Lassiter join Mike Runyon’s significant keyboard strengths, the odd synthesized effect and the occasional touch of forlorn harmonica. It’s the warm, gentle tones of Nance’s electric guitar that provide the bedrock – his laid-back, finger-style technique recalling a more rudimentary Dickie Betts. Another consistent element is the mournful contribution of Jordan’s pedal steel contributions (when he’s not playing bass), keeping things grounded in a lush country vein.

As a singer, Nance has an unflagging ability to sound hurt, if not entirely desolate and as inconsistent as this instrument can be, it proves the heart and soul of this captivating release. - Blurt Magazine

"Five Questions: Rob Nance Builds on Folk Foundations"

As a folk-rock fan who grew up admiring the greats of the genre, singer and guitarist Rob Nance decided it was time to broaden his own music in the hours spent on the highway between towns.

"I wanted to take the music that I'm comfortable with and see if I could push it in any new directions," Nance says by phone after a recent show in Asheville, N.C. "I wanted to follow ideas wherever they led, even if they didn't always fit."

The result is Signal Fires, Nance's sophomore album, out April 21. The record broadens the traditional fingerpicking guitar style sound Nance introduced on his 2013 full-length debut, Lost Souls & Locked Doors, incorporating everything from pedal steel to Casio synthesizers.

Nance, who is touring in support of the album with his brother, upright bassist and pedal steel guitarist Jordan Nance, drummer Ryan Lassiter, paused to answer questions during a recent interview.

Jeremy D. Bonfiglio: What have your live shows been like lately, and how are they different with this new album?

Rob Nance: We've really been an evolving act over the last few months. What I'm doing has grown from a solo singer-songwriter act to a duo show, and with the album that just came out in the spring there's a full run of shows with a full band going into the fall. The first leg of the tour we're doing it as an acoustic duo, so it will show more of the folk and bluegrass influence.

Your latest album, Signal Fires, is still rooted in the genre, but it also builds on that sound. Was that a conscious decision or a happy accident?

I've done two EPs and one full length album prior to Signal Fires. So when it got time to write the album I had gotten kind of burnt out on the average Americana sound. It's the stuff I love because I grew up on that, but I had been doing it for a couple years and I was kind of ready for something different. A big part of what happened on Signal Fires was taking the foundations I was used to – folk, country and bluegrass – and trying to find ways to do some different things.

"Landslide Town" is a song on there that jumps to mind. We started playing that song last summer with a straight rock beat, but when we went to record it there were a couple of parts to it that just didn't seem to click. One day after we got done with a session working on different songs, I said let's just see what we can do with "Landslide Town." We started taking stuff away from it and building it back up. We were using this old 1980s Casio keyboard and came up with something interesting.

What's the backstory on "Landslide Town"?

I grew up in a tiny, tiny little town in the mountains of North Carolina. Some of that imagery of hanging off the side of a hill and the whole small-town motif of looking to get out played very much into it. Some of it is semi-autobiographical; some of it is pieced together from stories that happened to friends. It's all centered on the Southern, rural, small-town angst.

Tell me about growing up there. When did you know you wanted to be a musician?

The nearest town to me was Spruce Pine, a town which still only has about 2,000 people. My family's place is about 15 minutes outside of it in the country. My dad was a semiprofessional musician and played regionally in places like Asheville and Boone, which were short drives from us. My brother, Jordan, who is two years older than me, was enlisted as a bass player by my dad before I really had any interest in it. I was actually a little reluctant at first. I wanted to do my own thing. My later teen years I circled back to wanting to play that kind of music. It naturally came together. It was a slow build. I played in some bands in college. I even had plans to go to graduate school. I told them I was coming and then that summer before, I made a decision to play music and follow something I was passionate about.

What about your first album, Lost Souls & Locked Doors? How do you think you've evolved since that time?

When I listen back to that album, I get a sense of me trying so hard to get each song to fit exactly where I wanted them to fit. I'm proud of it. It's a fairly consistent album across the board, but in some cases I may have sold myself short. I'm probably the harshest critic. I'd say it was good, but not great. But it still gave me the confidence that there was something I could build on, which is why I think I wanted to push into some new stuff with the new one. ... Playing songs every night, you learn what songs have staying power and what don't. That's something you can only get on the road. - No Depression

"Lost Souls and Locked Doors"

The title sounds defeatist, and most of the songs center on heartbreak and disappointment, but this North Carolina country-folk crooner is an optimist at his core. Titles like “Light in the Dark” and “Ain’t Losing Yet” tell the story, and if Nance knows he can’t whip the world into spinning his way, he’ll kill fate with kindness. Even when he’s plugged in and rocking, as on the Band-like organ jam “Good Day to Swim,” he’s a delicate craftsman, not a brash basher. “That old sun’s gonna shine on me some day,” he sings at one point. “I just hope it’s not shining in my eyes.” Worse comes to worse, he’ll get some Ray-Bans. - M Music Magazine

"Rob Nance plays free show at Motorco to celebrate CD release"

On Rigsbee Avenue on the edge of downtown Durham, Americana singer/songwriter Rob Nance is beginning to make a name for himself in his new city. He performed earlier this month at Fullsteam Brewery, and will be back on Friday across the street at the Garage Bar at Motorco Music Hall. Friday’s show, with The Hill Hollars, is free admission to celebrate the release of his first full length recording.

Nance, 26, moved to Durham about a year ago. “Lost Souls and Locked Doors” was recorded in Boone, where he went to college at Appalachian State. His brother Jordan Nance plays upright bass on the recording, and will perform with him Friday. Both Nances live in Durham now after growing up in Spruce Pine, closer to Murphy than Manteo.
“Doc Watson’s shadow looms large out there,” Rob Nance said of the music scene in the mountains. He learned folk and bluegrass early on. After Jordan took up the bass, Rob learned guitar. Rob Nance played in a couple college bands, he said, first covers, then original music. He’d rather play originals, regardless of the crowd.
“If fewer people listen and appreciate it, that’s better than covers, when people listen and forget you,” Nance said. His first go at originals was on an EP he released last year.
“It served its purpose, an experiment if I could write songs on my own and perform them,” he said.
Nance moved to Durham partly for the music scene, he said. Being from the mountains, he considered Asheville first, but the market there is saturated, he said.
“I knew the history, reputation of the Triangle,” Nance said. He’s played Local 506 in Chapel Hill and Slim’s and the Pour House in Raleigh.
“A good thing about the Triangle is you can play three different towns, and not feel you’re wearing them out,” he said.
Along with the Nance brothers, drummer Sean Leary will perform at the Garage, too.
“It’s definitely easier when you have people with you. Every little mistake is magnified when you’re by yourself. Plus, sonically, with drums and bass you can fill up a room -- not dead silent with a guy and a guitar,” he said. They won’t use a set list, just follow the crowd.
As far as genre, Nance doesn’t care about labels.
“Americana, folk, country – it’s all based in the same place. If people listen, they can call it whatever they want,” he said.
Nance said the next few months he’ll focus on North Carolina performances, returning to some places they’ve already played and can bring a crowd. “With this release party, I’m trying to build momentum,” he said. - The Herald-Sun

"Rob Nance “Lost Souls & Locked Doors”"

( As a small-minded patriot, I don’t consider Canada to be America, so Nance’s North Carolina take on Neil Young finally turns Young-isms (with some southern rook injections added) into Americana - Rocktober Magazine Reviews


Still working on that hot first release.



After placing second at the 2018 Telluride Bluegrass Festival songwriting contest and previously being honored as a Floydfest Artist on The Rise, North Carolina songwriter Rob Nance is quickly earning a reputation as an artist willing to probe the edges of the songwriter archetype. While steeped in southern folk tradition, Nance continually finds a way to experiment with sound and imagery that exists outside the tradition boundaries of the genre.
As comfortable leading a band and as alone with a microphone on stage, Rob Nance delivers songs with a lyrical punch that equally supported with musical chops.

Band Members