Interview with Billy Nershi from SCI, Emmitt-Nershi Band & Honkytonk Homeslice

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billy nershi
Billy Nershi

Interview and Photos by Scott Preston

From the saloons of Telluride to the some of the most sought after venues in America, Bill Nershi has delighted countless fans as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and founding member of the String Cheese Incident. A seasoned veteran of flat-picking and a variety of acoustic styles, Nershi adds a unique, colorful perspective to virtually any musical situation he encounters, and his enthusiasm and playful spirit encourage an interactive, participatory experience for musicians and fans alike. His most recent forays into dobro, bass, and lap steel playing, as well as his accomplished songwriting contributions with the recently-formed Honkytonk Homeslice & the Emmitt-Nershi Band, prove that his musical horizons will only continue to expand.

Cincy Groove: How did you and Drew Emmitt end up meeting?

Billy Nershi: It was at a benefit for the Mark Vann Foundation. We both ended up playing at it. Drew and I played a short set together. We both walked off the stage thinking, “Hey that was a lot of fun, maybe we should put something together where we can tour in the future”. Later on he came out for a short run of shows with String Cheese. We hit some of the ski towns in Colorado and Drew would sit in and play every night, usually about 4-5 songs. That was a lot of fun, I have always been a Drew Emmitt fan. Before I was playing in String Cheese he was playing in Leftover Salmon. I lived in Telluride, CO at the time and Leftover would come through and play there quite often. I would always catch their shows. To be able to come full circle and have a band with Drew is really cool.

Cincy Groove: What’s the status on the debut Emmitt-Nershi Band record?

Billy Nershi: It’s all tracked and is the mixing stage. It should be coming out sometime this summer. Its was a great experience recording the cd and we recorded it right here in the room I’m in right now, the studio at my house. I’m putting together the studio a piece at a time. It was Drew and I, Andy Thorn (banjo), Tyler Grant. Tyler is the bass player in the band but also is the Flatpicking Champion from Winfield. When we were recording we had a chance to invite some other bass players to record and get Tyler on guitar on some tunes. We also had Jason Carter play some fiddle on the record.

Cincy Groove: What brought about String Cheese Incident creating their own ticketing and record company?

Billy Nershi: By doing it ourselves, we realized we could do it a little cheaper and have better service than most companies. Because we had our own company we were more motivated to sell more tickets. Then we decided to bring in more bands and help them sell their tickets as well. It was our philosophy that we would do everything in house.

Cincy Groove: What have been some of your highlights from the past year?

Billy Nershi: Definitely playing New Years with the Del McCoury Band. It was very cool to get to sing and play some songs with Del McCoury and Drew back stage after the show. Another highlight was this party in Nashville on New Years Day. Tim O’Brien throws it every year. Pretty much all the top pickers from Nashville showed up. We sat down and played some tunes for about 5 hours and some of us didn’t even get out of our chairs for the entire time.

Cincy Groove: Was there a moment when you decided that music was going to be your life or did it gradually take over?

Billy Nershi: Really I didn’t know for sure even after the first year with String Cheese if I was going to play music and tour the way we were about to. It was 1995 and String Cheese had been together for about a year and I was working as a graphic artist in Telluride. I had to make a choice between partnering up with a friend who ran a t-shirt business or going on the road with String Cheese. I actually had decided to stay in Telluride and be a graphic artist. But those guys worked on me for about 2 months straight and talked me into going on tour. I had no idea what String Cheese would turn into. At that point our tour consisted of Crested Butte, where we would ski or go mountain biking then play a gig that night. Then we would play a gig in Moab and mountain bike there during the day. Then we also played in Telluride. That was what we were doing before we ever played on the West Coast. We really had no idea we would have so much success.

Cincy Groove: Have you jammed with any of your bandmates from String Cheese lately?

Billy Nershi: Yeah actually. One of the bass players who came over to play bass on a couple songs on the Emmitt-Nershi cd so Tyler could play some guitar was Keith Moseley. Keith has also been playing bass for Honkytonk Homeslice. Honkytonk is also working on a cd that Keith will be playing bass on. I also played with Mike Kang down at Camp Zoe in Missouri.

Cincy Groove: Here is the million dollar question, What are the chances of String Cheese touring again?

Billy Nershi: Pretty good, I mean its always nice to take a break and play with other people. It opens you up to new experiences. We toured so much for so long it made sense to step back for a while. We have been talking a little, so it will probably happen sooner rather than later.

Honkytonk Homeslice Trio:
Bill Nershi: vocals, acoustic guitar, dobro, lap steel, electric bass
Jilian Nershi: vocals, acoustic guitar
Scott Law: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic mandolin

Honkytonk Homeslice Electric:
Occasional rhythm section guests include Keith Moseley (bass), Christian Teele (drums), Tye North (bass), Tyler Grant (bass), Jason Hann (drums/percussion)

Emmitt-Nershi Band:
Drew Emmitt – mandolin/vocals
Bill Nershi – guitar/vocals
Andy Thorn – banjo/vocals
Tyler Grant – bass/vocals

Emmitt-Nershi Band “Restless Wind” Live @ Yarmony Grass Festival Cooper Mountain, CO August 16th, 2008

Honky Tonk Homeslice Live in Amsterdam

Emmitt Nershi Band tourdates:
for complete show details visit http://www.myspace.com/emmittnershiband
Mar 27 2009 Suwannee Springfest Live Oak, Florida
Mar 28 2009 Suwannee Springfest Live Oak, Florida
Mar 29 2009 Suwannee Springfest Live Oak, Florida
Mar 31 2009 Georgian Theatre Athens, Georgia
Apr 2 2009 Rick’s Cafe Starkville, Mississippi
Apr 3 2009 Zydeco Birmingham, Alabama
Apr 4 2009 Bennie’s Boom Boom Room Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Apr 6 2009 Crosstown Station Kansas City, Missouri
Apr 7 2009 Copper Dragon Carbondale, Illinois
Apr 8 2009 The Old Rock House St. Louis, Missouri
Apr 9 2009 The Canopy Club Urbana, Illinois
Apr 10 2009 Martyrs’ Chicago, Illinois
Apr 11 2009 Majestic Theatre Madison, Wisconsin
Apr 12 2009 Slowdown Omaha, Nebraska
Jul 23 2009 FloydFest Floyd, Virginia