Song in My Head: String Cheese Incident Guitarist Bill Nershi Talks New Music

by James Wood
Posted May 4, 2014 at 2:57pm

It’s been nearly nine years since the String Cheese Incident released their last album, One Step Closer.

While the jam band may not have “technically” released any new material during that time, they’ve continued to write and perform new music for fans who’ve been following them since their formation in the Colorado ski towns of Crested Butte and Telluride in 1993.

The title of the band’s new album, Song in My Head (produced by former Talking Head Jerry Harrison), could be taken quite literally, as the material found on it is sure to spark the imagination of new and longtime fans. Songs such as the title track and “Colorado Bluebird Sky” showcase the talents of all six members of the band, while “Struggling Angel” pays homage to a fallen fan.

While it might be a long-overdue album in terms of timing, Song in My Head proves the wait was well worth it.

The String Cheese Incident features Bill Nershi (guitar), Jason Hann (percussion), Kyle Hollingsworth (keyboards), Michael Kang (mandolin, guitar), Keith Moseley (bass) and Michael Travis (drums).

I recently spoke to Nershi about Song in My Head.

GUITAR WORLD: What spawned this new record?

I’ve actually been trying to get the band to make an album for a few years. There’s always an argument to be made against putting out a CD because it’s not the same market as it used to be. But we’ve been accumulating a backlog of great songs and felt the time was right to record.

How does a String Cheese Incident song come together?

Our songwriting process runs the gambit from just having a chord progression and bringing it to the band to work on, all the way up to making a complete demo of the song beforehand and bringing that in. There are a variety of different ways but no shortage of ideas. In fact, we just had a session recently where we brought in five new songs. That’s why we decided to call this album Song in My Head, because there are a lot of songs we had been playing that we wanted recorded.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new record. What’s the origin of "Song in My Head"?

“Song in My Head” was something my daughter used to walk around the house saying. She would always say she had a song stuck in her head that she couldn’t get out and it was driving her crazy [laughs]. I thought, “Wow! That’s actually a pretty good thing that you have a song in your head.” That started the idea for the song, and the band fleshed it out.

“Colorado Bluebird Sky”

I wrote that song with my wife, Jillian. We had the same idea to write a song about Colorado. We really missed the spirit we used to have with Colorado and John Denver. So we harnessed that a little bit and took our ideas and put it together.

“Struggling Angel”

That’s a song Keith wrote. He wrote it about a good friend of ours who had taken her own life. She was a great friend of the band and a big part of our community of fans and friends. It was a tough thing to deal with, but it’s a song Keith wrote to honor her.

What was the recording process like?

This was the first time we worked with Jerry Harrison. He came to Boulder and helped us take the basic tracks and polish them into the songs you hear now. He was great to work with. The thing I like about this new album is that it’s concise and sounds like the band. We don’t try to sound like something else.

Did you always know that music was going to be your calling?

I never really had dreams. I just enjoyed doing it. What I did in Telluride for a long time was just to try and find a partner to do a duo gig with, or get a few friends to make a little extra money. I never really looked to get into bands. I just loved being able to express myself.

Who were some of your early musical influences?

I went through a lot of different stages. Growing up, I had older brothers who listened to everything from the Moody Blues, Beach Boys and Beatles to King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes. In high school, I started listening to bluegrass and Southern rock like Marshall Tucker and the Allman Brothers. Two of my favorite guitar players are Doc Watson and Dickey Betts.

What are you most looking forward to in terms of releasing Song in My Head?

For me, putting out the new album is priming the pumps. We had a back log of material we never recorded. Getting this down and out to the people has given us new life, and now we’re ready to come out with more new ideas. As we saw from our last rehearsal session, we’ve already brought in five new songs. There’s a new creative burst in the band and it feels good. I don’t ever want to be that band that just plays the same old material.

For more on the String Cheese Incident:

Official Website: stringcheeseincident.com
Facebook: facebook.com/stringcheeseincident

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.