Spotlight: Nina Nastasia
Nina Nastasia, whose album The Blackened Air is as beautiful and dark as obsidian roses at a lover's funeral, has been to Austin before.
"We did a little U.S. tour," she says kindly. "We drove through Texas, all those flat roads, and we played in Austin. The driving was a daunting task: There was a massive thunderstorm, and then it turned to hail, and then there were all these dust devils -- little ones, but big enough to move the van, kind of jiggle it around as we were going. I was actually a little terrified; it left a dent in my memory."
The Blackened Air, Nastasia's second album, leaves its own memory dents, setting a few devils of one kind or another whirling through the flatlands of your heart. In song after song, the NYC-based singer spins out image-dense tales of love and longing and graveyard visits in a convergent rising of strings: guitar, violin, mandolin, and cello.
"I have a hard time defining my own music," says Nastasia. "I'm the worst at describing things -- at least these things. I studied classical music on the piano when I was little, and I know that's influenced my guitar writing, the melodies and stuff. But I didn't pick up a guitar until much later.
"When I was little, I wanted to be a nun or a teacher -- for about two seconds," she continues. "Then I thought I'd be a painter. Or a writer. But I'm sure I wanted to be a performer in some way, because I would perform when I was little, doing these shows on the back porch. For myself and I guess whatever cars drove by and saw me do it. But performing is hard to even think about now, because there's so many things about it that make me nervous.
"Like interviews," she laughs, "or being onstage. I enjoy it immensely, but it scares the hell out of me."