James Nash's Real-World Rig

AG 241 January 2013 Cover

Posted by Teja Gerken

Acoustic and electric guitarist James Nash is best known as the Waybacks’ flatpicking front man. Wielding a Santa Cruz OM, which most often sounds like the vintage-style acoustic flattop that it is, it might appear that Nash (jamesnash.com) would be a purist when it comes to onstage amplification, but just as the Waybacks have been described as “acoustic mayhem,” Nash has looked far outside common parameters to assemble his stage rig. Nash’s chain starts with standard acoustic amplification components—an L.R. Baggs LB6 saddle pickup, DPA internal mic, and Pendulum pickup/mic module—but then proceeds to enter a high-tech world that transports studio components to the stage. “I fly a lot,” Nash says. “So I was trying to come up with something I can fly with that’s as light and cheap and easy to pack as possible and that gives me a lot of power in a package I can afford to pay for, as the airline fees keep getting higher.”

Leaving the guitar via a stereo cable, Nash’s pickup and mic signals are fed into a MOTU Traveler audio interface plugged into the FireWire port of an Apple MacBook laptop computer running Logic software. “It’s a complex program that took me months to understand and figure out how to use onstage,” he says. “I wouldn’t recommend getting into a rig like this lightly, but if this is a world that you like to live in, if you do a lot of stuff with your home studio and you’re comfortable recording, then this is a great way to get a ton of power onstage without bringing a lot of gear.” Nash uses the software’s mixing capabilities to blend his guitar’s pickup and mic. “I EQ them using plug-ins in Logic,” he says. “I can EQ my bridge pickup to emphasize the low-end a little more, and I can scoop out the mic to deal with feedback.”

Nash has created a large variety of presets with different amounts of signal blends, effects, and other factors, and he uses a Rocktron All Access MIDI foot pedal to select his sounds, which range from remarkably natural to heavily processed. Because some of the Wayback’s material calls for a distorted guitar sound (check out the band’s re-creation of Led Zeppelin classics on YouTube), he uses Amplitude modeling plug-ins, but instead of distorting his entire signal, he’s created custom patches that add the effect to the pickup sound only. “I can press one button, turn off the microphone, and put a ton of distortion on the pickup,” he says. 

Nash uses the balanced output from the MOTU Traveler to send a signal to the house, and he has the capability to mix his entire band from the stage if necessary. But there’s more. Besides being able to fine-tune his guitar’s signal with surgical control, Nash also uses the same rig to simultaneously record his band, from the stage, using the MOTU Traveler’s inputs and a variety of DI and microphone signals. This has led to the release of several live Waybacks recordings, which are available as downloads from the band’s website (waybacks.com).       

What He Plays

Acoustic Guitar: Santa Cruz OM with Indian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top.

Pickups: L.R Baggs LB6 pickup and DPA 4061 internal mic.

Preamp: Pendulum Pickup/Mic module.

Hardware: MOTU Traveler FireWire audio interface. Apple MacBook (2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB RAM).

Software: Logic Pro 9.1. Amplitude 3 amp simulation software. Peterson StroboSoft tuner software.

Pedals: Rocktron All Access MIDI foot pedal. Ernie Ball volume pedal.

Strings: D’Addario EXP17 medium-gauge phosphor bronze.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar January 2013

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