Leigh Nash has always felt a special connection to fans of her music. From her days as a teenager singing in open-mic nights to touring as part of Sixpence None The Richer in the late ‘90s, and well into her solo career, engaging with those who’ve felt a kinship to her music has been a large part of her life as a singer-songwriter. But when the pandemic hit, she didn’t know quite how to speak to them.
“I had a hard time knowing what to say to fans,” Nash tells American Songwriter. “I was really deflated and scared. I was not brave about it at all.” Like many, Nash was terrified for her family and experienced panic attacks and a worsening of her anxiety and depression. “I was blessed to not be struggling financially, and I felt guilty about that and how to engage with fans, and have that connection with them, which is usually a lifeline for me.”
As much as Nash had tried to focus on the time she was getting to spend with her loved ones, it was, as it has been, a difficult time for the Nashville-based singer. In March last year, Nash, full of hope and optimism, released her EP, Get Happy. “Get Happy came out, and then the pandemic came out,” she says.
Nash admits it was hard to focus on writing music. “It didn’t serve me well in the creativity department,” she says. Working with her husband, Stephen Wilson, they wrote ‘Made for This’ as a way to channel some of the feelings she was experiencing. “We’re pretty combative and we fight a lot,” she says. “We wrote the song around June, when we’d been in lockdown hardcore. We recorded it as a duet, about our relationship, about how ‘we’re not made for this, we’re made for love.’”
But it’s the song ‘Good Trouble’ that has been a beacon for her, and for many others looking to address issues of equality and injustice that have been plaguing the country for centuries. The Black Lives Matter protests that grew in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others, had been playing on Nash’s mind, and the sadness that added to it when Congressman John Lewis died in July 2020. “In my silent grief and prayer, God kept whispering the words of John Lewis in my head,” she says. “I always loved John Lewis, because he had a sparkle in his eye and it came from all of his experiences and his brilliance.”
Initially, she held back on writing a song because she thought there would be many others who’d have the same idea. “I thought everyone was going to write a song called ‘Good Trouble’ and they’ll all be better than mine,” she chuckles. Nonetheless, she reached out to fellow songwriter Matt Maher and to Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Ruby Amanfu to create the beautiful, melodic track.
’Good Trouble’ takes some of the onus that’s all too often put on Black people to address racism and upholds the responsibility of white singers, like Nash. “The first words that came out were acknowledging my skin color, and it’s not that I’m ashamed of it, but it carries so much with it,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot through this song. I’ve learned a lot through Ruby, from reading books and trying to educate myself on the history behind racism, so I’m growing up in that way a little bit at a time. If there’s necessary trouble to be made, put me in coach!”
Whether on her own or with others, Nash has always wanted to achieve what any singer-songwriter wants—that the work they put out moves those who hear it. Just like she hopes the song will, as it continues to find its way to listeners. There’s more to come, too. As she continues to lean into her music for strength, Nash has been working on an album of duets, featuring the likes of her childhood heroes, Reba McEntire and Tanya Tucker, and the owner of one of her favorite voices of all time, CeCe Winans.
There’s also been talk of a reunion with Sixpence None The Richer, the alternative rock band she first joined when she was 16, that radically changed the course of her country-music-loving career. In 2019, she re-recorded their mega-hit “Kiss Me,” for its 20th anniversary. “The night before the lockdown began, we’d been listening to demos,” she says. “There’s some music that has already begun, but I’m not sure when it’s going to start up again,” she says. “I would absolutely love it. But I’m taking it one step at a time, and I’m very thankful for the music that I’m able to put out now.”
She’s also looking forward to the day she can sing for fans live and in person again— though she knows it will be emotional. “When I think about performing live again, my eyes well up with tears. It’s made me understand and appreciate all over again how much I need it,” she says. “I feel like a bird who’s wings have been clipped. I can’t describe how much I’ve missed that specific connection that I can make with people and with my voice.”
Photo of Leigh by Jeff Fasano.