Drawing from the memories that colored his childhood summers in Cape Cod, Brian Nash creates works, both playful and provocative, that speak to the kid at heart. Brian hails from Boston and is proud to “have the accent to prove it.” After working for several years at an ad agency in Chicago, Brian took a job at at Ralph Lauren in New York City. Longing to expand his creative repertoire, he eventually packed his bags and moved to Nashville to write country music. Though he recorded numerous songs for major labels, his songwriting took a backseat once he started painting; it was an instantaneous love affair.
Brian could very well be writing a movie about his life, but decided to chat with us instead. Check it out!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Boston. I moved to Chicago after college and worked at Leo Burnett, a big advertising agency, where I was an account executive for Pillsbury products.
I left Chicago to get an MBA from Dartmouth, after which I became the Director of Retail Marketing and Advertising for Polo Ralph Lauren in NYC. I worked there for many years, until — wanting to try something completely different – I moved to Nashville to write country music. I had many songs recorded and on the charts, but, at a certain point, I stopped enjoying it.
I picked up a paint brush on a whim, and started painting. I stopped writing music as soon as I started painting, and have discovered that it is the creative outlet that I had been looking for.
How does your advertising background influence your artwork?
Leo Burnett is an incredible ad agency. One of their guiding principles is that every ad must tell a story. Polo Ralph Lauren is the same way. Just from the visual, you know who is wearing those clothes, where they’re from, where they’re going, etc. That philosophy has rubbed off on me. I try to have some story or a sense of movement in my paintings.
I love your snow globe series. Can you share the story behind how that came to be?
I traveled a lot when I worked for Polo, and would collect a snow globe from every city or state I slept in. I moved into a loft a few years ago — plenty of room to paint! – and, as with most lofts, there is no place to put anything you don’t need. Ergo, I gave away my collection of over 100 snow globes. I was missing them one night, so I painted one. And then another. And another. I’ve now painted a LOT of cities, most of which I’ve been to.
What spurred the change from corporate America to country music?
While I was at Polo, I was recruited by a big clothing company from Australia. I love Oz, and I was tempted to take the job and move to Melbourne, but I realized I didn’t want to keep doing the same thing, just with a different accent.
I’ve played guitar and piano pretty much my whole life, and I love music. Also, growing up in Boston, I had a lot of exposure to the folksier side of country, and thought I would do something completely different. I moved to Nashville without ever having visited it, pretty certain that my future lay in writing country music! I loved it writing music until…I didn’t.
Did you write anything we might know?
Maybe? It depends on how much you know country. I sometimes hear strangers sing a song I wrote, and that is a little weird. I didn’t write a huge number one song that everyone knows, but I wrote a bunch of songs that were on the radio on and on tv shows, etc.
How did you get into painting?
It was random.
Someone who had been crashing on my couch was an artist, and he left behind a half-finished portrait of a friend of ours. For some reason, I picked up a brush and finished it, thought it was fun, and kept on painting. I haven’t stopped since.
Your artwork has appeared on TV. Which shows?
My paintings have been in a bunch of tv shows as set decorations. Nashville, a few times. King of Queens. Real Housewives of Nashville. And a few more that I can’t even remember. I don’t have a tv set, and don’t even know the names of the shows they’ve been on. They just send me a form to sign, I sign it, then send it back. I should pay more attention to things like that, but I don’t.
Have you sold work to anyone in the biz?
One of the creators of The Simpsons — and the writer/director of Rugrats and Bridge to Terabithia — bought eight of my paintings. When I first started out, I had a few things on eBay, and he bought one from it. After he got it, he contacted me to buy a few more, and then, after that, he bought a few more.
He ended up buying eight in total. I’ve actually never seen The Simpsons — no tv set! — and didn’t recognize his name, but I mentioned it to my sister, who is a big Simpsons fan, and she told me who he was. I thought that was pretty cool.
Since you worked at Polo, I gotta ask. Did you ever meet Ralph?
I’ve met Ralph, many times.
For someone who is as famous as he is, he is also incredibly hard working. NOTHING went out the door without his first approving it. He is soft spoken, kind, focused, and very patient, and I learned an incredible amount by working at Polo and by just observing him.
He’s not stepping down, or even aside. I think he probably just realized that he was getting older, and there might be a time when he can’t be there every day, so he wanted to make sure his house is in order while he still can. I’m a little surprised by whom he chose, but he is an incredibly intelligent man who has rarely judged someone or their ability incorrectly.
I’m sorry if it sounds like I swallowed the kool aid, but it really is an incredible place to work, and I made some of my closest friends while I was there.