Fireside Sessions with Nancy Atlas and Friends has returned to Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor for the whole month. Every Saturday in January at 8:00 p.m. Nancy will be performing with some of Long Island’s favorite professional musicians.
The series kicked off last weekend with Americana, Blues, and Rock featuring Nancy sitting in with Telly Karoussos and Brad Penuel of The Hopefully Forgiven, Josh LeClerc on pedal steel, and Johnny Blood. It was an electric performance that did not disappoint! Hamptons locals and visitors can’t wait to see what else Nancy has in store for the rest of the shows.
The Fireside Sessions continues for the next three weekends where the East End can expect different genres and vibes with every performance. Nancy Atlas is well-known in the Hamptons community, and her shows always bring about joy and a communal warmth that can’t be replicated.
Nancy spoke more about the series at Bay Street, what those in attendance can expect, and why performing on the East End is so special.
What are you most looking forward to about your Fireside Sessions at Bay Street?
NA: The reconnection and joy with my friends, the cackle and hum of making live music in the dead of winter and last but certainly not least: The audience. We have a real thing going on, this show and the people that attend week after week. We have become a family of sorts and it’s been a very long three years to be unable to see them and connect. My first song of the night was “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and that was my wink and personal statement to them. That is how it feels.
Would you tell us a bit about your musical background and career?
NA: I was writing songs by the age of seven on the piano and then in high school, I kept playing original songs at talent shows and such but started going to college in tenth grade for Fine Art on weekends. I opted to study abroad for college and continued with Fine Art in Florence and London, but I graduated in the recession, there was no work in advertising, so I bought a guitar to help ease the pain. It was instant. I knew I could die for it and never looked back. I formed my band, The Nancy Atlas Project in 1996 and we were the late-night house band at Stephen Talkhouse for sixteen years. We followed everyone under the sun and had a great run traveling the country doing private events. About ten years ago I just really committed to our original music and now we are one of the National Slots for the early show at Talkhouse, have a seriously wild ride every summer at our weekly Sunset Wednesday shows at The Surf Lodge, and head into NYC from time to time to play at The City Winery. Covid kicked us pretty hard in the musical nuts, but we are starting to catch our breath and move forward from it.
How would you describe your musical style?
NA: I’m a songwriter first. I only became a singer to present my songs, not the other way around. My songwriting style ranges all over the place, there is a bit of Americana, a bit of classic rock, I throw in some Reggae from time to time and let’s round that off with a Sea Shanty about two fishermen from Montauk. Ha ha ha. It’s all over the place and I think that is what people enjoy. The continuous thread that runs through all our music is the passion. We like to throw down on stage and leave people feeling lighter than when they walked in. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh but we always, and I mean always, sweat.
Do you find inspiration from the Hamptons that differs from other places you perform?
NA: It’s hard to be inspired in the Hamptons. It wasn’t for years for me but the older I get and the regulation I see on making live music kind of takes the wind out of it for me if I’m being completely honest. Am I able to think walking on one of our magnificent beaches? Sure. Do I find solace and artistic contemplation in the beat and wither of my Boston Whaler skipping past Culloden Point to the untouched pines that line a forgotten patch of sea pines along Gardiners Bay? Sure. But to create art, or specifically songs and then only have a few chosen outlets to present them in. Outlets that have to fill out music permits and sound ordinances and time restrictions: it’s a drag and not a healthy component. I find inspiration in towns like New Orleans where the freedom to express bleeds into the culture. Where they support and even revere the artist. We live in East Hampton damn it. We should be a Torch Holding Town for the Arts and yet it just always seems to be a fight. Not a fan of that aspect and would love to see it change in my lifetime. Look at Main Beach Series. That is an example of what will happen when you get a mayor in that supports the Arts. (Tuesdays at Main Beach was created by Jerry Larsen, Nick Krauss, and myself, and now has a weekly attendance of 1,500 people that will go shop, eat pizza, and buy clothes in our town).
What’s special about performing at Bay Street?
NA: Listen, back in the day when I was fifteen years old, I snuck in to see Jimmy Cliff play at Bay Street. He was amazing! The theater has a rounded seating plan that envelops the stage. It has a warmth and a joy to it that is hard to express. In the best moments, the show and the crowd become one. The true tunnel of love.
What do you love about performing for East End crowds in particular?
NA: The passion. New Yorkers in general are serious music lovers. Our crowds are committed and in it with us. I’ve seen little kids turn into adults and bring their friends. I’ve seen people literally fly in for a show at The Surf Lodge just to see our band. It’s the passion. They love the East End and have somewhat tied us to that experience which is an honor. The salt air doesn’t hurt either.
What’s your favorite pastime in the Hamptons?
NA: That has changed over the years. It used to be surfing but now I would say getting on my boat and just breathing it all in. I love a good huntress moment, like loading my car with a clam rake or my looking glass and getting a few dozen clams for dinner. Or driving on my boat to a remote beach with my family. Pure joy.
What can those in attendance expect from the shows?
NA: I like to keep you guessing. I have never underestimated the joy one gets from the unexpected. That is why, on a certain level, I think people come back. They trust me that I respect them and the money and time they have spent to come out to a show. It is an honor to be a musician. It is an honor to have an audience to play to. So the answer would be: The audience can expect to be surprised, delighted and hopefully, if we’ve done our job, blown away.
Can you talk a bit about how each performance will differ from one another and all the various musicians you’ll be performing with?
NA: Each week is a completely different beast. The first show was a barn burner for sure. Just completely amazing night of friendship, love, and kick-ass music. Hopefully “Forgiven” threw it DOWN. Next up is Danny Kean (14th) and he is our most requested male guest. He has played The Fireside Sessions about eight times, I think. His show is Soul, Funk, and Rock. In addition, he is just a monster keyboard player and singer.
January 21st is Epic Jam Night and that is going to be a complete and utter blast beginning to end. As more info comes out about this I think it will sell out fast but for now, this is going to be a bit of a reunion for all of our local favorites and then some. I can’t wait.
We are taking the FSS out with style on Jan 28th, our guests are Gene Casey, and Eugene Chrysler and it will have a complete Rockabilly vibe going on that night. We played in 2019 with Gene and Eugene and it was one of my favorite shows ever. I cannot wait.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
NA: A huge shout out to Tracy Mitchell for keeping the series alive and walking through the last three years with us. She truly put the health of the audience first and it’s just a joy to finally be able to be back in the theater doing what we were meant to do.
Follow along with Nancy on Instagram @nancyatlas or check out the band on Spotify at: The Nancy Atlas Project Cut and Run. To learn more about the Fireside Sessions and purchase tickets, visit www.baystreet.org.