Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Mastering the Art of Letting Go With gnash
[00:00:04] PF: What’s up, everybody? This is Paula Felps, and you are listening to On a Positive Note.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Today’s guest has made mental health a central part of his music. Performing under the name of Gnash, Garrett Nash delivers messages through music that might be difficult to voice in conversation. His latest album, The Art of Letting Go, is a journey through the tumultuous emotions brought on by the pandemic. He’s here today to talk about how making this album helped save his life during the pandemic, and what he hopes we all take away from it. Let’s have a listen.
[00:00:38] PF: Garrett, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
[00:00:42] GN: Yes. Hey, how’s it going? Thanks for having me.
[00:00:43] PF: I’m so excited to talk to you, Mental Health Awareness Month is May, and your album, The Art of Letting Go is absolutely the best fit for this. Let’s start by telling everybody why you named this, The Art of Letting Go.
[00:00:58] GN: The Art of Letting Go was a product of when the pandemic hit, I actually was about halfway through making a record. Obviously, like it did for a lot of people, the pandemic reset a lot of things for me, and it definitely reset my schedule. I started doing what I knew how to do best, which is write songs to process the universal trauma that we were all experiencing. The Art of Letting Go was actually a song that I had had from before the pandemic, and it just felt like the best summation of all of the songs that I was creating during the pandemic, because it was really finally clear that that’s the only choice I had.
This record is really inspired by All Things Must Pass, the George Harrison album, and there’s a song on there called, The Art of Dying. I think it was probably a fringe on that. But yes, it honestly, is just a product of many, many hours of deep meditation and processing and coming to terms with these very, very daunting subjects of sudden loss and fear, and wanting to be better friends with your neighbors, and when your cat spills something in the morning or whatever. So yes, it’s just letting go, and letting go of that resentment, and that grief, and that guilt, and the feelings that we all carry in different places in our body and in our hearts, in our souls, in our minds, and just being here now, which is why that’s the last song.
[00:02:19] PF: Yes, I love that song. Do you think that you could have made this body of work without the pandemic?
[00:02:26] GN: No, definitely not. I think that this was the first time since my career really kicked off in 2015, 2016, that I had a second to make a record that was really just for me. All the other work, you, me, us, and we were created with a very targeted audience. I grew up as a DJ. I’m a crowd pleaser and a people pleaser. All the previous work was very specifically, like, I know this will work with this group of people that are my fans that will love it. The Art of Letting Go came out of this place of wondering if I would never play a show again. Who knows where the world’s going to go and whatever, so I’m just going to make songs that sound like what I used to listen to, when I would be decompressing after a show, or growing up when I was 13, 14, 15, and it was a lot of Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, Elliott Smith, things that were more acoustic driven.
The record bloomed out of that place. I did a lot of it with my buddy Gabe Simon who’s in Nashville and we did it on Zoom. We had met in France at the end of 2019 out of writing camp, but we never would have come together in the way that we did without the pandemic. It definitely was a product of that time. It’s weird to say I’m grateful for that. But I’m grateful that I had the tool of songwriting, to use this catharsis and really treat music as a form of therapy again, for the first time in a long time, which was nice.
[00:03:47] PF: Yes. You said, this is a project you did for yourself. But what you’ve created is so relatable. There are so many songs where – and listening to it, it feels very personal to me, as if I – you have really captured, I think, what so many people were feeling and are still feeling. How is that, that you made something for yourself, and in doing so, managed to make something that was even more accessible and more universal?
[00:04:15] GN: Yes, it’s interesting. I appreciate that. I think that something that I recognized about music is, it’s, for me, at least my project has always been selfish and selfless at the same time. Because when I’m doing it for me, those songs end up connecting with the most people. So, my biggest success is I Hate U, I Love U, and tell me it’s okay, and the broken hearts club, and imagine if, and all the songs. They’ve all been songs that I really needed to make at that time. Anytime I’ve tried to make something that was too, just for everyone, and not for me or whatever, it just doesn’t connect the same way. I don’t really know how to explain it.
I think that part of my job, I don’t know if this is the whole job. But I think part of my job as a songwriter is to document the human experience from my perspective, so I try to do that in a very clear, transparent, and authentic way. I definitely captured that on this record. Whether or not it’ll connect with as many people as the work in the past has, I don’t know. But it’s out and it’s there for people to find, and for that, I’m grateful.
[00:05:14] PF: It seems like you’re less concerned about where it lands. For you, maybe the journey was making the album, not what happens once you release it.
[00:05:21] GN: Exactly right. Yes. To be honest, streams are not what they were for my previous work and things are a little different now, and TikTok is a whole new space, and learning how to adapt to this new world of content has been a bit of an uphill battle for me. But what’s cool is that there are people out there that are really happy that I’ve made this body of work and will listen to it and live by it. I think my main goal with it, the only thing I really care about is that it encourages people to just try being more present, and really listen to a body of work, and take that 30 minutes to listen through. I mean, I didn’t make some hour and a half long thing. Thirty minutes isn’t so much. I meditate for 40 to an hour a day.
If this could be that time for somebody to really sit and think and just be here now, that would be a beautiful thing. That’s really my only intention with it, is that it exists and that people can find it. I’m going to pivot to music moving forward for a little bit here that just feels that I know people will like these songs kind of thing. But I think that every now and then it’s good for my soul to put out a record like this. I’m happy that it’s connecting with people and it’s really cool.
[00:06:29] PF: Yes. You’ve been gradually releasing singles since October, I believe. Is there any one song that has resonated particularly well with your audience?
[00:06:39] GN: Yes, I think – I mean, there’s two different ways to look at that. Numerically, Money, Love & Death on the record has done really well. But that one actually – it’s funny, that one’s the one I took the most seriously last year when I was really trying to get my TikTok going. I had made all these videos and stuff like that. Who knows if it’s just resonating or – I think that one sounds the most like what people are familiar with of me, and actually made that song last as a Hail Mary with my buddy, Sean Kennedy. Because I just need something that bridges the gap.
What’s funny, is when the pandemic started, I had an EP that I was going to put out that I didn’t, that had the songs, like, a couple of them came out as singles. Like Hungover & I miss you, and Leave and things like that. For me, the Middle of Nowhere is probably my favorite, and that’s not even on the record. It just came out as a single. But I love that song and it lives in the same space as this record. Then, there’s a couple I make, because I made about 120 demos for this album, 120 to 160, somewhere in there. I have a lot of things that are not out yet, and there’s a couple that I love. But there’s one about my cat called, Me and My Cat. There’s another one called Hazy that I listened to this morning. That’s her name. I like both of those a lot. I love the title track, The Art of Letting Go. That’s probably my favorite if I ever do a show again to play live.
[00:07:49] PF: That is an exceptional song, and I’ve got to say that’s my favorite off of – it’s so powerful and it just has such a wonderful message. You’ve been so open about talking about therapy and the benefits of therapy and your own struggles in life. How beneficial has it been for you, first of all, to be able to be that open with it? Because there was a time when no one – I mean, Brian Wilson wasn’t going around back in the day saying, “Hey, look, I’m really struggling with this.”
[00:08:18] GN: Yes. I think what’s cool is that, with my fan base, I try to lead with example, as opposed to like, saying, “Oh, do it this way. Do it this way.” I just, again, like circling back to the human experience thing. I think if I just tried to – I think the purpose of my life, at least, I can’t speak for everybody, is to figure out why I’m here. There’s a set of lessons that I feel my soul is meant to learn in this lifetime. I think that part of that is teaching, and I love teaching, but not teaching in an oppressive way like you do in school. Teaching by leading by example.
So, I think a lot of the songs on the record are me just processing and talking through things that I’ve tried, things that might work for me, things that don’t. Almost like a podcast, where people are saying, “Oh, I’m trying this or I’m doing cold plunges right now or whatever.” Or, “Well, I’ve been taking these mushroom supplements. They’ve been cool or whatever.” It’s like, for people just to take or leave the tidbits that work for them. I’m a big Jack Johnson fan and a lot of the things he said in songs and things like that have encouraged me to think differently. But because of the format, he doesn’t get quite as intricate about, like, my therapist said this or my somatic yoga teacher suggested I whatever, or my hypnosis therapist said that I need to breathe more. My trainer said that I need to do more reps. You know what I mean? All these kinds of things.
I think that what’s been cool about that is like, I’m documenting my journey, and then when I’m older, and I look back, I’ll be like, “Oh, yes, that’s where I was at that point.” I’m sure I’ll listen to The Art of Letting Go. Some of it I already do because I made most of it during 2020, 2021. I think, oh, that’s so funny that I thought that that was the right thing. For example – it’s so funny, but I was plant based for a lot of the pandemic and I just recently started realigning that, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people that tried being plant based because of me. Now, I’m eating chicken again, and fish again, and I feel pretty good from it. It’s like, it’s whatever works for you.
I think that documenting the human experience is part of the point to me. The more honest I can be about that, the more that I can spread little tidbits of wisdom that I’ve picked up that, I think, have merit at that moment. That’s a lot of what this record is, is just me kind of reiterating the things I was learning. I read a lot of Ram Dass in the pandemic. I read The Autobiography of a Yogi for the first time. I got really into SRF, which is Yogananda’s thing. It’s just whatever I’m inspired by at the moment. I’m a very autobiographical writer, because anytime I’ve tried to write fiction, the songs are cool, but they don’t mean anything to me by night four of tour.
I try to just get people in the room here, especially a lot of my life lately has been writing with other people. I get them in the room here and a lot of people will comment to me like, “This is the first time ever that I can remember that a conversation turned into a song.” I don’t really care if the song is big or whatever, I just care that it’s cathartic for the person that’s creating it. I think that’s the goal for me when I’m working on stuff, and I try to get that for everybody in the room, or everybody on Zoom, too. “Do you get this? Does this feel right to you? Does that make sense to you? Do you have any wisdom about that? Do you have any” – I’m always picking up little things and jotting them down in my phone. Things my trainer says or things my partner says or whatever, because you never know, and it could help more people, and that’s really the point to me is to help me by creating, and then help other people by sharing.
[00:11:39] PF: There’s so much that you can say with music that you couldn’t just say. It really makes it easy to hear. As we talk about this, and listeners who haven’t heard it yet, might think like, “Wow, that sounds really deep.” It is deep. You have a lot of deep stuff. But the way you present it is so easy, and gentle, and flowing that it’s easy to accept and digest.
[00:12:02] GN: Yes. It was easy to accept that we can breathe and reset. But the first step is admitting and accepting regret. There’s all these little things, and it’s like, a lot of it, a lot of my early artist project was me saying things to significant others that maybe, I was on the outs with, or people relationships that had fallen apart or whatever, trying to get them to hear that. I think a lot of my spiritual growth journey has been personal. But it’s like, when somebody goes vegan and then they want to say, “Oh, my God, I’m vegan. You’ll never believe what I feel. Blah, blah, blah.” Everybody’s like, “Okay, we get it, you’re vegan.”
A lot of the beginning of my spiritual growth journey was being like, “Oh, my God, you guys have no idea. Meditation is insane, like blah, blah, blah.” It got to a point a couple of months into the pandemic, where everybody was like, “Okay, we all feel like shit, nobody really wants to hear that from you.” I was like, “I guess, I got to start making songs about it, so at least somebody will listen.” That’s where that came from.
[00:12:53] PF: I love that, because you are so into meditation. Can you talk about how that might affect your songs and change the way that you write?
[00:13:01] GN: Yes, sure enough. I mean, I think, for me meditation for a long time, I was using it as the main thing, and then I realized that it’s actually better used as extra credit to an otherwise healthy existence. A lot of like working with my hypnotherapist who I love working with, but a lot of it would be like, “I’m dealing with this anxiety or that thing.” He’d say, “Well, meditate on it.” I love that and I did a lot of that throughout the pandemic, and it was super helpful. But now, I’m working with a cognitive behavioral therapist, and a somatic yoga person, and that kind of combo-wombo has been really cool.
Now, on top of all of that, I meditate. That’s a whole new level of like, “Oh, my God-ness to it.” You know what I mean? Because the rest of my body feels great, so I’m not bogged by and congested as much. I’m letting go, always. Eventually, I hope to not have anything to let go of anymore and say, “Oh, finally.”
But yes, the meditation is great. Every now and then, things will hit me or I’ll realize things during that. But I think the best thing that it is, is it just gives me space and time to be, and nobody bothers me, and I’m able to just be in my own little world, and wherever that takes me, I love. I meditate off with a guided meditation to sleep. I meditate off in the middle of the day if I need to. Anytime I’m just feeling this, “This isn’t right.” I just go in for a couple minutes, at least, just to get some breathing done, because it’s all about breathing. Whatever breathing is works for you, people that go to church on Sunday. The singing is to get people to breathe, right? It’s all about the breath, and we need to do it and we don’t do enough of it. Right now, I haven’t taken a deep breath in a while. That’s why at the shows, I always make people take a deep breath all together during –
[00:14:44] PF: I want to talk about that. I want to talk if that’s – one of the things I wanted to address is the fact that you do breathing exercises at your live show. Tell me how that came about. Tell us what you do. And then tell us how the audience responds and what it does for everyone.
[00:14:57] GN: Yes, it’s very cool. I mean, I haven’t done it post COVID yet. But pre-COVID, I have this song dear insecurity, and there’s this part in v2, where everything’s getting really ramped up and everything’s getting really anxious and, “Oh, my god, I’m feeling” – and everybody knows all the words and singing along. Then, right before it smooths out in the song, I just stop. I’m like, “Let’s all just take a deep breath together.” It’s interesting to see how people react to it. Because everybody close their eyes, some people won’t close their eyes, right? That’s the first layer. Some people won’t even go there. Fine. But most people that close their eyes and they’ll take the deep breath in through the nose, and the lion roared out through the mouth. Sometimes I feel like, “Oh, maybe we could do another one.” I just kind of read the room. Then, I have on channel on the certain lines, like my imperfections make me perfect. Almost as these mnemonics of things to live by.
The breathing is really cool. Because hopefully, people go home and they’re like, “Whoa, that one breath made me feel good. I wonder what 30 would make me feel like?” I even did like a little Wim Hof breathing exercise yesterday, I saw on TikTok, and it was just like, 30 breaths. In, out, in, out, in, out, and then you just stop and he’s going, “Stop, don’t breathe. Don’t breathe.” Then, you’re sitting there and your whole body starts to get these amazing tingles and all this stuff, because your body is so oxygenated. It’s amazing how little we breathe. That’s why I encourage it at the shows. It’s a really beautiful thing. I hope when I do play shows again, people feel comfortable to do the deep breath in a room full of people.
[00:16:27] PF: Yes, it’s so important. We’ve had guests on before who have talked specifically about the importance of breath work and doing it. How do you find that it helps you in terms of anxiety, or anything else that you’re going through?
[00:16:41] GN: It’s the number one thing is, breath. I think that anytime I’m feeling stressed to the wall, or anxious, or whatever, the easiest, fastest solution is just take a deep breath. What’s funny is, it’s usually the last thing I think to do, right? I’ll think, “Oh, I got to get on the bike and exercise. I got to do 20 jumping jacks, whatever.” That’s all my body – it’s funny, because it’s just psychosomatic because my body’s going, “Well, if I get him to get on the bike, then he’ll breathe, right?” Or, “If I get him to go outside and take a walk, he’ll start breathing, right?” It’s just me being stupid or really smart, somewhere in my brain.
But yes, I think that anytime I’m feeling like that, just taking a nice, big, deep breath in, it just resets everything. You feel it all the way to your fingertips. It’s an amazing thing. You just take one, two, three. I mentioned, I’m doing the somatic expression yoga, this place called Pür Joy here in LA, which is this wonderful teacher named [inaudible 00:17:40], who I’ve been studying with. Basically, I go there, and I lay on the floor, and it’s the funniest thing. It’s not like yoga, you think, right? You lay flat, he studies how you’re laying and whatever. Then you move your hand. He’ll say, “Just move your hand forward and move your hand back. But every time, you take a deep breath.”
We’re going to talk tonight with one of his gurus that he’s holding at the studio, and last time he had one of these talks, I went, and someone asked, because he had some friends join or whatever. They said, “What do you do here?” He said, “Most honestly, mostly, I just get people to breathe.” That’s really what it is. Right? People go such far distances just to get a good breath. It’s like a good man is hard to find.
[00:18:26] PF: That’s all you need.
[00:18:28] GN: People go up the Mount Everest, and they go to Iceland, and they’ll go to all these places with better air and all these things. It’s like, “Yes, I get it. Because breath is so important.” Breathing is numero uno, most importante, a number one over everything.” It’s always the last thing I think to do, which is just funny.
[00:18:45] PF: Well, what’s so interesting to me is, as a musician, you’re kind of an unlikely spiritual leader. But that’s what you’re doing through your music and through all these self-improvement explorations that you’re doing, because everything you do, you then synthesize and turn around and present to your audience. How has that changed your audience? What do you hear from your fans in terms of them exploring and them discovering, “Oh, my gosh, I can change my life by taking these steps.”
[00:19:20] GN: Yes. I think, I’m lucky if someone takes 1%, and it’s not intentional to be this spiritual vibe or whatever. It’s just like I live my life and I feel like sharing it, because I could choose to not share it. But it just makes the music that much more real and authentic. If I’m not writing about what I’m living, then what am I writing about? The same five subjects everybody else writes about? I think what I’m doing makes it interesting and I think that’s what makes anybody interesting. It’s why we like Tom Petty or Bob Dylan or whatever, as these guys wrote just, “Hey, I woke up this morning, read the newspaper and felt like shit and went back to bed.” Or whatever it is. I think that’s most interesting.
Anyway, usually, what I see people take away is 1% of anything that I say. All I can do is lead by example, and I’m going to have bad days, and I’m going to have good days, and I’m not perfect, and I get angry, and I get upset, and my cat pees on the bed, and I throw things and whatever. But I go out of my way. I think a lot of the reason that I’ve had so much success early in my life on a spiritual pathway, is to be able to try all this different stuff, and then report to my friends and whatever. I’m the friend in the group, who when people are like, “Oh, I need a facialist. Where do you go for yoga? What do you think about this thing or whatever? What supplements you take for vitamin D or whatever?” People tend to ask me those things, which is cool. Then, using the music, maybe it’ll help people that I never even get to talk to.
[00:20:47] PF: Yes. That’s so true.
[00:20:49] GN: – maybe I’ll die early, and they’ll say, “Oh, boy, everything he said, don’t do.”
[00:20:54] PF: I know, we have to let you go. But I have one more question. I really want to find out is, what do you hope that people take away from The Art of Letting Go? Because like you said, it’s such a personal project.
[00:21:03] GN: Yes. I think the number one thing I’d like people to take away from the project is actually not something that I provide on the record. It’s something that they can find, which is a sense of genuine presence, and oneness with everything. I think that we are all on one planet. But I also believe that we’re all one plant, right? When you look at the trees, and you look at the other people, and you look at the cats, and the furniture, and all the things, we’re all rooted into the same earth. We just don’t all have roots that connect us into the earth.
I’d love if people just, at the end of it, say, “Oh, wow. I just did that. I just listened to a body of work and I feel pretty present.” Maybe that’s too much pressure for people to listen to. But just be conscious and think like, how does this reflect into my life, and all of those things? That’s not something I can even do on the record. That’s a personal journey. That’s my hope, is that people have a takeaway of, “Hmm, I’m here now. That’s cool. All right, I’m going to carry on with my day, whatever that entails.” Maybe a little bit more peace.
[00:22:04] PF: I love it. That’s fantastic. Garrett, this is a fabulous release. We are going to tell our listeners how to find it. We’re going to give them links to it, so they can discover it themselves. Thank you for spending time with me today. I’m so excited to see what happens next, because you’re doing some really incredible things.
[00:22:21] GN: Yes, me too. I’m excited too. Hopefully, I finally let go.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:22:29] PF: That was Garrett Nash talking about The Art of Letting Go. If you’d like to learn more about Gnash, listen to his music or follow him on social media. Just visit livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab. While you’re on our site, check out our very cool perfect for summer tie-dye Live Happy Now t-shirt in the Live Happy Store. You can pick yours up for 25% off through the end of the month, just by using the code Spring 25.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of On a Positive Note and look forward to joining you again next time. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.