When Tiger Army frontman Nick 13 intones, “Sometimes something calls a man to roam/He’s got to leave behind all the comforts of home” on “Nashville Winter” — the opening pedal-steel-underscored track from his self-titled new solo album — he’s not just whistling “Dixie.” To conjure up the retro-country Harlan Howard ghosts that haunt the recording, the Bay Area native left Los Angeles for Nashville, Tenn., where he lived and wrote songs for one unseasonably chilly winter. The album was produced by noted twangsmiths Greg Leisz and James Intveld, and released on classy bluegrass imprint Sugar Hill.
You’re into much more than Tiger Army punkabilly, like the old Bakersfield sound, right? Yeah. And that was something I wanted to do on this record, was try to reconnect both myself and the listening audience with the California country sound because there’s so much great country that’s come out of this state, historically. I feel like a lot of people have lost touch with that. And so many people lived here, like Bob Wills, in addition to homegrown talent like Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart and Rose Maddox. So I hope my music might inspire people to dig into that music a little more.
Why go all the way to Nashville to capture that spirit, then? I decided to leave L.A. because creatively, at that time, it just wasn’t happening for me. So I was able to find a place in Nashville right over Printers Alley — it used to be an office building that someone had turned into lofts. So I was right in the heart of it. And I didn’t really know when I was coming back or what was going to happen, which was kind of nice.
How long did you stay? A few months. And the touristy stuff there is really cool, like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The first time you go there — and I went there a number of times — just to stand across from Bill Monroe’s mandolin or a suit from Hank Williams. There’s something about being five feet away from something where you feel a real connection to it that you can’t get from listening to a record.
Did you find what you were looking for there? I think so. When I went out there, it was almost out of desperation, because I had this writer’s block. And the original path that I’d hoped to follow with this record had led to some dead ends. So I wanted to go to Nashville and absorb things and be truly inspired. And those things did happen!
IF YOU GO
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 885-0750; www.gamhtickets.com