Chris Nasca nearly lost two fingers – and potentially his ability to play the guitar – in a kayaking accident on the Green River in 1997. He endured two “brutal” years of rehab while simultaneously booking gigs. Twenty years later, he said he’s still not 100 percent. There are visible scars where the tendons were reattached.
“People said, ‘Play slide guitar.’ I said, ‘(Screw) that.’ Your hands are everything. I’m still not 100 percent, but you gotta push through the bad. I’m doing just fine,” Nasca said.
Nasca has been a professional musician since college. He played trumpet in junior high but let sports take over in high school. He attended Belmont Abby on a partial soccer scholarship, but two years in, he quit soccer and returned his focus to music and school.
“I picked up the guitar when I was 18. I got a late start,” he said with a laugh. His college band, the Up River Tree Trippers, played the college scene and frat parties.
From 1989 to 1993, Nasca followed The Grateful Dead and saw more than 50 of their shows. Nasca’s love for the band is measured on his body with a tattoo of “The Wolf” from the guitar Doug Irwin made.
“Touring is a good way to study other musicians,” Nasca said. “I also toured with Widespread Panic and Phish.” A musical turning point came when he saw The Police in concert in 1983.
Born in Durham, N.C., and raised mostly in Birmingham, Ala., Nasca was exposed to a lot of country western. Which also happens to be his mother’s favorite genre.
“My influences range from the Allman Brothers to Neil Young and country music. I was really into ’80s music like R.E.M and Natalie Merchant,” Nasca said.
Nasca “lived all over” the country because his father was a Navy doctor. His time in Asheville, N.C., was the most influential. “Living in Asheville was life-changing. I learned a lot. It’s where I started teaching kayaking and canoeing,” Nasca said.
Throughout Nasca’s career he’s been in more than 10 bands. His recent musical focus has been three-fold. He has his solo gigs, or as he calls it, “Table for one.” He also performs as a duo with Erin Jane Cooper and with a full band called Roundhouse Assembly. Cooper and George Mossman are in the band. Mossman and Nasca met while attending Belmont Abby. Their first band together was called “The Critters.”
“Between the three groups, I’m staying pretty busy,” Nasca said. “I’m performing two to three times a week. This year has been more busy than ever.”
Nasca’s full-time job is as the owner of Broken String Guitars in Salida. He said while he’s a paid musician, the pay isn’t great. “No one has just one job in this area.”
The duo and the band play mostly covers, but Nasca also has a repertoire of originals, too. He’s recently been getting back into writing music.
“I weigh covers and originals equally. Some musicians would say, ‘Oh, it’s just a cover.’ But I think if you’re going to perform something, it should be your best,” he said.
Nasca said he is thankful for all the venues in the Ark Valley. “There are more now than there have ever been – and I’ve lived here for 20 years,” he said. “This area is growing and people are finally figuring out it’s awesome, and it’s only getting better and better.”
When Nasca first moved to Colorado he lived in Breckenridge. He enjoyed it but left three years later because it lacked a strong community feel that he wanted.
“Here, musicians aren’t very competitive,” Nasca said. “We’re all in it together. That’s really important.”
Nasca does believe that the way people listen and enjoy music has changed. He said music used to be the focus; now it’s relegated to more of a background entertainment, thanks in large part to social media and smartphones.
“People’s attention spans are a lot shorter. It comes with the territory, it’s their choice. Listening skills are just different now,” he said. “But they’re missing the real moments.”
Nasca, the Nasca/Cooper Duo and Roundhouse Assembly will be playing in venues throughout the Valley all summer. Keep checking Ark Magazine’s calendar for events near you.
“Music keeps you young,” Nasca said. “It’s all about the heart. The good, bad and the ugly – music helps you through it.”
Nasca performs this week as half of Nasca-Cooper Duo at 9 p.m. Friday at The Scarlet Tavern in Leadville and with Roundhouse Assembly at 10 p.m. Saturday at Victoria Tavern in Salida.