By Michael Kaiz
After thirteen years of leading The String Cheese Incident, guitarist/vocalist Bill Nershi recently announced his plans to leave the band.
Bill Nershi by Keith Berson
For fans, the news was shocking. JamBase caught up with Nershi and his Honkytonk Homeslice cohorts to get some answers.
"If Honkytonk has anything to do with it" says Nershi, "it would be that I got that fresh spark about music that I wasn't getting, as much, in the past couple of years for whatever reasons with the String Cheese."
So the obvious question is of course, is Nershi finding that fire with Honkytonk?
"Honkytonk is old-school and it's simple" smiles Nershi. "A lot of it is that we get to drive around in a pickup truck; everything fits in a pickup truck. There is something very appealing about that to me right now. But at the same time, it's not one or the other, Honkytonk or String Cheese. I happen to be doing Honkytonk Homeslice now, but I was doing that when I was playing with String Cheese also. I could continue to do both of them, but it doesn't feel right to keep playing, for right now, with String Cheese."
Bill & Jillian (Honkytonk Homeslice)
It is interesting to note that Nershi is referring to playing with Cheese in the past tense, even with the Sea of Dreams New Year's shows and presumably one or two final tours on the way.
Listening to Nershi speak about his decision, it's clear he is trusting his gut. As Jillian, Nershi's wife, interjects, "I feel like you've had a little voice telling you for a while that you need to listen to your heart and follow what you're feeling musically. You haven't felt musically satisfied for a while."
Bill Nershi by Sewell Hatcher
"The music was changing" says Nershi. "There was less for me to grab onto the last couple of years."
And as many seasoned Cheese fans know, the music was changing. It was moving toward a more psychedelic vein and away from the Americana folk roots. Many old-school fans identify with the bluegrassy sound of old tunes such as "Restless Wind" or "Ten Miles To Tulsa." Those fans will enjoy what Billy is doing with his wife, Jillian, and multi-genre guitarist Scott Law in Honkytonk Homeslice. Fans will also delight in finding several Cheese songs that Nershi penned making appearances in Honkytonk's catalog.
"Playing with Scott, Billy really gets to expand," Jillian remarks. "There is a similarity; there is a good chemistry." That chemistry results in a very unified sound from Honkytonk Homeslice; at times it is difficult to discern whether Scott or Billy is playing a given sequence.