Q&A: Nancy Atlas Talks Fireside Sessions at Bay Street Theatre

Chad Smith with the Nancy Atlas Project at Surf Lodge
Chad Smith with the Nancy Atlas Project at Surf Lodge. Photo credit: Ellen Dioguardi

East End musician and perennial Dan’s Papers Best of the Best honoree Nancy Atlas is set to perform with her band, The Nancy Atlas Project, at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre on Friday nights through February. This exciting series, called Fireside Sessions, will feature a different guest musician each week, beginning with Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on January 3. Dan’s Papers caught up with Atlas to talk about the series, her guests and her connection to Sag Harbor.

What was the inspiration for Fireside Sessions?
Beautiful music in a beautiful setting. The winter is a great time to reflect. I have so many talented friends; this is really a chance for us to sit down and make some amazing music without all the chaos of summer. It was also about giving back a bit. $15 is a price anyone can afford, so they get to see a killer band with a special guest in a fabulous theater and have a real night out without breaking the bank. I lived in Sag Harbor for years, so this is a nice way to reconnect.

How are you selecting your guest performers?
I’m picking from a pool of individuals that I would basically go to see myself. I am a fan of each and every one of them and they are all top shelf. I also want the audience to see something new. Chad happened to be in town, Randi Fishenfeld is in from Florida and Andy Aldort wasn’t on the road with Dickey Betts. The series is meant to be!

How will these shows differ from, say, summertime Nancy Atlas events?
It will focus on the guest more than my original music. It really is a mix of music they have written or particularly love and a few of my tunes. We are basically going to have fun and let go a bit.

Tell us about your first guest, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Chad is the best musician I have ever played with. Period. He raises the bar of the entire band and just lifts the entire room with him. When he hits, he hits hard. His show will definitely be more rock-driven. He is married to a good friend of mine, Nancy Mack. She took him to a show at the [Stephen] Talkhouse and the rest is history. He’s about the only man I can’t keep up with! I literally have to bend over to catch my breath during songs, but I do it laughing and yelling at him, which he loves!

What is it about Sag Harbor that speaks to you?
I lived in Sag Harbor for about six years. As much as I love Montauk, I definitely still miss aspects of Sag, especially in the winter. I’m really looking forward to seeing some old friends and having a beer post-show at the Corner Bar with [bartender] Ed Schuster and [owner] Jimmy Smyth. In fact, I’m looking forward to this entire series. I think it will be magical. I feel it in my gut. One thing is for sure — I plan to bring it on. The stars have aligned; now all we need to do is plug in the amps.

Following her first performance on January 3, Andy Aledort will perform with Atlas on January 10. Fireside Sessions are scheduled for Fridays in January and February, excluding February 7. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is $15 per show. Click here for more information and visit baystreet.org for tickets.

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