Bio | Band History | Press Quotes
What's A Nields?
The Nields story begins with the two sisters. Nerissa and Katryna grew up singing folk songs in the kitchen and in the
back seat of the family car. Katryna learned to sing melody with their father, eventually making her an ideal front person
for the band. Nerissa, on the other hand, tackled the harmonies; with that skill, she provided a natural counterpoint to
her sister's vibrant lead.
"I knew I wanted to be a singer and songwriter from the time I was 7," explains Nerissa. "I remember I
wrote my first song that I was really proud of when I was 13, and right away I had a harmony for it, so I dragged Katryna out
of her room and taught her the harmony. It was instinct -- I knew that my sister should be there."
In the late '80s, Nerissa and Katryna met a graduate student named David Jones, who had always longed for a career in music.
Playing acoustic guitar through an electric pedal board, he joined the sisters as they played open mics in the Washington, DC
area. Later, he married Nerissa and took HER last name ("Just like the Ramones!," he said).
The trio then moved to Connecticut and released their first two recordings, 66 Hoxsey St. (named after the house in Williamstown, MA that Nerissa and David were living in when they started the band, pictured here) and Live At The Iron Horse. They then convinced their close friend, bassist Dave Chalfant to join the band in time to produce their third self-released recording, Bob On The Ceiling in June, 1994.
Dave Chalfant, in turn, asked his buddy Dave Hower to play drums on five tracks. Yet another Dave felt the magical
sway of The Nields and entered the fold.
By the fall of '94, The Nields were a full-fledged five-piece acoustic rock explosion. The critical kudos were coming in,
with The Boston Globe commenting simply, "The Nields are young. They are hip. They are hot."
For the recording of their next album, Gotta Get Over Greta The Nields enlisted producer Kevin Moloney (U2, Sinead O'Connor) and mixer Ed Thacker (10,000 Maniacs, Victoria Williams, Phish). Initially released on Razor & Tie in 1997, Greta's re-release on Elektra's Guardian imprint later that year had the band poised for stardom. The Nields were touring the country in their aging Dodge van Moby, playing to enthusiastic crowds and constantly adding names to a mailing list that numbered in the tens of thousands.
But at the beginning of 1998, all was not rosy for the Nields, as they got the news that the Guardian label had shut down. The band quickly set up studio at Dave Chalfant's house to begin recording not one, but two records worth of new material.
Meanwhile, they continued to tour in Moby, which was on its last legs.
By early June of that year, the Nields had two albums ready and a one-day concert planned to raise money for a new van.
'Mousse, a self-release featuring 18 old and new songs, debuted at "Jam for the Van". The concert raised
$24,000, the band had enough to buy a new van (Nessie), and the fans had a new Nields CD to tide them over until the release of Play in the fall of 1998,
their first album on Rounder Records' Zoë imprint.
In the summer of 1998, Nerissa and Katryna were asked to play Lilith Fair, but leave the boys at home. The performance was a
success, and the sisters decided to do some shows on their own. This duo configuration, which Dar Williams jokingly dubbed "the
Probe effect" (a term familiar to followers of Star Trek) allowed Nerissa and Katryna to travel to places in the country (especially
the West Coast) that the full band hadn't been able to get to as often as their usual haunts in the East. Within a year, the
duo was opening for Cry Cry Cry, doing a tour of Alaska, playing the Newport Folk Festival and becoming a bona fide act of its own.
Meanwhile, the band continued to play together in the Northeast. Katryna and Dave Chalfant got married in September of 1999 (he kept his name). The
band went back into the studio to record If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now for Zoë Records, and it was released in March of 2000.
2001 saw the recording at the Iron Horse Music Hall of what would turn out to be the last full-band Nields album, the two-disc self-released Live From Northampton.
Nerissa and Katryna were touring almost exclusively as a duo at that point, though Katryna did take six months off to have a baby
(Amelia Nields Chalfant).
Katryna joined Nerissa in the studio in the fall of 2001 to record their first record as a duo. Love and China was
produced and engineered by Dave Chalfant. Dave had already made a name for himself in the music world, producing Erin McKeown’s
widely heralded Distillation and Ben Demerath’s Jack of Fools. Joining the sisters in the studio were Kevin Barry (Paula Cole, Mary Chapin Carpenter)
on guitar and Lorne Entress (Erin McKeown, Ronnie Earl, Mark Erelli, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer) on drums. Love and China
was released in the spring of 2002 on Zoë, and Nerissa and Katryna spent much of the next year on the road touring in
support of it, with baby Amelia in tow.
Also in 2002, Nerissa was approached by Scholastic to write a young adult novel, Plastic Angel, based on the song "This Town Is Wrong" (from If You
Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now). She had already been at work on a semi-autobiographical novel about a touring band, and
jumped at this chance. Since the protagonist of Plastic Angel is a songwriter, it naturally follows that a CD
should accompany the book. Nerissa and Katryna recorded the companion CD in the fall of 2003 (with Dave Chalfant once again producing), and This Town Is Wrong was released in 2004. The book was published in the spring of 2005.
2007 has seen the release of two separate CDs. The first is All Together Singing In The Kitchen, a collection of songs for all ages. This CD, a lifelong dream of Nerissa and Katryna's is full of the songs they learned from their father when they were kids. They were so excited about making the CD that they even enlisted their father to sing on many of the tracks, and they hope listeners will learn the songs and sing them along with their family.
The latest release is Sister Holler. Their fourteenth album to date brings them back to their folk roots while at the same time showcasing their growth as musicians and songwriters. The premise of the album is that Folk music has always been passed down orally, and as such, it changes with each generation of singers and songwriters. Each song was inspired by a pre-existing song: there's a revised version of the old spiritual, "Ain't That Good News," a modern sea chanty — even a version of Pachelbel's Canon in D.
"Best of all," quips Nerissa, "this CD is green: reduce, reuse and recycle is its motto. There are plenty of great old songs out there; why write new ones?"
That being said, there is plenty here that is new and fresh — long time Nields fans will not be disappointed and this CD (produced once again by Dave Chalfant) is sure to garner The Nields a whole new generation of listeners.
Want more tidbits of Nields past?
Nields-Nook historian Bruce Palmatier presents: This Day In Nields History