Former Union resident brings Nashville to Garden State

Photo Courtesy of Nash East From left, band leader Jeff East, lead guitarist Cousin John LaGreca, singer Gloria Lynn and bass guitarist Scott Tex Huber.
Photo Courtesy of Nash East
From left, band leader Jeff East, lead guitarist Cousin John LaGreca, singer Gloria Lynn and bass guitarist Scott Tex Huber.

Country music isn’t just in Nashville anymore — enter Nash East, the New-Jersey based band that is making headlines as it offers thrilled audiences its own unique brand of country western music.
The five-member band describes its music as classic and contemporary country, but they perform all genres upon request, such as rock ‘n’ roll and even a waltz or two. Currently, the band performs throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Jeff East, founder of the band, drummer and head of the band’s booking, marketing, and social networking, spoke with LocalSource about his journey, which he began as a professional drummer at the age of 18. “I took time off for many years to chase the mighty dollar,” said East. “I became a highly successful serial entrepreneur, which, the skills that I learned helped greatly with becoming the guiding force behind Nash East.”
East, who lived in Union for several years, and whose wife hails from Union, talked about what attracted a Jersey boy to country western music. “My first serious band was a Long Island-based band called The Gabis Brothers,” said East. “When I was 19, I played over 300 live performances with them as their drummer in a two-year period of time. We played country and country rock, such as The Byrds, the Eagles and Merle Haggard, when country wasn’t cool. But we were so good at what we were doing that we were quite successful playing alongside other great Long Island bar bands at the time, such as Twisted Sister and the Stray Cats.”
Some of the musicians that have inspired Nash East include Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Strait, Toby Keith and Brooks and Dunn.
East said he knew it would not be easy to find country musicians in New Jersey. “Being in New Jersey, I knew it would not be an easy task to find high-quality experienced country musicians,” said East, who started a “casual weekly” Friday night jam in his studio. He also used Craigslist and other forums to find country musicians and invited them to his weekly sessions. “Each week there would be a half a dozen eager players and, after several weeks, I was lucky enough to eventually find the core members of Nash East,” said east. “It was a sifting, refining process.”
East said he met Scott “Tex” Huber, the band’s bass player, six months prior to founding Nash East. “Tex is a solid country bass player that has both great lead vocals and is a natural at harmonies,” said East. “I did not have to look any further than him.”
Huber told LocalSource that he moved from the East Coast to Pasadena, Texas to attend college, and that it was his first exposure to everything country. “It is then that I had my first exposure to country music, cowboys, rodeos and the country lifestyle,” said Huber. “While living in Texas, I got to jam with some fellow students and played for a while in a country band with a few doctors I met while working in a hospital. While living in Texas, and after college in Oklahoma, I embraced country music.”
Huber is multitalented. He not only plays bass guitar, but also sings and plays the guitar, piano and ukelele.
“Guitar lessons began at age 10 and I have played in many bands and duos over the years,” Huber said. “Even did some solo gigging for a while, way back when. I’ve been singing since I was very young. I sang in church choirs as a child and as an adult. The great thing about playing and singing is I get to perform my favorite songs by my favorite artists. It is a rush.”
East expressed praise for the band’s lead guitar player, Cousin John LaGreca.
“The key to an outstanding country band is the lead guitar player,” said East. “I have been fortunate at a young age to have played with a top-notch country guitarist, so I knew exactly what I was looking for. I found this and much more with Cousin John LaGreca.”
LaGreca, a lifelong guitarist who is originally from Plainfield, has been teaching for many years and is a full time musician.
Once he found his bass player and lead guitarist, said East, all he needed was a frontman and lead vocalist.
“We eventually found our fourth member who, after a year, left the band and was replaced by three other rotating members. After several weeks of rehearsals, Nash East had our first gig and we have never looked back since. We are in our third year and with over 300 paid performances under our belt.”
Gloria Lynn, the band’s vocalist, told LocalSource that she has always had a connection with country music. “I’ve been singing and dancing since the age of 9,” said Lynn. “Although I’m versed in many styles of music, country music has always spoken to me. When I saw the movie ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ as a little girl, I felt a connection to the music of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline and wanted to be like them. There’s an intangible feeling that I get when I listen to country music that touches me, and I couldn’t be happier to be expressing myself with this style of music with Nash East.”
Alternate members include Big Al Willcockson on acoustic guitar, harmonica, lead and harmony vocals; and RJ Spuds, also known as Bob Miano, on pedal steel guitar, lead and harmony vocals.
LaGreca credits some British musicians with his entrance into country music. “Discovering country music was the result of learning who the famous British guitarists were listening to,” said LaGreca. “So many of them were influenced by people like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.”
So what has been the reaction to Nash East’s country sound in the Garden State?
“Nash East does not sell out to the so-called modern country,” said East. “Yes, we do play modern country and current songs, but we cherry-pick only the ones that have country roots and are well written. Good is good, and we cover classic country songs that are deeply embedded in the public, and play it true to form. The patrons sing along and get up and dance. Gloria Lynn even gets them to learn a basic line dancing song. The public loves what we do,” he said.
LaGreca described Nash East as a country band that specializes in traditional and older style country as compared with newer material. “The band puts its own creative spin on the older tunes to keep it interesting,” LaGreca said. “Our version of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is a good example of how we put an aggressive, rockabilly flair to it.”
East said that Nash East has just released its first studio album, “Kings and Queens of Country.” “This record features unique renditions of old-school country classic hits that were originally recorded by Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton,” said East. “For the past three years, we have performed in almost every honky-tonk, restaurant and bar in New Jersey and surrounding areas.” East said that the band also plays many private events, such as country-themed weddings and parties.
Recent highlights for the band include being chosen by the Prudential Center in Newark to open for the chart-topping country-music singer Eric Church, Nash East was also recently hired to help launch KFC’s new Nashville-style hot chicken product at the company’s worldwide corporate party in New York City. “KFC’s management was looking for a real Nashville-style country band and chose Nash East,” said East.
The band also recently co-headlined MusikFest in Pennsylvania on Country Music Day, which was Aug. 10.
So, what is the next step for Nash East? According to East, the sky’s the limit.
“Naturally, we would love to play bigger venues in front of larger audiences,” said East. “We really enjoy working together and collectively love country music and want to keep it alive in the Northeast. Eventually, we’ll be working on original music which will incorporate classic country sounds with a Nash East flair.”
For more information, visit Nash East on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nasheastnj.

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