The worst thing to happen to the Nace Brothers Band in a while quickly turned into the best thing to happen to them in a while. In May, bass player and fiddler Tim Williams retired after 31 years with the band, but on June 1, Paul Greenlease was on the bass and providing the other three members — lead singer and drummer David Nace, guitarist Jimmy Nace and keyboardist T.J. Erhardt — with fresh inspiration.
“It’s devastating in the fact that you think you’re gonna have a revolving chair of bass players from here on out,” Jimmy Nace said in a recent phone interview from his rural Warrensburg home. “But luckily, that’s not what happened, and me and David were both surprised.”
Kansas City’s Greenlease, 43, had known the Nace Brothers (based out of K.C., except Jimmy) since 1994, but he had never imagined actually joining the band. After all, the Naces and Williams had been together since 1981 and Erhardt joined in 1996.
“I always was a fan, but I never thought about joining them,” Greenlease said in a recent phone interview.
Desperate to fill the fourth slot, David Nace heard about Greenlease’s weekly jam session at a K.C.-area bar that was known to draw bass players checking out Greenlease’s chops. He didn’t imagine that Greenlease himself — who had been touring with blues singer Samantha Fish for four years — would be looking to join a new band.
“Dave Facebooked me, asking if I knew any bass players who would be interested. And I said ‘Yeah, I know one,’ ” Greenlease said with a laugh.
Wanting to spend more time close to home with his 3-year-old daughter, Greenlease found a pragmatic fit with the Nace Brothers. Whereas Fish would go on four-month international tours, the Naces are more likely to book four-week U.S. tours.
The band members agree it’s also been a good match musically. Fans can decide for themselves when the Nace Brothers play the first four nights of the Missouri State Fair on the Budweiser Stage, starting Thursday.
“His whole approach to the bass guitar, which is dominant in any band, is the opposite of what we’re used to,” Jimmy Nace said. “His note selection is what’s most surprising. For example, we’re playing a D but the bass player is playing an F-sharp. Paul is a thinker like that; he works chords through the rhythm section that were never there. I was so intrigued the first couple gigs that I forgot to focus on my playing.”
Greenlease, who has performed in many different genres, said it’s fairly easy for bass players to join new bands.
“I’m pretty flexible; that’s the nice thing about playing bass,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily work that easy on guitar, but with bass you pretty much show up, make it sound low in the right key, and you’re in business. I can jump from one style to another, and the Nace Brothers are like that, too. They’re hard to categorize.”
Jimmy Nace is excited to get cracking on the band’s eighth studio album, the follow-up to last year’s “Well Traveled Road.” He has several songs left over from a recent attempt to sell some tunes to Nashville artists.
“I can’t wait to take them to him in raw form and see what direction he goes,” Jimmy Nace said. “As a drummer, David has the biggest smile, thinking ‘I wonder how Paul’s gonna play this.’ ”
One thing missing from the new lineup is Williams’ fiddling skills.
“Yeah, I miss the fiddle a little bit,” Jimmy Nace said. “But I’ve been playing the harmonica a bit to make up for it. It’s not the same, but it’s cool. We’re just working with what we got. T.J. still does the squeezebox on the Zydeco stuff. It’s not as Cajun, but it still works. People seem to like it.”
Although the Nace Brothers are now mostly Kansas City-based (and they practice at David Nace’s house in Brookside), a lot of their longtime fans are in Warrensburg and Sedalia. Greenlease is looking forward to playing for those folks at the state fair.
“Everybody I’ve met has been great,” Greenlease said. “The Nace brothers and T.J. have been super, and real welcoming.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Nace Brothers
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
WHERE: Budweiser Stage, Missouri State Fairgrounds
ADMISSION: Free with gate admission
WEBSITES: nacebros.com, mostatefair.com