Meet a “Best of the Best” Local Musician: Nancy Atlas

Nancy Atlas has been a staple on the East End music scene for years—opening for the likes of Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Buffett, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. And her work was dually noted last year, as she was a rare “twofer” Dan’s Best of the Best winner.
Atlas, a singer/songwriter, won the gold award for Best Local Musician, and her band, The Nancy Atlas Project, took the gold for Best Local Band. No doubt a contender in both categories this year as well, Atlas plans on competing in the 2012 Best of the Best contest by playing every show as if it’s her last—her mantra. “I don’t take what I do for granted,” says Atlas. “If people make the effort to come and see my band then I am going to give them all I’ve got. Every time.”
Atlas grew up in Western Suffolk County in Commack, but she quickly let her free spirit take flight, as she studied at Cambridge University in England and Richmond College in Florence, Italy. Always a music aficionado, Atlas began playing guitar while in London. Self-taught (though she took a slight break from her post-college musical studies to embark on a solo tour across Egypt), Atlas eventually found her way to Amagansett. As a kid, Atlas spent many summers on the East End, and she soon found her groove as a true local. Time spent exploring options as a solo musician soon left her with a longing for a band, and The Nancy Atlas Project came together as a conglomeration of others involved in the South Fork music scene.
When she writes, she’s inspired by “a great lyrical twist or the need to purge a situation out of the ever-critical brain,” and when she plays, she’s motivated by the crowd and the energy at the venue. It’s no surprise, then, that Atlas broke the Stephen Talkhouse attendance record this summer for the sixth time. To add to her list of accomplishments in the past year (and, by default, her Best of the Best 2012 application) Atlas has written some new music that she can “really stand behind…that was a major accomplishment for me, since I have a 10-month-old baby boy,” she says.
With her “tell it like it is” attitude, Atlas fits the profile of a true rock star. (Her website greets listeners with “Welcome to the Music and Mayhem of Nancy Atlas: Live Large and Play Hard” and her bio includes the succinct line “She majored in art history, fine art, drinking lots of wine and talking s**t.”) Her blog posts indicate her love for her chosen profession, her fans and the absurdities of daily life.
Atlas was even tapped by the Long Island Rail Road for a public service announcement, though she didn’t know exactly what she was getting into at the time. A voiceover that she did at the Artists and Writers softball game in East Hampton last year landed her a gig at the Kew Gardens station—“Hi I’m Nancy Atlas reminding you to be train smart, step over the gap every time you enter and exit the train” flashed over various LIRR message boards. More recently, the 2012 Artists and Writers game saw Atlas performing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch to great fanfare.
Atlas now lives in Montauk with her husband, Thomas, and her two young sons, Cash and Levon.
“I surf, I write, I stalk shellfish, I love the small town environment for my children and my soul exists best when near open sea water.” says Atlas. “So Kansas was out for me.” Her weekends are often spent at gigs, with the Stephen Talkhouse as her “hands down” favorite venue on the East End.

Visit nancyatlas.com to view Atlas’ tour schedule and stay up-to-date on her musical musings.

Head to www.danshamptons.com/bestofthebest beginning on Sept. 14 to cast your votes in any of over 200 categories. Voting will continue through Oct. 2, and the winners will be announced in the Dan’s Papers Oct. 19 issue. Dan’s Best of the Best honorees will be recognized at a fete later this fall.

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