MAGNET Exclusive: Full-Album Premiere Of Salim Nourallah’s “A Nuclear Winter”

On June 23, Texas troubadour Salim Nourallah will release eighth album A Nuclear Winter. Although it was recorded with his longtime band, the 10-track LP is a stark contrast to 2018 double-LP Somewhere South Of Sane, a more acoustic-oriented affair.

A Nuclear Winter draws on songs written by Nourallah over the past decade, and it was cut mostly live in the studio with Joe Reyes (electric guitar), John Dufilho (drums), Jason Garner (bass) and Richard Martin (keyboards). But another major difference this time around was the addition of ex-Church guitarist/vocalist Marty Willson-Piper as both player and co-producer.

Of course, the pandemic played a part in the making of A Nuclear Winter, delaying it two years, but it’s not only done now—we’re also proud to premiere the album in its entirety today at MAGNET. Check it out while you read our Q&A with Nourallah.

State Fair Records · A Nuclear Winter – Salim Nourallah

MAGNET: What inspired you to gather this collection of songs together?
Nourallah: Marty Willson-Piper was certainly at the center of rounding up this collection of songs. We’d become friends in 2018, and that led to me wanting to make a record with him. I hadn’t recorded with my band since 2010, and I thought it might be fun to pull Marty into the mix. So the songs that fell into being considered for the record were ones that I felt lent themselves to electric-guitar-centric band arrangements. A couple examples of this are “Invisible Man” and “I Can’t Take Another Heartbreak.” 

What was the songwriting process like? Were these songs all penned around the same time/era, or did you pull together songs from disparate times?
The songs on A Nuclear Winter were actually written over the span of a decade. One reason for this is that the double album I released in 2018, Somewhere South Of Sane, featured songs with a more acoustic-guitar-based slant. There’s only drums on one of the 21 songs. So if I ended up writing a song that required more of a band approach  during the four years that I was working on that album, I would just set it aside. The rockers, like “The Sound Of Suffering,” are obvious examples of those songs.

What kind of vibe did you want this album to have?
The tone of this record lyrically is fairly serious. I’d say I generally make “serious” music that doesn’t take itself too seriously—a la the Beatles—but you won’t find my “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” on A Nuclear Winter. It’s definitely more reminiscent of “darker” guitar bands like the House Of Love or the Church. With regard to the way the album sounds, I wanted it to revolve around the electric-guitar section of Joe Reyes and Marty Willson-Piper and be a “band” record a la Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers. For the most part, Joe is panned to the left speaker and Marty is in the right. I wanted to keep overdubs to a minimum and get the immediate sound of the band playing together. You would think that striving for simplicity is simple, but it’s not. Especially when it comes to getting the electric guitars and drums right. You have to work even harder to make each part count when dealing with a minimalist approach.

What are the overall themes and concepts that run throughout the album?
The overarching theme involves the struggle and dissolution of a marital relationship and the ensuing five stages of grieving: denial (“I Can’t Take Another Heartbreak”), anger (“Invisible Man”), bargaining (“Loved By You” and “I Don’t Know”), depression (“Under Attack” and “Avalanche”) and acceptance (“Hazy Morning Glow” and “Let Go”).

In addition to working with your band for the first time in a while, which had to be pretty exciting, the studio time was probably made even more special since the aforementioned Marty Willson-Piper was there, too, co-producing with you. What was the recording experience like?
It was a phenomenal, exciting time. We’d pulled ourselves out of our regular comfort zone of recording in Texas and traveled to a studio we’d never been to before. We also went to Nashville, a town famous for country music. I wanted to make a decidedly “non-Americana” record. Being in Nashville made the experience even more vivid because everything was a new experience.

What are your favorite aspects of the album? Why do they speak to you?
I think I’m just proud of how well this band plays together. The rhythm section, John Dufilho and Jason Garner, have been friends and bandmates of mine since 2004. We’ve definitely got chemistry together. Richard Martin has also been playing music with me for almost 20 years. Joe Reyes entered the fold in 2009, and I basically wrote the entire Hit Parade record while being inspired by his magnificently fluid, melodic guitar playing. I wanted to give him songs he could really apply his style to. Marty just slotted right in and pushed the entire group over the top. “Under Attack” is a good example of how well these musicians play together. Pay attention to the guitar interplay next time you listen and how Richard also contributes without getting in the way. This is the kind of thing all great bands do!

What does the album title mean?
Well, it came out of something my partner said to me a few years ago. She was reflecting on an aspect of our relationship and said, “When you’ve survived an emotional apocalypse, even a nuclear winter feels warm.” I guess she was humorously referring to herself as the “nuclear winter.” It actually made me laugh, and I was inspired to write a song called “A Nuclear Winter” (which came out as a digital single in 2022). Later, when I was working on this album, I had an epiphany that “a nuclear winter” perfectly summed up the whole affair—so I used the phrase yet again.

You tend to record a lot of music. What else do you have in the works, either for this album-release promotional cycle or for future releases?
We’ve got a mini Texas tour planned in late June, and Marty will be joining the band for the first time live. It’s pretty damn exciting! San Antonio (June 22), Austin (June 23) and Dallas (June 24). I’ve also been working on two albums’ worth of material with my friend Billy Harvey. We started the project more than two years ago. Billy produced my fourth album, Constellation, and also all the songs that came out on my Bandcamp-only boedx set, The World’s Weakest Man. Anybody interested can also find that material on four EPs I released separately between 2020 and 2022.