Nasti Weather blows through P.G.

The region is in for some Nasti Weather. Isn't that great?

A musical front is forecast to blow in from the Lower Mainland and cover a lot of the Prince George region next month.

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Nasti Weather can't be predicted by meteorologists or television weather anchors. It's the creative outlet of Anastasia Schlechtleitner, a self-described "garage jazz" chanteuse who is as unique as she is new to the B.C. music scene.

To be clear, she has for many years been a promoter of music shows. She has collaborated with names like Blackberry Wood, Red Haven, High Society, and Noah Walker, but it was only about five years ago that she forced herself out into the spotlight as her own act.

Now she is earning praise and rave reviews for her husky vocal purr and the comely clang of her banjo. There's a free-spirited wind to her compositions, and an intimate speakeasy air as well. There's a fragile elegance, a shy beauty to it. It's the sound of someone enjoying the way people can stand in a close circle, each with a different instrument in their hands, and work together on a single purpose made up of all their individual parts.

She has a multitude of artistic interests, and for years they wrestled with each other for primacy. The inner singer-songwriter finally won out, but that active mind is still evident in what comes out on stage.

"I like to play with my hands, I like to create," she said. "I found a word for it: multi-potentialize. I have always dabbled in things. That is part of why it was so hard for me to commit to music, and I feel like I have. It's an exciting move for me to feel like I'm actually sticking with something."

With some of northern B.C.'s favourite musicians like Saltwater Hank and Danny Bell, Nasti Weather has a whole tour of the region set to go in March. Bell, in fact, reached out to her based on some live performances he'd seen. He offered to arrange the bookings and also arrange the musicians she would need, which is still a surreal feeling for the old soul with the new musicianship.

"It took me quite a few shows before they (the other players who agreed to collaborate with her at the start of her career) were like 'Ana, we don't play with you out of pity, we play with you because we love your music' and it took me a long time to believe I was worthy of the musicians who were choosing to play with me. I'm still not a great banjo player, but it's not necessarily about that," she said.

Music - amongst musicians and also for fans - is about connection. The players who share a stage are looking for a mechanical synergy that feeds the spirit, and the fans in the audience are looking for a sharing and emotional spark that again feeds the spirit.

Schlechtleitner took the fan chemistry seriously, since she was one of those herself for so long before committing to learning an instrument and opening her voice. She was having a hard enough time with confidence, so she pored over old poetry she'd written, journals she had kept, pulling years worth of material to shape and glaze with new thoughts and concepts fresh in her mind.

"We make songs (we hear) about ourselves, and I love that," she said. "You don't know my story behind that song, sometimes I don't necessarily know exactly what I've written a song about, but I know that it's true, and it reveals itself to me over time, but I can see the look (in fans') eyes and I know they get the feeling of what the song is about. It's not about the story, it is about the feeling. It's how we relate."

If Nasti Weather songs could only relate one thing, it would be the resonance of mental health. The songs are not odes to afflictions of the mind, but they all have electrical cords that wind back into the chords they strike in Schlechtleitner's creative process. Art is about conveying bigger concepts, she said, and few concepts are more important than the stigmas and misconceptions that cost opportunities and life itself for the many who catch those sorts of maladies. She is one of them.

"I know I've struggled with depression and anxiety on and off for most of my life, although I didn't know that's what was happening," she said. She even visited dentists thinking the pain in her jaws were due to incoming wisdom teeth, or respiratory specialists because her breathing was so laboured. It turned out, these were physical reactions to the signals of her brain.

"For the longest time I kept trying to figure out the solution to the problem, and that was a problem in itself," she explained. "I still experience anxiety and I made the choice to medicate and that has helped a lot."

She does not recommend people suffering with mental health issues ignore their dark emotions, or pretend these super-strength emotions aren't real, but she does urge an enjoyment of life. That might well mean seeking medical help, and it certainly means letting yourself feel good sometimes.

"The more I've reached out and the more I've continued with this project of sharing these feelings openly, the more people have come to me saying yes, I've been feeling that too," she said. "I was feeling alone, and it is very healing for me to know that I am not alone and for me and other people to see that where I always thought I'd be a burden for sharing the pain I was going through, I'm finding I'm able to help other people move through that sense of alienation. When we all do that together, that can be so powerful."

The power of musical sharing whips up some Nasti Weather on March 20 (Williams Lake at the Central Cariboo Arts Centre), March 21 (Quesnel at The Occidental), March 22 (Wells at the Wells Hotel) and March 23 in Prince George at The Legion. Tickets are $10 at the door, with showtime at 9 p.m.

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