Graham Nash remains a tenor of our times
By Loren King / Banner Correspondent - Wicked Local
Graham Nash lives in the now. Of course, as a two-time member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — as part of the iconic bands The Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash — he’s forever connected to a glorious past. But, he says, he has never dwelled there for long. There’s too much at stake in the present.
“I’m a communicator, not just a musician. I have ideas, and I want to transcribe those ideas into music, and I want to play that music. It’s how I communicate,” Nash, 75, says in a telephone interview before embarking on a summer-long tour. The only thing that has changed for him is that he’s now performing solo in smaller, more intimate venues than the arenas that Nash, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young once filled together (during the brief heyday when Young came aboard to make Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and sang at Woodstock). But Nash likes it that way.
“It’s a pleasure to be able to look into people’s eyes and connect with them,” he says.
If all goes as planned, he’ll be doing just that at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 17, at Payomet Performing Arts Center at 29 Old Dewline Road in Truro, along with guitarist and fellow Englishman Shane Fontayne (“a brilliant musician,” Nash says), who produced “This Path Tonight,” Nash’s first solo record of new music in 14 years.
With more than six decades’ worth of material from his storied career, Nash says he rarely plans his set lists far in advance. Whether singing songs from his new album or classics such as “Our House” or “Marrakesh Express,” Nash says, “I do it all with the same passion. I have a lot of songs — David and Steve and Neil are all great writers. I’m just getting on with life over the last couple of years. There is nothing but the future. When the sun goes down, this day is done.”
From the earliest days of his career, Nash has been a vocal and passionate social activist. He is, after all, the songwriter responsible for many still-relevant anthems that provided the soundtrack to the tumultuous early ’70s: “Teach Your Children,” “Military Madness,” “Immigration Man” and “Chicago,” with its defiant yet hopeful declaration, “We can change the world.” He was one of the founders of the Musicians United for Safe Energy collective and helped organize the historic No Nukes concert at Madison Square Garden in 1979. The current political landscape may have renewed his sense of purpose, but Nash, who’s also an accomplished photographer, painter and writer, has always been responding to the world around him.
“Unfortunately, this administration is setting this country back 50 years after so much good work has been done to make this planet better,” he says. “One of the things that disgusts me totally about this administration is its attitude toward women. This country deserves better. We’ve been trained to follow the headlines — a thousand people killed today and it’s forgotten tomorrow because Trump said something.”
A native of Salford, in the northwest of England, Nash came to the U.S. with the British Invasion as a founding member of The Hollies, a band that shared stages with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones back in England. He soon met David Crosby and Stephen Stills — the three sang together for the first time in 1968 at the Los Angeles home of Joni Mitchell, Nash’s romantic partner for a time. Crosby, Stills & Nash came to embody a particular burnished California sound, centered in the musician-rich Laurel Canyon neighborhood, which drew on influences from blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz and blended blissful harmonies with poetic and topical lyrics. Nash detailed those heady, often drug-fueled days at the forefront of the counterculture in his 2013 memoir, “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life,” which earned strong reviews and became a bestseller.
“It was time to reevaluate my life,” he says of the writing process. “I wanted it to sound like I was talking to you in your kitchen. After I wrote the first draft, I thought, ‘I wish I was him. What a life.’ ”
Besides writing, which he does nearly every day, Nash says painting is his primary form of expression. He recently completed 16 abstract works, he says.
“In terms of purpose, right now that’s how it’s coming, because I’m not touring yet. So it’s art right now. I am always doing something.”
Nash’s photography has been shown in galleries and museums worldwide, and he’s a pioneer of digital fine art printmaking, having established Nash Editions, now one of the world’s top printmakers, in 1990. A new exhibit of 29 photographs is on display throughout the summer at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, Calif.
He’s still in touch with Stills and Young, he says, but had a falling out with Crosby a couple of years back for reasons he says are too complicated to explain. When asked if the relationship with his former bandmate is reparable, Nash responds with a flat “no.” The history of rifts and slights among the stars of CSN&Y are legion, and he wants to move on.
“Living in the present is important to me. I want to tell the truth but reflect the times in which we live,” he says. He wants fans who come to hear him on his current tour to know that he really wants to be there.
“I want to play for them. I want to communicate,” he says. “If they pay money to come see me, I want to make sure they leave smiling.”