Graham Nash – Iconic Voice & Rock Legend Talks New ‘LP’ & Life In Music (INTERVIEW)

Few artists deserve having the word “legend” affixed to their name more than Graham Nash. In a career that spans over 50 (that’s Five-oh) years, he’s literally helped shape the foundation of modern rock, from his early inventive efforts with the Hollies, which found him stitching the buoyant melodies inspired by Buddy Holly with the seamless harmonies of the Everly Brothers, to redefining the term “folk rock” via Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young.

Aside from a brief one-off reunion in the early ‘80s and mentions in last year’s autobiography, Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life, Nash has rarely revisited his Hollies legacy. On the other hand, his devotion to CSN and CSNY has never wavered. He recently oversaw the release of CSNY 1974, a sprawling CD/DVD combination box set that documents the band’s legendary victory tour encompassing stadiums and arenas throughout the U.S. and Europe. Notably too, Nash has also produced career spanning retrospectives for his CSN band mates Crosby and Stills, an act of camaraderie that’s impressive in its own right. And then there’s his tours with the band, an ongoing venture that’s continued with little let-up, from their formative years in the late ‘60s to their live stage appearances in the present day. Nash’s contributions to the band’s canon – songs such as “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Just a Song Before I Go” among the many – makes him an intrinsic part of that conglomerate, even though it sometimes comes at the expense of maintaining his own individual efforts.

Still, fnashphotoor all his time spent in retrospect, Nash remains very much a part of the present while also investing substantially in the future. His solo outings have continued unabated, albeit at wide intervals. His reputation as a renowned photographer has helped him broaden his reach into other artistic realms, while his company Nash Editions, specializing in printing, scanning, commercial photography and reproduction, has made him a highly successful entrepreneur. And even though his double induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was made possible by his affiliation with his two keynote ensembles – the Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash – he can still pride himself on the fact that his efforts gained him entry not once, but twice…a formidable accomplishment for any journeyman  musician.

If that wasn’t enough, Nash can also claim several distinctive honors attained as a result of individual efforts. In 2010, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his services to music and charity. He also holds four honorary degrees, including Music honors from the University of Salford in Manchester England, and a Doctorate in Fine Arts from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nash’s new album, This Path Tonight, is scheduled for imminent release in early 2016, marking his first new solo effort in nearly 14 years. Its cover pictures him huddled against the cold, trudging through a snowy woods, his frosty white hair blending seamlessly with the frosty landscape. In a sense, it suggests a look back, particularly given song titles “Golden Days,” “Back Home” and the title track itself. It’s a tack Nash himself vehemently denies, as was evident when Glide had the opportunity to speak to him recently. Unfailingly polite (“I don’t like to keep people waiting,” he says when its mentioned that his call came in exactly on time) and still betraying a hint of his English accent even after 48 years of living in the States, he readily replied to all the inquiries offered, offering opportunity to discover for ourselves what becomes a (true) legend the most.

So let’s start by talking about your new album. It’s your first solo effort in over the decade. The inevitable question is — what took you so long?

The truth is that when you have two or three other partners, you’re always doing things with them. I’ll go on tour with David, la la la…I like being a member of a band. I like being a solo artist of course, but I really enjoy being in a band.

Are these songs recent, or things you’ve compiled over some time?

Yes, these songs are all very recent. They were written over a month by me and my friend Shane Fontayne, who is the second electric guitarist int he Crosby Stills Nash band. We share a bus going around the country and we wrote 20 songs in a month. And then we recorded them in just eight days. My life is going through incredible changes, and my music reflects my life as its always done.

In listening to to the album, it seems to suggest that there are several songs that could be construed as very personal and very introspective.

Yep. That’s it. I’m not getting any younger.

But you still appear to be in the full flush of your creativity.

Oh yes, absolutely. I have tremendous energy and passion still.

In that regard, your autobiography was very revealing. How often do you reflect back on the past?

I don’t. I don’t at all.

Not at all?

Uh uh.

You set such a high bar early on? Does that affect you at all? Do you sometimes feel that there’s a high bar you have to measure up to?

I just get on with what songs I’m working on. I just, you know, it’s like, “Here I am. This is what I’m doing now.”

So you’re preparing to go out on tour on your own…

Not quite. I don’t go out until January.

It seems every time we’ve seen you, it’s been with Crosby Stills Nash.

Yeah, with the other guys, right? I’m enjoying being out on my own tremendously, It’s just me and Shane. It’s going over tremendously well. And CSN have just finished our six week tour of Europe.

csn3

So are you ever home?

Yeah, as much as I can get there. But I’m a musician. This is what we do.

It seems that some artists of a certain age reach the point where the road becomes a drag and they’re not eager to go out as often or as extensively. But that’s not you?

No, I’m not a relaxing guy. The truth is, when you write songs, the first thing you want to do is play them for your partner, play them for your family and then go out and play them for the public. That’s what we do. We’re communicators. We’re writing songs about life that we feel people need to listen to.

nash5552So how do you designate which songs go to CSN and which you want to record for yourself? Are there any conflicts?

There are sometimes, but some songs are very obviously best with the three part harmonies and some songs are very obviously best as a solo performance.

But do you miss having the harmonies behind you?

No. I can do them myself. (chuckles) I just get on with my life as it appears before me.

It always appeared that of the three, or four of you, you were always the most stable… the anchor, the most down to earth individual in the group overall.

I am.

In your book, you made some very pointed remarks about your bandmates. How did they take it? Was it awkward at all when you reconvened, especially in light of what you wrote?

Oh yeah. Oh sure. The truth is, I sent Neil and David and Stephen the galleys from the book prior to publication and I told them, “If you want anything changed, I’ll be happy to change it.” ANd nobody said shit.

They didn’t come back later and complain about what you wrote?

Oh yes they did.

So how did that affect the chemistry then? Was there the elephant in the room?

The truth is that they’re my brothers. And what happened to us in our lives affected me just as much as it affected them. So I wrote about it. And there was nothing that hadn’t been out there before in Rolling Stone or in radio interviews or print interviews. It had all been out there before.

Are you ever in touch with your old Hollies bandmate, Allan Clarke?

I am in touch with Allan Clarke. I was in touch with Allan Clarke yesterday as a matter of fact. Somebody wanted to use a bunch of Hollies songs on a British invasion album and they had to seek permission. They found Allan first and then he called me.

Has he pretty much retired at this point?

Very much so, yeah.

So is there any chance the two of you could reconvene at some point and work on a project of some sort?

That’s an interesting question, because I’ve often thought about that. The truth is, Allan and I really do sing well together. The Hollies made some great records. I did manage to get him singing when the Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. But I don’t think he’s up for it on a sustained basis.

The two of you were such fans of the Everly Brothers…

Ah yes indeed.

Perhaps the time is right for the two of you to do some kind of tribute record.

Why not? What a great idea!

Was it true that CSN were almost signed by Apple Records?

We certainly wanted to be on Apple. We played (Apple A&R man) Peter Asher and George Harrison everything we had, our entire first record, on a couple of acoustic guitars. They didn’t think it was for them. So there you go.

Did you ever come back later and say, “Told ya so.?”

No. There’s no room in my life for any of that stuff.

Your first solo album, Songs for Beginners, attracted quite a bit of notice, but its follow up, Wild Tales, failed to generate the same level of enthusiasm. Why do you think that was the case?

Several reasons. It was very personal album. It was a little dark in places. And the record company didn’t get behind it. There was a lady who worked at Atlantic Records who told me that they didn’t think it was commercial and they didn’t think people would buy it. That’s what she told me. Who knows? It might have been a shitty album.

It was actually a terrific album.

I thought so too.

You had a problem with Capitol over the Earth and Sky album. They wanted to put some kind of writing over the photo on the cover or something like that?

It was a bar code. The back cover had an image of me with a double rainbow behind me, and they wanted to cover the rainbow with a bar code. And I couldn’t take that. I wasn’t having that.


You’ve always been very forthright with what you wanted it seems.

Why not.

We you look back on your career and look over the entirety of your work, what was the moment — or moments — that still resonate the the most for you personally?

I think, and I hope, that my music will resonate. I think I’ve managed my life fairly well, and maybe touched a few hearts in the process. And maybe caused a few minds to think about what they might not always have thought about. I think I’m an honest musician and I’ve done my job well.

nash555When you think about all you’ve accomplished over the course of the past 50 years or so, and the influence that you’ve had on music in general, do you ever stand back and look at your life with awe, or maybe find it hard to believe that that person that did all that is actually you?

Yeah, I did that. And that was when I was standing in front of the Queen of England and she asked me how the Hollies were. I thought, oh my God. She was awarding me the OBE, the Order of the British Empire, and I was thinking about my mother and father and how proud they would b to find me standing in Buckingham Palace and talking to the Queen. And she asked me how the Hollies were. The fact is, Your Majesty, I’ve been gone from England for almost 50 years, and quite frankly, I’m very honored with this award you’re giving me, but I didn’t think anyone had noticed. And she said, “Well now you know” and shook my hand and that was the end of that.

When were you given that honor?

It was 2010 I think.

So she was that far behind in her thinking that she was still asking you about the Hollies?

She wasn’t that far behind. You have to understand. I have guys coming up to me and saying, “That guy approaching you is the publisher of so and so and his wife’s name is so and so.”  So you have people who feed you the information about the people you’re about to meet, and I’m sure the Queen is exactly the same. “It’s like, “He started the Hollies, and then he moved to America and so and so.” Yeah, I’m sure she knows.

\So what’s the plan going forward? You have the new album coming out.

Have you seen the cover?

Yes, it’s lovely. You huddled up against the snow.

That was taken in Woodstock actually.

So how do you see that proverbial path going forward? Will CSN get back together at any time soon? Any possibility CSNY will reconvene?

I spent three or four years putting the CSNY box set together (CSNY ’74). And I just did 80 dates with David and Stephen. I just need a break from our music right now. I need to concentrate on me. I need to concentrate on this new album. And I just need to give it the best shot possible.

But down the road, will be there be another CSN album? It’s been awhile….

Yes, it’s been awhile. I don’t know. It used to be that Stephen would call and say, “Hey, I’ve got these three or four songs and Neil would do the same thing, and then we’d be off and running. But we’re taking a short break here for awhile. We need to catch our breath.

There was rumored to be an album of classic covers that you were working on for a time.

That’s right. We do have five or six things that we recorded in Jackson Browne’s studio. We’ve got four or five things that we like, so slowly we’re working on it, but we’ve been together a long time, and right now we just need a break from one another

 

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