To say that Graham Nash’s life has been eventful over the past couple of years is a bit of an understatement. The turbulent dynamics that exist between Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have been well documented, each man (particularly those of CS&N) admitting on more than one occasion that they can’t get along anymore.
Meanwhile, Nash’s marriage of 38 years ended in 2016, when he moved from Hawaii to New York City to be with his girlfriend, writer and actor Amy Grantham. His sons are apparently, understandably, not talking to him. So that’s a bit of a mess.
And then there’s the current state of the nation. As a longtime vocal progressive, most recently a supporter of Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders, the British-born dual citizen is struggling to comprehend what he is seeing on the news.
“As a news junkie for many, many years and an American citizen for about 40 years, I love this country and we deserve better,” Nash says. “We certainly deserve better than the administration that’s currently ruling this country.”
Nash was a part of a Laurel Canyon community that took its civic responsibilities very seriously. These artists knew that they had a platform, and so they had a responsibility to point out injustice when they saw it.
“I think human beings have a responsibility to do that, not just musicians,” Nash says. “Human beings have to stand up and we have to resist evil when we see it. I think the Trump administration has us on a certain road, and unfortunately, in my humble opinion, that road is leading backwards.”
These are feelings that many of us are experiencing. Nash, though, has had the added personal turmoil to come to terms with (as has, of course, his ex-wife and children). Just the move from Hawaii to New York, two very different places, is a huge change of pace.
“New York’s a very challenging city, a very vibrant city,” Nash says. “There are millions of things going on, every step that you take in the city. I lived in Hawaii for about 40 years, and if I could put it simply, I guess I just traded jungles.”
Maybe artists, musicians, are fortunate, then, that they have an outlet for their frustrations, their troubles, their inner turmoil. Nash released This Path Tonight, his sixth solo album and first in 14 years, in 2016, a record that he says reflects what was happening in his own life at the time. The singer-songwriter says that he found the process therapeutic.
“Any time that you have a chance to talk about your problems, that goes a long way to solving those problems,” he says. “Me as a musician and a composer, this is how I talked about my problems and This Path Tonight was my emotional journey that I was on at that point in my life.”
Nash says that it shouldn’t be another 14 years before he puts out another solo record, but then he hasn’t been sitting on his hands for the past decade and a half either.
“I made at least 16 CDs in that 14 years,” he says. “I did my box set of three, I did Crosby’s box set of three, Stills’ box set of four, the CSNY box set of four, the CSN box set—I was a busy boy. I wrote 20 songs with my friend Shane Fontayne for This Path Tonight, and we only utilized 13 of them. We had seven of them that we really like, and I’m out on the road here writing. So yes, it will not be 14 years before the next solo record.”
Part of his career evolution has seen the former Hollies man become more comfortable as the sole focal point as he settles into a solo career. He’s finding it easier to talk to people from the stage, and that’s important as CSN shows no signs of burying the hatchet.
“A lot of people who appreciate music, but don’t physically create music, are fascinated by the songwriting aspect of what we do,” Nash says. “A lot of people, and I have to agree with them, think it borders on magic. Where do melodies come from? Rhythms and words? And basically what’s going on with me is that I have to feel something very deeply if I’m going to write about it. Then I research all my thoughts about it all to make sure I come up with the right poetry and melody, and I’m off and running. It’s something I’ve been doing for a long, long time.”
Still, Nash admits that he misses the band dynamic, and his old colleagues.
“When you’ve been hanging around with people like David, Stephen and Neil, of course I miss it sometimes,” he says. “And I most certainly miss the music that we created. But to be able to create memorable music, in my mind, we have to really love each other, and and right now we don’t.”
On Tuesday, Nash performs at the Fox and he says that, while he’s not a lover of the desert, he’s excited to come back.
“I come from the north of England,” he says. “Crumbling bricks is much more my landscape. But I love Tucson. I find it to be an incredibly creative place to be for artists. There must be something in the air and the atmosphere that draws artists to the Tucson area. Amongst them are a multitude of music lovers. I’ve got to tell you, I’m looking forward to the show because every single night has been very special.”
The show is tagged “An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories,” and that’s exciting because Nash has plenty of stories to tell. CSN classic “Teach Your Children,” for example, was a germ of an idea while Nash was still in the Hollies. And it’s not the only one.
“I don’t write for anybody but me,” Nash says. “If The Hollies liked the song and we did it, fantastic. If Crosby Stills & Nash liked the song and did it, fantastic. But I only write for me. The Hollies did reject ‘Marrakesh Express.’ They knew about it. I presented the song to them. They did a track of it, and it’s somewhere in the tape vault at Abbey Road—a version of ‘Marrakesh Express’ that the Hollies did. But it leaves a lot to be desired.”
Those are the sort of anecdotes that we can expect from Nash this week as well as, naturally, a lot of music.
“I know that my audience have paid hard-earned money to buy a ticket and come and see us, and I want to give them value for money,” he says. “I want them to know that I want to be there, making music. I’m not going to phone it in. I sing those songs that I’ve sung so many times before with the same emotional passion as when I wrote them. People want to know, what were you thinking when you wrote ‘Teach Your Children’ or ‘Our House.’ I tell them and they’re finding it fascinating.”
That we do, sir. That we do.