Image by Amy Grantham
Currently on the road in Europe after completing the first leg of his U.S. tour in May, Graham Nash visits Long Island for a headline appearance on July 17 at the Great South Bay Music Festival. The legendary singer-songwriter is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee—with Crosby, Stills, and Nash and with the Hollies. He was also inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and with CSN, and he is a GRAMMY Award winner.
|Image by Amy Grantham|
This Path Tonight, Nash’s new solo release, his first since 2002’s Songs for Survivors, showcases an artist who sounds for all the world like a 20-something year-old singing songs containing wisdom that only time and experience can inspire. This collection of ten songs that deal with Nash’s personal journey through music, life, and love has captured the imagination of a multitude of listeners worldwide, as evidenced by the album’s respectable chart positions in America, the UK, Japan, Holland, Italy, France, and Germany. Its Billboard debut at Number 93 for the week ending April 21 was Nash’s highest charting solo album since 1974’s Wild Tales.
Speaking with Nash backstage after his May 14 performance at New York City’s Town Hall, I had a burning question for him: How can I be, I wondered, that his voice sounded—to borrow a phrase surely known to Byrds aficionados—younger than yesterday? Nash had no direct explanation for me, but the light in his eyes, the smile on his face, and the energy that emanated from his very being all bore testament to a man who has discovered the truth behind the phrase “You are only as old as you feel.” For Graham Nash, these are truly golden days.
|Image by Amy Grantham|
I spent some additional time with Nash via transatlantic telephone to discuss the present and future plans of one of popular music’s most endearing figures.
Roy Abrams: Long Island has played a pivotal role in your musical path. What are some standout memories of that time?
Graham Nash: That’s where we rehearsed the very first Crosby, Stills and Nash record. Our friend John Sebastian had rented us a house on a lake in Sag Harbor, and, well … I thought we were going to rehearse the album acoustically, but when I got there, Stephen had assembled a band, with Harvey Brooks on bass, and other people—Dallas Taylor, our drummer, of course. Yeah, many fond memories!
RA: You’re no stranger to outdoor festivals, obviously, with Woodstock perhaps being the most notable of them. How did your path lead to Long Island’s Great South Bay Music Festival?
GN: To communicate. The first thing writers do when they have new songs (is to) communicate them to as many people as possible, and that festival is reputedly great!
RA: You are on the road with one other musician, guitarist Shane Fontayne, who also produced the new album. The chemistry between you is as umbilical and unique as any formed with your previous partners. Can you describe the collaborative process between you, and how you developed such a deep bond of trust in him?
GN: I can tell you exactly, Roy. I’m always a little uncomfortable writing with other people. Writing is such a personal thing to every musician and composer, but with Shane, I can only liken it to writing in a mirror. And that’s how close this musical relationship is. It’s based on great respect; he’s a brilliant musician. I realize that what his main job is, as a producer and as a musician, is make the song come alive. Don’t play too much, don’t try and be smart; let the song come alive. That’s what Shane is brilliant at doing.
RA: You have always been as much of a teacher as an artist, always reminding your audiences that “everyone can make a difference.” Your work with MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), the Cousteau Society, UNICEF, the Bridge School, and countless other organizations, offers living proof of that. What are some of the most important lessons you would teach a classroom of today’s young people?
GN: Wow … [pause] … I’m just thinking. Okay, I think we have to realize one very important fact: although children are only 25% of our population, they’re actually 100% of our future. We must take great care in bringing them up and feeding them and stuffing their life with beauty. That’s one way we could change the world; a great way to do it.
RA: Prior to this year, you have spent several years undertaking vast archival projects for your former partners and yourself. The new album and tour is a continuation of a lifelong journey, yet it heralds a new beginning. In conversations with you during the past few years, your view of time and the aging process had more of a fatalistic air. This has been entirely replaced with an energy, an attitude and outlook, of one fifty years your junior, with fifty more years of creativity ahead.
GN: I can only credit that to my girlfriend, Amy Grantham. Even though I’ve done a lot of work with many, many CDs in the last ten or twelve years, (plus) 400 shows with David and Stephen, in every combination, I was kind of pretty flat, emotionally. Susan—my wife of 38 years—and I divorced, and I fell in love with Amy, and now I’m back on fire. I’m back with a purpose in life, and I’m looking forward to my future. I think it’s going to contain a lot of creativity and a lot of beauty.
RA: Are there any drawing-board plans for you after this current tour ends?
GN: I’ve always got plans! [laughs] I’m in the process of several things. One of them is, my girlfriend Amy Grantham is a wonderful artist and she does a lot of collage work; we’re working on a book. I’m trying to help her get it to as many people as possible. We have a book of her portraits of me, of our self-portraits—it’s very, very interesting. And musically, of course, I’m still writing. I still have seven songs left over from this project, and it won’t be 14 years before another Graham Nash record!
RA: With Memorial Day just past, do you have any thoughts to share on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Where does America stand, in your opinion?
GN: I vacillate between it being one of the greatest countries on the planet, and also the biggest purveyor of violence. The United States has promise to be an unbelievably great country. I know a lot of people who think it’s great, but we have done a lot of things (with our policies) that have been tragic and shameful. That’s the process of growth in any major empire. I’m still very proud to be an American citizen and I will continue to fight for what I believe in.
© Roy Abrams 2016