A talk with Graham Nash about love, music and the demise of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Graham Nash is a simple man of many intricacies. At the core of his career with Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes Young) he had mastered the art of taking the conscious on a wild journey through his words and harmonies, soaring seamlessly through a range of moods, sentiments, and styles. With his first solo record in 14 years This Path Tonight due to join many playlists on April 15 We caught up with the man himself, after his recent set at Bluesfest 2016 to discuss the breakup of CSN, his new love, impending divorce, his brand new LP and his revitalised spirit guiding him through it all.

Graham Nash
Polaroid by Chloe Richardson

We caught up with the legendary Graham Nash post-performance at Bluesfest 2016 for a rare insight into his life, his loves and his first record in 14 years.

HAPPY: What was it like having just played Bluesfest and seeing so many young people singing along to songs both new and old?

NASH: That’s one of the interesting things, you know? Especially at Bluesfest. I’m not a Blues guy, but music is music and I think the audience really understands that they’re going to listen to different kinds of music and enjoy it all. You were there so you could see how they were enjoying themselves.

HAPPY: Definitely. So, you’re about to release your first solo record in 14 years, This Path Tonight. Looking back at Songs For Beginners, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a writer, and as a person. How does it compare?

NASH: How interesting… Obviously you think you get better in 30 odd, 40 years, however long it’s been – I’m sure if I was a plumber then and I was a plumber now I’d be a much better plumber. But in thinking about whether there are any differences I don’t think so because all those songs came from my heart, which is where all my new stuff comes from also. So, I don’t see a huge difference. A lot of people over the years have told me of their love for Songs For Beginners and I’ve tried to analyse why they like it so much and I think it’s the same as this new record; it’s close, it’s personal, it’s intimate. Even though I was screaming Military Madness, and We Can Change The World on Songs For Beginners there were love songs on there too, like Sleep Song. So, in a way not much has changed, I’m still alive and breathing and I get up in the morning and I figure out what the fuck is going on with my day. I read stuff, and I see stuff on television, and I see stuff that upsets me that I have to write about. As a writer I have to feel first, I have to feel something deeply before I ever attempt to put my feelings into music.

HAPPY: And do you think that’s why you’re releasing your first record in 14 years, because you’re going through so many changes?

NASH: That’s true, but people must understand that I wasn’t sitting on my ass for 14 years – I did 16 CDs in that time, and I did over 300 shows with David and Stephen in that time. But yes, This Path Tonight is a result of changes in my personal life that I’m going through; I’m divorcing my wife after 38 years of marriage, and the divorce is taking a couple of years. I’m in love with a beautiful artist lady from New York City, and This Path Tonight is my feelings coming out. The producer Shane Fontaine, who is also the guitar player, and I planned this emotional journey. Some people say ‘where are the protest songs?!’ and the answer is that if you buy the deluxe version from iTunes or Amazon you get the bonus tracks, and a few of them are what you could call ‘political songs’. Watch Out For The Wind is a song myself and Shane wrote about this black teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown, who got shot by the police, and another one Mississippi Burning we wrote about the three students who were murdered in Mississippi all for helping black people vote. I tried to fit them into to the album but emotionally they just didn’t fit the journey.

HAPPY: Indeed. Now, you recently announced the breakup of Crosby, Stills, and Nash after 48 years however in your biography, Wild Tales, you stress the point that “it all comes down to the music”. What is it that changed that? Why is it no longer about the music?

NASH: Because, there’s no music. No magic. It’s gone. We had a good run, 48 odd years, as you say. But it’s over.

HAPPY: Ok. That’s quite the statement. In Wild Tales you also talk about an inner conflict you have with not being ‘cool enough’. Is that still something that plagues your mind?

NASH: Absolutley! Because I’m not cool. Miles Davis was fucking cool!

HAPPY: But do you ever stop to think that just maybe you’re someone’s Miles Davis?

NASH: I don’t think people look at me that way, no. I’m a very ordinary person. Just the same as you, I know I do something special with my life, but ever since I was a kid I’ve just felt like a simple man.

HAPPY: With extraordinary talent.

NASH: …. Yes.

HAPPY: In a recent interview you said that you ‘just want to be happy’ so what is it at 74 years old that makes you, a ‘simple man’ happy?

NASH: My soul being reawakened. I love beauty, I love creation, I love to create every day or else I can’t sleep. At 74 years old, I don’t know whether you’ve seen the new album cover but it was taken by my girlfriend, Amy, and it’s a shot of me from the back walking in a snow storm in Woodstock, and that’s me walking into my future. I’ve done this several time in my life, when I left The Hollies people thought I was fucking crazy! All that money, all that fame, all those hits, but I’d heard me, David and Stephen sing and that was it. I’d changed my life completely, and I’m at that similar point right now, I’m changing my life completely, and that makes me happy.