Graham Nash: The Roads Taken
A two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer takes us down yet another extraordinary path.
By Steve Houk
“Where are we going?”
Those four simple yet provocative words, set on top of a soft, pulsating yet haunting beat, begin Graham Nash‘s exceptional and most recent album, This Path Tonight. And like the bulk of Nash’s music since the early 60’s, the words, and the album, resonate deeply. Why? Because it’s a question most of us ask ourselves all the time: Where are we going? Is this the right path? Am I going to make it?
For Nash, who turns 75 this month, it’s been an incredible life full of a myriad of different paths taken, musically, and in his personal life as well, which has been tumultuous of late to say the least. But his music is what always helps him navigate the journey, it helps him to gain perspective, as he tries to find his next path.
“Everything’s going well, I’m about to start touring again,” the kind and affable Nash told me as he prepared to hit the road. “But recently I divorced my wife of many many years, and fell in love with a beautiful lady artist from New York City, and this record is my emotional journey through my life right now. And it is indeed why I started [the record] with a question…where are we going?”
For over 50 years, Graham Nash has taken us down his many paths with him, whether it be with his first band The Hollies, or with his famous quartet and then trio, or by himself on his solo forays. And his latest effort is no exception, it seems to have affected people more profoundly than ever, giving them a voice that reflects what they’re going through as well, especially in their middle to later years.
“It really does seem that I have managed to touch people’s hearts,” Nash said softly. “Alot of people are responding to this in a very emotional way. I seem to have touched a nerve here, in alot of people. And This Path Tonight is showing how I dealt with my circumstances, and doing it hopefully so that it helped other people.”
Nash’s music has always been reflective and thoughtful, whether addressing matters of the heart, or as an activist and social conscience. And he’s wanted to touch people deeply since the very beginning.
“When I first heard the Everly Brothers‘ ‘Bye Bye Love’ when I was about fifteen years old, their music affected me very deeply.,” Nash reflected. “And I’ve always wanted to make music that affected people the same way. I don’t want to waste your time. Time is our only true currency. That’s all we’ve got. Time and our family and friends. So we have to take care of ourselves, we have to utilize every second the best way we can.”
For this tour, which stops at The Birchmere in Alexandria on July 21st, Nash has once again brought along only his current collaborator Shane Fontayne on guitar, a gifted longtime musician in his own right and co-producer of This Path Tonight. Fontayne, 20 years Nash’s junior, has been a staple in Nash’s musical life for a while now, and helps bring Nash’s glorious music, both his old classics and newer tunes, to grand life in a powerful way.
“He’s a great listener,” Nash said. “About six years ago, (David) Crosby and I were singing at a show with our friend Marc Cohn, and Shane was Marc’s lead guitar player, and obviously very good. Crosby and I were supposed to go to Europe like two or three weeks later, but our lead guitar player Dean Parks couldn’t go. So we asked Shane if he could learn the songs, and he learned about 35 songs in a week. Plus…he’s English.”
As other paths in Nash’s life continue on, one that seems to have finally come to an end is the one with his legendary bandmates C S and Y. But even as he bids farewell to that amazing chapter, he can still see past the acrimony to recognize just what a great band he and his uber-talented buddies created.
“That’s completely over. But I’m very proud of the work that I did, not only with The Hollies but with David and Stephen and Neil, too. I thought we were a great rock and roll band, that’s why I took so long to do the Crosby Stills Nash & Young box set from our 1974 stadium tour. I wanted people to realize just what a fine rock and roll band CSNY was.”
Graham Nash is still going strong, stronger than ever perhaps, and he is able to use not only his musical talents but his inner strength to forge ahead and make the very best out of what otherwise could be an uncertain road ahead. And it looks like his childhood amidst the shadow of war set him up for just that kind of survival.
“I’ve always had the ability to turn what looks like a problem into a solution. I think that my upbringing in England after World War II stood me in good stead for that, because we made it through World War II, we’re all still alive. Some of our friends aren’t, and some of the houses we used to love aren’t there anymore. But we’re all still alive, so let’s get on with life.”
Graham Nash performs Thursday July 21st at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here.