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Songs For Survivors: Graham Nash Continues Moving Forward At 73

Eleanor Stills


Graham Nash’s current tour finds him playing intimate rooms across the country, digging deep into his rich back catalogue for hits that he’s recorded with Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young, as well as The Hollies. But the 73-year-old Nash is as restless and eager to move forward as ever and is today in one of the most prolific periods of his career.

“In October of last year, during the end of one of our CSN tours, Shane Fontaine, who is our second guitar player, and I had an incredible spell of writing,” he says. “We wrote just over 20 songs in a month and went into the studio and recorded the 20 songs in eight days.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash often worked with a recurring cast of players on the road and in the studio, but Fontaine opted to throw Nash into the proverbial deep end when it came time to record the songs they’d written together.

“Quite frankly I’d never been in a situation where I walked into the studio and shook hands with someone to meet them and said, ‘OK, let’s start recording.’ Obviously, every time I’ve been in the studio it’s been with someone I knew," Nash says. "Not this time. Oh no. Shane had put together a great rhythm section for me, and I had never met them.”

The songs that Nash and Fontaine have recorded aren’t released yet. A record might come out sometime later this year or maybe early next but Nash knows that the record will be fitting snapshot of this moment in his life, as most of his work to this point has been.

“I realized that when I looked at the lyrics of all the 20 songs that there’s a lot of references to time and how much time do we have left, really,” he says. “I’ll be 74 on my next birthday if I make it. I could drop dead in the middle of this conversation, of course, or I could live for another 30-40 years, which is what I prefer to do. But we have to get on with the job, right? We have to get on with what it is that we do best.”

Nash and his good friend David Crosby don’t have any plans to record with longtime partner Stephen Stills as Crosby, Stills and Nash at any point in the future. But Crosby and Nash have been in the studio as of late, working with former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, an artist they first recorded with nearly a decade ago.

“Cros and I did a show several years ago at Festival Hall in London and David came to see us. He was a big fan," Nash says. "And he came to see us after the show, of course, and said, ‘I’ve got two things to say to you guys: First of all, I have this song called “On An Island” and I’d love you and David to sing on it. And secondly, I’m stealing your drummer.’ And he did.”

Some might find the combination unusual, but British progressive bands from the 1970s, including Genesis and others, were great fans of Nash and his cohorts. For Nash, the adoration is mutual.

“I love working with Gilmour," he says. "I must tell you that I’m a great admirer of the notes that he chooses to play. I think he’s an incredibly tasteful musician and when he calls and says, ‘Hey, boys, I’ve got this song,’ we know what’s going on. We know then that the song that he’s just written is screaming for good harmony, and he calls me and David.”

Even with a wealth of new material written and recorded Nash remains open to the music, adding that in the corner of the musical world he occupies, that’s always been the norm.

“I just spent many years putting together the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young boxed set from our 1974 tour of stadiums. There was one particular song, of Neil Young, that he’d done called ‘Goodbye Dick.’ And this was obviously a reference to Richard Nixon and the resignation of the presidency. My point is that, yes, our fans recognize that we face the responsibility of playing some of the songs that they love from us, which is a great deal of the reason why they pay hard-earned money to come and see us and we want to satisfy them,” he says. “But our fans also realize that we’re constantly writing and that they may hear a song that was just written that morning, which is something that happens constantly with this band.”

Graham Nash performs at The Orpheum Theatre on Friday evening.