Graham Nash on his solo album, politics and the night he met Joni in Ottawa
LYNN SAXBERG, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Rock legend Graham Nash takes a swing through Ontario this month, part of a North American tour to promote This Path Tonight, his first solo album in 14 years.
In a recent interview with Lynn Saxberg, the outspoken 75-year-old had lots to say about the state of the world, but also dismissed any chance of a reunion with the seminal 1960s supergroup of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
“There are always reports, but you have to be in a certain state of mind to be able to create the music that we created,” Nash said. “And right now, I’m talking to Stephen, Stephen’s talking to Neil, Neil’s talking to me and no one’s talking to Crosby. He’s always been the weak link.”
With that out of the way, here’s more from the interview:
Q: Tell me about your new solo album, This Path Tonight.
A: Here’s what happened: I was married to a woman for 38 years and lived in Hawaii for all that time. I fell out of love, we divorced, I fell in love with a beautiful artist here in New York City, Amy Grantham, and that emotional response to my life is This Path Tonight.
Q: That’s a lot to expose to the world. Did you have any trepidation about being so personal?
A: That’s my job. It’s the responsibility of every musician to tell the truth as much as they can and talk about the times in which we live. These are incredible times.
Q: You’ve been known for political commentary over the years, but there’s less of that on the new record.
A: Yes, although if you got the deluxe version, there are three extra tracks, and two of them are incredibly pointed. One of them called Mississippi Burning about the three college students that were murdered in the mid ’60s for helping black people vote. And the other was a song written the morning that Michael Brown, the black teenager, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. On the actual record, there are not any political songs, but on the deluxe version, there are two.
Q: You must be finding lots to write about, given the current political situation in the U.S.?
A: No. It hasn’t come out yet. I’m trying to figure out the best way through this f–ing madness. I’m not joking. I’m still gathering information. But I tell you this: This is a great country, this America place. I’ve been an American citizen for over 30 years. And the basic fact is that I believe that we deserve better than this madman, and the way it’s come out for me personally is in 15 or 16 paintings full of fury and anger.
Q: How long have you been painting?
A: I started painting when Joni Mitchell and I were together. She paints constantly, sometimes with paint, sometimes with words. She was painting, and I thought, ‘Gee, I could do that.’
Q: What about songwriting? Any plans for another record?
A: Of course. Don’t forget, Shane (Fontayne, producer) and I had 20 songs that became the basis of this album. I still have seven that I really like. And I’m still writing. I’m sure that when I get up to Canada, after a performance, I’ll be back on the bus writing.
Q: What can fans expect at your concert?
A: I’m playing with my great friend and guitar player, Shane Fontayne. They’ll get everything they want. They’ll get the songs that they love. They’ll get the songs that were written that morning. They’ll get songs they haven’t heard in years.
Q: How’s the reaction to the new material?
A: Ridiculously good. I understand if you do a good version of Sweet Guinevere or Suite Judy Blue Eyes or Our House or Teach Your Children that people get on their feet and clap. But when you can provoke that kind of reaction in an audience when they’ve only heard the song once, now that’s different.
Q: What do you think about the current pop music climate? We don’t really see protest songs on the charts these days.
A: Well that’s a deliberate plan by the people who own the world’s media. They don’t want people rocking the boat. They don’t want people disturbing the status quo. They want you to be a sheep.
Q: What sort of solutions do you see?
A: I think the solution is we have to resist what’s going on. I do not think that this man is my president. I understand technically that he is, but he is a man that I despise. I think he is a complete failure as a human being, and I can’t wait for the pendulum to swing the other way.
Q: Let’s go back in history for a moment. Do you have any memories of performing in Ottawa?
A: Of course I do. That’s the night I met Joni Mitchell. At the Chateau Laurier.
Crosby had produced her first record, and he said that if I saw Joni to introduce myself as David’s friend. We had done a show in Ottawa, and there was a reception afterwards with cheap wine and trying to remember what the hell the promoter’s wife name is, all that silly stuff that happens after shows, and she was sitting in a corner with a large Bible on her lap.
Q: A Bible?
A: It was actually a music box. It just looked like a huge Bible. I walked over and introduced myself and that was that.
Q: And your relationship with her came out of that meeting?
A: It started that night.