Graham Nash walks a new path
“I’ll take care of all my problems
Comfort in my soul’s delight
I may not know just where I’m going
But I’m on this path tonight.”
— from “This Path Tonight,” by Graham Nash
In recent years, Graham Nash has gone through a major period of transition in his life.
The renowned singer-songwriter and two-time inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — first as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash and then as a member of his earlier group, the Hollies— bears witness to it all on a remarkably candid solo album called “This Path Tonight.”
Material from the album, including the title song quoted above, provides the emotional core of his career-spanning solo tour, which will bring him to the Carolina Theatre on Saturday.
In a whirlwind few years, Nash divorced his wife of 40 years, severed ties with his bandmates of nearly 50 years (including David Crosby, his closest collaborator), and left his longtime home in Hawaii for a new life in New York City.
It has been a lot to process, and the changes are ongoing. One way of making sense of it all was for Nash to write about it on “This Path Tonight,” released last year.
It was his first solo album in 14 years, and its truthful outpourings cut to the bone. An air of confessional intimacy comes across on a deliberately underproduced album wherein Nash pours his heart out directly to the listener.
“That’s exactly what I wanted,” says Nash, who is calling from a hotel room the morning before a show in New Hampshire.
“I knew these sessions were going to go well when we started with a song called ‘Myself at Last,’ ” he says. “What you hear on the record is our first attempt at the song. One take!”
“Myself at Last” is about a life suddenly upended with change, movement and reckoning — themes that are echoed throughout the album. He sings:
“When all is said and done
It’s so hard to count the cost
And I’m rolling down this lonesome road
To lose myself at last.”
“Yes, it’s all in there,” Nash says quietly. “Life and coming to an end and starting again at the beginning.”
Nash’s current tour is taking him to intimate spaces with storied pasts such as the Carolina Theatre.
“I’ve decided I want to play a lot of places I’ve never played,” he says, “and I love these older theaters. There’s incredible music and entertainment pouring out of the walls. You’re on the same stage as all the brilliant artists who have performed over the years in these older buildings.”
Nash’s principal accompanist of late has been guitarist Shane Fontayne, who produced “This Path Tonight” and is the only musician onstage with Nash on his current tour. Fontayne has previously played with Bruce Springsteen and Sting, and he also led his own acclaimed band, Lone Justice.
“He’s a brilliant guitar player, and he’s English, which makes it much easier for me,” Nash says with a chuckle.
In concert, the duo span Nash’s expansive career: familiar hits with the British Invasion-era Hollies; harmony-filled, generation-defining work with Crosby, Stills & Nash, including “Teach Your Children” and “Our House”; and the highly personal solo albums he has released intermittently since 1971’s classic “Songs for Beginners.”
His current tour began the night before we spoke. He says he opened with the Hollies’ “On a Carousel” and ended the first set with the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
Of course, “This Path Tonight” is well-represented, and Nash is even mixing in a few songs from the productive sessions — Nash says they cut 20 songs in eight days — that didn’t wind up on the album.
For Nash, writing and recording “This Path Tonight” wasn’t just an emotional outpouring but an opportunity to be creative again after 10 years mostly given over to shepherding archival projects.
Working with Crosby, Stills & Nash’s archivist Joel Bernstein, Nash painstakingly assembled four historic box sets. One was “CSNY 1974,” a four-disc package culled from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s stadium tour in that year, marking a creative and popular peak for the quartet of superstars.
Then there were career-spanning sets for Stephen Stills (“Carry On”), David Crosby (“Voyage”) and Nash himself (“Reflections”). In addition, Nash curated discs of demos and greatest hits for CSN.
That adds up to 16 compact discs worth of archival digging, assembling, remastering and sometimes remixing. In addition, Nash published his autobiography, “Wild Tales,” in 2013.
“I’ve been a busy boy,” Nash allows. “I spent 10 years in other people’s music, even though I was one of those other people. This time, I’m concentrating on Graham Nash.”
“I think ‘This Path Tonight’ is an excellent piece of work, if I do say so myself,” he adds. “I’m not a man that brags, but people really seem to love its simple, intimate, personal kind of feel.”
Intimate and personal is how it’s likely to go for the foreseeable future.
During the summer concert season, CSN or CSNY might ordinarily be found working the outdoor amphitheater circuit. That is not the case this year, when each member is involved in solo or outside group projects, like Stephen Stills’ bluesy supergroup, the Rides.
Bad blood has been circulating among various members of CSNY. In particular, the relationship between Crosby and Nash soured when they began sniping at each other privately and in the press.
Last year, Nash went so far as to tell Billboard magazine, “There will never be another Crosby, Stills & Nash record or show.”
He repeats the assertion in our conversation: “I don’t believe CSN or CSNY will ever play again, and if not, I think we brought some good music into the world.”
Still, there have been numerous falling outs and reunions among this volatile gaggle of talents, and a glimmer of hope for a reconciliation was proffered by Nash in a recent interview. Oddly enough, the impetus for burying the hatchet might be the controversial presidency of Donald Trump.
“I believe the issues that are keeping CSNY apart pale in comparison to the good that we can do if we get out there and start talk about what’s happening,” Nash told Variety magazine. “So I’d totally be up for it.”
In the meantime, Nash is enjoying his new life, especially his rebooted solo career, a new relationship, and his move from Hawaii to New York City.
“I just traded jungles,” Nash jokes about the move. He calls living in New York City, where he is a denizen of the East Village, “phenomenally great.”
“You’ve got to understand, I lived for almost 40 years in Hawaii, where the pavement shuts down at 4:30,” he says. “I need people; I need museums and art galleries; I need the swap meets.”
When asked if it’s true that life begins at 70, the 76-year-old Nash says, laughing, “It has for me!”
And what does the future hold for him?
“More love. More harmony. More creation.”