It’s not every day that you get to speak to a musical legend, but that was exactly what I was doing when I sat down to do a telephone interview with Graham Nash, who will be headlining The Southern Fried Festival in July. I’d grown up hearing his voice. The Hollies would often be on our car-stereo (the Nash-penned Jennifer Eccles is one of my brother’s favourite songs) and the music he made with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is some of the finest of the 20th Century. This guy had written ‘Our House’, ‘Teach Your Children’, ‘I Used to be a King’ and ‘Marrakesh Express’, plus he sang on ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’, ‘Woodstock’ and ‘Helpless’. As well as being a little bit overwhelmed by Mr Nash’s musical accomplishments I was also on holiday at Loch Lomond, and I had a pretty spotty mobile phone signal to contend with. It would be fair to say I was a little nervous.
I found myself inexplicably uttering “love you… bye.” Definitely, the most cringe-worthy thing I’ve ever said to a musical legend. As soon as I got patched through to Nash’s room at the Royal Garden Hotel Kensington I began to relax a little bit. Graham seemed to be a lovely guy and the phone line was as clear as crystal. I'd brought myself up to date with his excellent solo output including his most recent album ‘This Path Tonight’ (it is well worth a listen) and didn’t feel out of my depth talking about Nash’s music and life. Hell, I’d go so far as to say I was really enjoying myself. I managed to raise the subject of his fallout with David Crosby and the chances of them making music together again and it didn't seem to offend him. This was by far the biggest interview I had ever done but I think everything had gone as well as humanly possible. We exchanged pleasantries but just as I was disconnecting I found myself inexplicably uttering the words “love you… bye.” Definitely, the most cringe-worthy thing I’ve ever said to a musical legend. Here's the interview.
How did you come to be playing at the Southern Fried Festival this year?
I just wanted to play places that I hadn't played in years and I asked my new manager Mark Spector to book me intimate venues where I could see people's eyes and know if I'm making a connection. And quite frankly I love Scotland. After our show in Dublin, I'm going I'm going to go to the Highlands for a couple of weeks.
Whereabouts in the Highlands?
I’m going to spend a few days in Edinburgh and then hire a car and drive to Glencoe to spend a few days there and then go to the Isle of Skye. I'm fascinated with Culloden. I've been reading a couple of books on it and I'm fascinated to see that battlefield. Plus, frankly, who doesn’t love Outlander?
You said you wanted to play places you hadn’t played in ages, does that mean you’ve played Perth before?
Yeah, I played Perth way back when I was in The Hollies, we played all over Scotland.
You’ve got around 50 years of songs to draw on. Does this make it hard to decide on a setlist?
I found out from my fans which songs they keep chanting for and which ones they expect to hear, and I made a nice musical journey of those songs.It wasn't really difficult. I've been on the road as a solo artist with my friend Shane Fontaine for a couple of years now. I'm going to be bringing not only Shane but Todd Caldwell who is the B3 organ player in Crosby, Stills & Nash. I’ve been making music for my entire life and that's one of the reasons that I put out ‘Over the Years’. There have been greatest hits collections of Crosby, Stills & Nash and certainly of The Hollies but never of my music alone. I found out from my fans which songs they keep chanting for and which ones they expect to hear, and I made a nice musical journey of those songs. Then to make it a little different I put in all the 15 demos from 'Over the Years'.
When you play Perth Concert Hall you are going to be telling the audience the background behind some of your best-loved songs, what led you to take this approach?
I think people that love music can be quite mystified by the art of songwriting. Where do they come from? What was your head like? What were you thinking when you wrote ‘Wind on the Water’ or ‘Just a Song Before I Go’ or ‘Immigration Man’? What were you thinking that created these songs and I tell them that story. You know it'll be fine when I get to England and Scotland but being able to tell stories in Germany when I don't know the language that's going to be interesting, but I'll get there!
Your solo output is great, you don’t release an album every year but there is a real sense of quality control.
In its original form, the album was really only 12 singles and some b-sides from the band and it was a way of reprocessing the music to make money. With John Lennon and Sgt. Pepper’s and Brian Wilson with Pet Sounds that let people know that an album can be a musical journey with a start and finish. That’s the way I’ve always tried to make my albums.
I’d heard that you’d written the songs on 'This Path Tonight', your most recent album, in just 20 days. Is that right?
Yep! I wrote 20 songs with Shane Fontane in just a month and we recorded them in just 8 days. 10 of those are on the record, or 13 if you pay extra to get the deluxe version on Amazon. So that means we have seven left that we like. I'm continuing to write and Shane’s continuing to write. While we're on tour we'll be putting the next record together.
‘This Path Tonight’ is a really strong record. My favourite track is ‘Myself at Last’, what’s the story behind that song?
‘Myself at Last’ was the first attempt at the first song we ever tried. And that became the master and that as a musician, is magic.Its my favourite too! We booked the studio starting on a Monday and on Sunday the crew take all the equipment in there and unpack the drums and the bass and the guitars and stuff. And then Sunday night the band has to come in and sit down and play something so that we can make sure that it's all plugged in correctly. ‘Myself at Last’ was the first attempt at the first song we ever tried. And that became the master and that as a musician, is magic.
Everyone is always talking about finding themselves these days, what do you mean when you sing about losing yourself at last?
You go on the road to forget your present situation. I mean I know it's wonderful being married. I know it's wonderful having kids but sometimes you just need a break. You lose yourself because of your wife, or your girlfriend or your kids. By the time they've grown up, you can lose a sense of yourself. I find it on the road. I mean I know everybody's alone obviously, but I want to lose myself in the music you know to travel to different cities. However, in the last verse, you’ll notice that I sing that I’ve found myself at last.
You recorded the album in just 8 days, how does that compare to other records you’ve made?
The Hollies first album was recorded in just 2 hours. We had a 45 minute set of dynamite and we just played it through twice and chose the record from those songs. Me, Stephen and David made ‘Daylight Again’ and we made it through two Super Bowls. So, there you go!
I read somewhere that once witnessed Little Richard screaming at Jimmy Hendrix backstage. Do you remember that?
I do indeed. The Hollies played the Paramount Theatre in Times Square in New York in 1965. The headliner of the show was Little Richard and obviously being huge Little Richard fans, we watch him from the side of the stage. And then one night we heard screaming coming from offstage. “Don't you ever play the guitar behind your head again! Stop playing the guitar with your teeth! I’m little Richard and you can’t upstage me. That was Jimi Hendrix! Crazy!
You’ve said recently that your relationship with Crosby is pretty much over, do you still see Neil Young and Steven Stills though?
Yeah, it would take a miracle for me to want me to work with David(Crosby) again. I just don't like him. We can't make magic music if we don't like each other.I’ve always loved me and Stephen singing together. We have an incredible blend. It's different than the three of us and very different than me and David. You can hear it on the last minutes of ‘Woodstock’, that’s us doing two-part harmonies together. I'd be very interested in making music with Stephen. Quite frankly, I spoke to Crosby probably every day for 45 years. I haven't spoken to in 2 years now. Not one word.
I take it would take something from his side for that to change?
Yeah, it would take a miracle for me to want me to work with David again. I just don't like him. We can't make magic music if we don't like each other.
I see you're playing some great places on the tour. Hope you enjoy it!
I Intend to kid!
Graham Nash: An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories is at the Southern Fried Festival on the 28th July. More info here>>>
Need more great night out inspo? Check out our other listings for Southern Fried Festival here.
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