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Graham Nash Can't Stop, Won't Stop

Crosby, Stills, and Nash (actually Stills, Nash, and Crosby) ply their trademark three-part harmony at a recent show.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash (actually Stills, Nash, and Crosby) ply their trademark three-part harmony at a recent show.
Photo by Chris Kissnger/Jensen Communications

Now that his production work on the four-years-in-the-making massive CSNY 1974 box set is over and fans have in their hands what they've dreamed about for years, 72-year-old Graham Nash can just lie back and take it easy, right? Not a chance.

"I'm busier now than I've ever been in my life, ever," he says. And his daybook planner backs up the claim. Currently on tour with longtime partners David Crosby and Stephen Stills, he is also doing publicity for the paperback version of his autobiography, Wild Tales, writing new music, recording a CSN covers album, showing his painting and photography work in galleries all over the world while making new art, and even sculpting.

And maybe changing a diaper or two.

"My son and his wife just gave birth to identical twin boys, and my other son gave [wife Susan and I] a beautiful granddaughter, so I also want to spend time with my family!" he laughs. "My life is incredibly blessed and I'm very grateful. But I still love the music that the four of us make. I really am still a fan."

So, of course, are millions of others around the world for whom CSN's (or CSNY's) music is a part of their daily lives. And while all members have contributed songs to the group pot over the past nearly five decades, it's Nash who, as Crosby told audiences during the last tour, "writes the songs that the world knows by heart and sings along with."

Those would be chiefly "Teach Your Children," "Our House," and "Just a Song Before I Go" -- also some of the band's best-known and commercially successful tunes.

CSN recording the album titled..."CSN" at Miami's Criteria Studios, 1977
CSN recording the album titled..."CSN" at Miami's Criteria Studios, 1977
Photo by Joel Bernstein/Jensen Communications

"Teach Your Children" in particular, Nash feels, will "be around long after our physical selves are gone." And two incidents -- one years ago, one recent -- drove that point home to him.

"A few years back, a friend called me, and he was sitting in a small coffeehouse on the top of a mountain in Katmandu in Nepal, and the song came on in the café. In Nepal!" Nash says.

"And just awhile ago, I was in an Apple store in Italy, and one of the employees rushed up to tell me he'd just been listening to the version on CSNY 1974 and how much it meant to him. To think I wrote a song that touches so many heart and minds and has for so long...that's a thrill as a writer."

On the current tour, CSN mix the gotta-play-'em favorites with a few deeper cuts and new material, though Nash would love for the trio to take a stab at the Stills' solo song "So Begins the Task."

"It is one of the most brilliant Stephen Stills songs ever with great harmony parts," Nash says.

A few covers will likely be sprinkled in, some from the long-delayed/abandoned/revived CSN covers album the group originally started with Rick Rubin before coming to a parting of ways with the producer over sharp musical disagreements. The band hopes to resume production on the record after the current tour.

The deluxe CSNY 1974 box set
The deluxe CSNY 1974 box set

Their last release was the double CD/DVD live effort CSN 2012. Since that time, Crosby has also released a solo record (Croz) and toured, and Stills did the same as part of the blues rock trio The Rides.

"I still think the concept of that album is a great idea. It's songs by other people that we wish we had written," Nash offers. "But we have to put our own stamp on it. For something like 'You Can Close Your Eyes' by James Taylor, for it to succeed, we have to make it sound like we wrote it. It's a difficult process, but we'll get back to it."

With Wild Tales coming out in paperback, and Still's recent announcement that he's working on his own book, all four members of CSNY will soon have put their lives on paper. Not surprisingly, memories and opinions of the same situations have sometimes differed; Crosby was reportedly taken aback by Nash's brutal, but honest account of Croz's drug problems.

And while he readily admits having fun with various substances for many years, Nash's indulgences never derailed the band, hurt the music, or caused bizarre behavior.

Story continues on the next page.

 

Nash with then-girlfriend and fellow singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell backstage at Carnegie Hall, 1969. Nash would write "Our House" based on an afternoon in their relationship - right down to the vase, the fire, and the two cats in the yard.
Nash with then-girlfriend and fellow singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell backstage at Carnegie Hall, 1969. Nash would write "Our House" based on an afternoon in their relationship - right down to the vase, the fire, and the two cats in the yard.
Joel Bernstein/Jensen Communications

In a jaw-dropping 1987 profile of the band on CBS News' now-defunct West 57th TV program, we find Crosby clean and sober from his prison stint in Huntsville State Prison, but now a surly Stills is jeopardizing upcoming tour with his drinking, all shown in the segment and preserved thanks to YouTube.

So, as the man in the middle, how many times over the years has the long-suffering Nash thought, "Am I the only sane one who just wants to make music?"

"Oh, I always think that. I have from day one actually!" Nash says. "I mean, I'm English. My country was devastated twice by war in 80 years. And there were times you didn't know if your house was going to be still standing or your friends were going to be alive. So you just want to get the job done, because you don't know if it's ever going to end suddenly."

One new job that's been added to Nash's plate -- courtesy of Rocks Off -- is a reminder that when we last spoke with him in 2009, he was excited about playing a memorial concert for Buddy Holly to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed him, Richie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

It was to (and did) take place at Iowa's Surf Ballroom, the last venue that the three played together. A diehard fan of the bespectacled Texas rock pioneer -- not for nothing was Nash's pre-CSN band called the Hollies -- he also noted that the all-star concert was being filmed and recorded. So...where is it?

"Wow. That's a good point! I'll have to get my management to check on it," Nash says, seemingly surprised at the reminder. (To be honest, the guy has been pretty busy lately...)

"To be there, at the Surf Ballroom, 50 years to the day I had heard the news and was crying on a street corner in Manchester with my friend [and Hollies singer] Allan Clarke...I was so honored to be there. And there was some good music played that night!"

Crosby, Stills and Nash play Bayou Music Center, Monday, August 25. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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