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Graham Nash embraces the solo life (and rules out a CSN reunion)

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When Brit rocker Graham Nash landed in Los Angeles for the first time with his band the Hollies, he was so smitten, he climbed a palm tree.

“It was paradise. Full of sunshine, good music, freedom, beautiful women, lots of drugs — it was a good time,” says Nash.

He fell for the sunshine, but stayed for the harmony he discovered with David Crosby and Stephen Stills one day at Joni Mitchell’s bungalow.

They sang one song, and “I realized that I’d have to go back home and leave the Hollies and leave my money and leave my equipment and leave my friends and come and follow the sound we had just discovered. That’s how powerful that sound was,” says Nash, 77, in a phone interview from his New York City home.


He divorced his first wife, returned to LA, and found paradise for a few years with girlfriend Mitchell.

His heart was broken when Mitchell sent him a telegram from Crete: “If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.”

Nursing his wounds at the Chateau Marmont, Nash wrote “I Used to Be a King” — “I built my life on sand/And I watched it crumble in the dust” — and other tracks that became his first solo album, 1971’s “Songs for Beginners.”

When Nash takes the stage with his band at the Berklee Performance Center on Sunday, he’ll perform his first two solo albums, “Songs for Beginners” and 1973’s “Wild Tales,” in their entirety, plus other favorites from the Hollies, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

He may be in a retrospective mood — or possibly just a romantic one.

He’s playing those albums now “quite frankly, [because of] a lot of very subtle pressure from my wife, Amy. She loves those two albums and wanted me to do them,” says Nash.


His 2016 solo record, “This Path Tonight,” was spurred by his divorce after 38 years of marriage, and finding love again with photographer Amy Grantham, 40.

We caught up with the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer/Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee/Grammy winner/Officer of the Order of the British Empire for a wide-ranging interview, from current politics to CSN rock history — although he says that band is done.

Q. What does it feel like for you to go back to those first two albums now?

A. It’s very interesting, reintroducing myself to my songs. The songs are pretty decent, actually. Normally when you look back at old stuff, it’s crude and simple, but the songs were very decent.

Q. And a lot of them still resonate now, politically.

A. It’s an honor that people love them, but it’s a pain in the ass thinking how relevant “Immigration Man” is. That was written 50 years ago, and we don’t seemed to have learned much.

Q. Your first album, on the Joni breakup — how difficult was that for you?

A. It was a very difficult time in my life. Joni and I loved each other very much. We would light up a room when we entered. It was idyllic. And after a couple of years it came to an end, and I’m still friends with Joni.

Q. You released “Teach Your Children” as a video [in 2018].


A. I wanted to bring “Teach Your Children” into the modern age. I know it was written 50 years ago, but the incredible energy of the survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida really got to me. Jeff Scher, who’s an artist, did about 2,200 drawings for the video.

Q. You released a double-disc retrospective [2018’s “Over the Years . . .”]. Do you feel in a retrospective mood?

A. Yeah, I realized there had never been, for want of a better word, a “greatest hits” of my music. Yes, I’d done a greatest hits with the Hollies, and CSN, and CSNY, but never of my music. Because I’ve been a solo artist for the last four or five years, I know what 15 songs my audience loves. I wanted to put them on a disc. And to make it more interesting, I went into my archives and brought out demos of those songs, and I think people are finding that very interesting, to see the original spark of creation.

Q. Speaking of reminiscing, it was the 50th anniversary of Woodstock recently. That was one of your first CSNY shows.

A. Just the second time we’d played in front of people. An amazing event, of course. A feeling of: Here we are, all together, all thinking the same thing, all loving the fact that peace is better than war, that love is better than hatred. All those hippie things. And to have three days of peace and music — kind of phenomenal. I don’t think that could ever happen again.


Q. Do you know what the chemistry of CSNY, or CSN, was? What was that magic?

A. I think two things: The songs we sang, and the incredible vocal harmonies we discovered when we turned our three voices into one.

Q. Would CSN ever tour again?

A. No. No, it’s completely over.

Q. Why is that?

A. I don’t want to sing with David [Crosby] ever again. Very simple.

Q. Was there something that led up to that?

A. Eh, doesn’t matter. David’s out of my life and I’m glad about it.

Q. You recently won the UK Americana Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

A. It was very interesting. We never got into music to win awards, but it’s nice when you get recognized for a lifetime of work. I started when I was 18 years old, and I’m 77 now and still rocking, still creating, still passionate about music, still looking forward to the next show.

Q. Do you remember that first rock song you heard that was so powerful you knew you had to follow it?

A. “Bye Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers. It came blasting out of some speakers at a dance I was attending with Allan Clarke, who later formed the Hollies with me. That piece of music, the harmonies they created as brothers, because they’re completely linked, of course, with their DNA — I mean, me and Crosby can sing pretty good, but it’s not like the Everly Brothers. Don and Phil Everly had an incredible vocal blend that really affected me. I wanted to make music that made me feel like that. And I’m still trying.


Q.You said CSN wouldn’t tour. Would you work with [Neil] Young or [Stephen] Stills?

A. I don’t know. I still talk to Stephen and Neil on a weekly basis. We’re just not talking to David.

Q. So being a solo artist the last few years, that’s different for you. You enjoy it?

A. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I mean I can afford not to ever play again if I want. But I’m a musician, I’m a communicator. I want to talk to people. I want to make them feel good. I want to give them value for their money. I want to see them smiling on the way out of the show. I want it to be a nice two or three hours of peace.


At Berklee Performance Center, Boston, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $57, 617-747-2261, www.berklee.edu/events/graham-nash

Interview was edited and condensed. Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@
. Follow her @laurendaley1.