Having wrapped up a tour in May with Crosby, Stills & Nash, and with a fall tour of Europe on the books, Graham Nash could have taken a break this summer. It would have seemed like a good time for some R&R.
Instead, Nash is on a solo tour – accompanied by Shane Fontayne, guitarist in the Crosby, Stills & Nash touring band – that runs through Aug. 23.
“I’m a musician,” Nash said, explaining in a late-May phone interview why he wanted to get back on the road. “I need to play. I need to communicate.”
That sort of thinking makes sense considering how art – be it music, painting or photography – is such a central part of Nash’s daily life.
“I try to create something every day, not necessarily songwriting,” he said. “I have to create something every day or else I get upset with myself. I have to take a great photograph or make a great painting or write a good song or start a good song.”
And when it comes to creativity, Nash has been quite productive of late. Last fall, after completing a CSN tour, he and Fontayne got on a roll when they decided to do some songwriting together.
“Shayne and I, in October of last year, had an incredible month for some reason and we wrote 20 songs,” Nash said. “Then we came into the studio in Los Angeles and in eight days recorded all 20 songs.”
Always one of rock’s most socially aware artists, Nash said some of the new songs have a topical slant, while others are more personal.
“Life, it happens in front of me,” he said. “The songs that I just recorded with Shane stretch from everything from a song called ‘Mississippi Burning,’ which is about the three college students who were murdered in the early ’60s down South when they went to try and help black people be able to vote, and it stretches all the way from there to probably one of my most personal songs that I wrote with Shane called ‘Myself At Last.’ And it’s everywhere in between.
“There’s the song about Ferguson on there called ‘Watch Out for the Wind’; a song that I wrote with James Raymond called ‘Burning for the Buddha,’ about the 128 Tibetan monks that have burned themselves to death in the last year and a half; … and falling in love and falling out of love, just normal stuff that happens to me. I have to write about it.”
The album is essentially done, although Nash said he’d like to have Stephen Stills play guitar on a couple of songs, bring in David Crosby to add vocals to a couple of tunes and have Neil Young play guitar on “Watch Out for the Wind.” He has time to arrange for those finishing touches because he decided early on he wasn’t going to put the album, titled “Now/Then,” out this year.
“I didn’t want to bring it out this summer because we’d already booked the entire year with the three of us, or possibly the four of us, if that was going to happen,” Nash said. “We had to leave space, so there was no space this year to promote it as I’d have liked to. So I’m going to bring it out in early spring of 2016, which is only what, six or seven months away, and then be able to promote it properly.”
Nash mentioning “the four of us” alludes to the fact that there was talk of a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tour this year. In 2014, the group released an acclaimed box set, “1974,” that documented the legendary tour of that summer in which CSNY played marathon three-hour – sometimes longer – shows, and Nash had been optimistic that the four would regroup to tour this year in support of the set.
But any possibility of a tour seemed to go up in smoke last fall when controversy erupted between Crosby and Young. Following news that Young was divorcing his wife of 37 years, Pegi, and had started dating actress Daryl Hannah, Crosby spoke out about Young’s situation in an interview with the Idaho Statesman newspaper, saying, “I happen to know that he’s hanging out with somebody that’s a purely poisonous predator now. And that’s karma. He’s gonna get hurt. But I understand why it happened. I’m just sad about it. I’m always sad when I see love get tossed in the gutter.”
Crosby issued an apology eight months later on “The Howard Stern Show,” saying he was “completely out of line” with his comments. But by all appearances, the damage was done, with Young having said that CSNY will never tour again.
Nash hopes that a time will come when CSNY can happen again. He voiced his displeasure about Crosby’s comments and said he understands Young’s feelings.
“Neil and I talked about it. He’s very upset at David,” Nash said. “He gave David a chance to apologize, and I’m sure people think that David did apologize, certainly on ‘The Howard Stern Show,’ but eight months later?
“My sadness is, is the music of CSNY going to stop because of something somebody said in a newspaper in the Midwest?” he said. “I mean, come on.”
CSN, though, remains very much an active entity. In addition to maintaining a busy touring schedule, the trio has two album projects on the drawing board. One is an album of new original material. No recording has been done, but Nash sees hope that it will come to fruition.
For now, Nash has shows to play. He will have plenty of flexibility to change up his song set from night to night, but plans to cover everything from songs with his pre-CSN band – the popular British group the Hollies – up to his newest songs. He says he enjoys doing his own shows.
“I think reaching different (avenues) of musical expression is good for us all,” said Nash, noting that Crosby and Stills are also doing solo tours this summer. “It’s great when David, Stephen and I are together. It’s great when David, Stephen, Neil and I are together. And it’s great when me and Crosby are together. But I do enjoy the solo concerts. I don’t have to deal with anybody else’s music but mine. I realize that I have an incredible catalog of stuff to sing, so the choosing of the set list is very interesting every night.”
If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: The Orpheum, 200 N. Broadway
Tickets: $26, $46, $66, selectaseat.com, 855-755-7328