While he may be best known for his early work with The Hollies and blending his voice into the sublime harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, vocalist Graham Nash has spent the better part of the last half century recording solo albums as well. And 8 p.m. Monday, July 24, he takes the stage at Ocean City Music Pier. He was kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time this week to chat about his solo tour, the old days and why he will never work with David Crosby again.
Atlantic City Weekly: Throughout your career you have gone back and forth between playing with groups and being a solo artist. Do you prefer one over the other?
Graham Nash: Right now I do. Absolutely. I am having incredible fun at these shows. When I’m in CSNY there are four of us. All writing, all equally strong (kind of) and all expecting to get three of our own songs on a 12-song record. But what do you do with all the other songs you write? You have to do something with them. One of the things I’m loving about doing these smaller shows is that I can see them (the crowd). I can see their eyes in the front row. I can see if something I say strikes a chord or if I sing a line particularly well. I can feel them.
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ACW: How have you structured the setlists on the current tour? Is it mostly solo stuff or are you mixing it up a bit?
GN: I’m mixing it up. How can you not mix it it up? I’ve made a lot of music in my life. And I want the audience to know that I want to be there. I saw The Police about five years ago at The Hollywood Bowl and it was obvious that they didn’t even like each other. And the audience can spot that in a f%$#ng second. So I want them to know that I want to be there and they better be smiling when they walk out or else I didn’t do my job.
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ACW: When you first formed Crosby, Stills & Nash it seemed like you had found the perfect blend of voices and songwriters. What made you want to bring Neil Young into the mix?
GN: On that first CSN record, Steven Stills played most of the instruments. We knew we had made a really great record but we knew we were going to have to go out on the road, and who the f*$# is going to play all those instruments? So David (Crosby) and Steven (Stills) were having dinner with (Atlantic Records founder) Ahmet Ertegun and he said, “I know who you should get. You should get Neil!”
But I was not happy with this. We had created this wonderful sound where three voices become one, and four-part harmony is much more difficult to figure out than three-part harmony. And I had never met Neil. So I said, “I need to meet him if he is going to join this band.” I went to breakfast with Neil Young after which I would have made him president of the world. He was so funny and so confident and knew exactly why he should be in the band. At the end of the breakfast I asked him “why should we allow you in this band?” and he said “Have you ever heard me and Steven play guitar together?” I said, “Got it.”
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ACW: In the last few years there was some feuding between Crosby and Young as well as Crosby and you. But things seem to have settled down a bit lately. Do you guys think that you will ever reunite as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young?
GN: No. With all due respect, David was very unkind to Neil and (Young’s girlfriend, actress) Darryl Hannah. And again, with all due respect, David has been very unkind to me lately. I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. I have been one of his best friends for 45 years and now we haven’t spoken in two years. But the truth is, if that was it, then we certainly brought some good music to people’s lives, you know?
ACW: You always added such gorgeous high parts to your songs. As you get older do you find it hard to hit some of those notes?
GN: Not at all. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll singer. I don’t have a vocal coach, I just start singing. And I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’m singing better than ever. It’s insane — I’m nearly 76 years old!