Graham Nash follows new ‘Path’ to Belly Up Aspen
The Aspen Times
If You Go …
Who: Graham Nash
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Thursday, April 28, 9 p.m.
How much: $61/GA; $151/Reserved
Tickets: Belly Up box office; www.bellyupaspen.com
Rock icon Graham Nash is opening the shows on his current solo tour at the beginning of his career, with The Hollies’ 1966 British invasion hit “Bus Stop.” From there, the 74-year-old works his way through his timeless work with Crosby, Still & Nash (and occasionally Young) up through his most recent solo album, “This Path Tonight,” released earlier this month.
It’s no surprise that the great songs of old are winning over audiences — they are, after all, the main draw for the tour stopping at Belly Up Aspen today. But Nash has been pleasantly surprised at how well the new stuff is going over.
“If I do ‘Our House’ or ‘Wind on the Water,’ and do it well and they get up on their feet and clap, I understand that,” he said Tuesday from New York, where he was taping an appearance on the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” “If I sing ‘Teach Your Children,’ they get up their feet and love it, I understand that because it’s 45 years old, it’s been in their hearts and their minds for years. When you can bring an audience to its feet clapping for a song that they’ve only heard once, that’s different. And that’s happening night after night.”
The album has been a hit, immediately landing on seven U.S. Billboard charts and bringing him to his highest chart spot back home in the U.K. in more than 45 years. It’s his first solo album since 2002’s “Songs for Survivors,” because Nash tends to make solo records only when he has something to say. And there’s plenty to talk about at the moment: in recent months, he split with his wife of 38 years and made public a rift with David Crosby that has dissolved Crosby, Stills & Nash for the foreseeable future.
As those relationships were ending, Nash went into the studio with guitarist Shane Fontayne and music poured out of him. The pair wrote 20 songs and recorded “This Path Tonight” over the course of eight creatively fertile days.
“With what’s happening in my private life, with me and my wife being divorced and me falling in love with this beautiful woman from New York, my life has changed drastically,” Nash explained. “So I was pouring all my feelings out.”
It was a charmed recording session. Nash recalled that the night before they were due to start recording, he and Fontayne and their studio band went in for a simple equipment sound check and, to their surprise, stumbled into a song.
“We sat down to make sure everything was plugged in right and that became ‘Myself at Last,’” he said with a laugh.
For a collection of songs about ending a decades-long romantic relationship and an even longer creative one, “This Path Tonight” is remarkably free of resentment and regret. Instead, its 10 songs are filled with uncertainty, soul-searching and hope, along with some reflection on how Nash will be remembered when he’s gone. He’s not bitter, he said, but he’s excited for what’s next.
“I feel great about it because this is what my heart is telling me I have to do,” he said. “And I’ve always followed my heart. That’s how I got into this mess in the first place.”
“This mess,” it turns out, refers to Crosby, Stills & Nash. It’s a mess he’s grateful to have followed his heart into.
“I was in the Hollies and I heard me and David and Stephen sing and that was it,” he said. “I followed that sound and followed my heart. People thought I was f–ing crazy, man, leaving the Hollies and the money and fame and women. But they hadn’t heard me and Stephen and David sing. I had. People think I’m crazy right now, as a matter of fact, but my heart is telling me I’m on the right path. So here I go.”
Nash and Fontayne — a frequent Crosby, Stills & Nash collaborator — actually liked all 20 of the songs they recorded (“That’s the unusual part,” Nash quipped) but they only put half of them on the album. That kept “This Path Tonight” thematically and sonically coherent. But Nash has released a handful of extra tracks digitally, including two songs that will please fans who are disappointed the album proper doesn’t include any of his signature political music. Those extras include “Watch Out for the Wind,” about the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and “Mississippi Burning,” about the killing of three civil-rights workers during voter registration efforts in 1964.
“They didn’t fit the path, romantically, that my life is on right now,” he explained. “I tried to fit them in there but they just kept sticking out too much.”
Some of the songs that the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is performing on his intimate spring tour are 50 years old. Many he’s performed thousands of times. He takes a somewhat radical approach to staying creatively engaged with them. Like a method actor, he puts himself back into the mental state he was in when they came to him — be they Vietnam protest anthems or love songs or products of the notorious sex, drugs and rock’n’roll indulgences that he chronicled in his 2013 memoir “Wild Tales.”
“That’s quite a difficult thing to do because then the emotional teeter-totter is insane when there are 24 of them in a row,” he said. “That’s the difficult part, trying to maintain an even keel whilst being bummed about someone breaking your heart 45 years ago or being pissed off about the military madness and why we haven’t learned. Yeah, but I have to put myself in the emotional place I was when I wrote it.”