Graham Nash began singing with his mate Allan Clarke when they were kids growing up in Manchester, England. They formed The Hollies (“On a Carousel,” “Carrie Anne”) and then Nash went on to one of the first supergroups, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, later shortened to CSN. He’s also recorded with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and has been inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame twice, with CSNY in 1997 and The Hollies in 2010.
Last year, he appeared in the music documentary “Echoes in the Canyon,” which became a CNY reunion of sorts. Nash is also working on a new book of his photography and has recently released “Over the Years,” a 30-song collection of his best-known songs from the past 50 years; it includes more than a dozen unreleased demos and mixes. He returns to Ithaca for an evening of songs and stories at the State Theatre on March 7 at 8 p.m.
Nash spoke to the Ithaca Times about “Echoes in the Canyon,” Joni Mitchell, and why you never hear Mickey Mouse singing protest songs.
IT: Congratulations on “Echoes in the Canyon.”
GN: I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear it’s really nice.
IT: I spoke to John Sebastian, and he hasn’t seen it, either.
GN: [laughs] Once it starts streaming on some device, I’ll watch it. I don’t think I would want to go to a cinema to see it, you know? I have to tell you that to do a documentary on Laurel Canyon and not include Joni Mitchell is a mistake.
IT: How’s she doing?
GN: Joni’s doing well. She’s walking and talking and smiling and relatively happy. Last time I spoke to her, she was, you know, gathering her thoughts and trying to make herself better after her brain aneurysm. She has a team of people looking after her that love her dearly, and I think she’s slowly coming back to normal.
IT: So many of my friends wanted to know how she is.
GN: Yeah, she’s doing remarkably well. First of all, she’s glad she’s still alive, and to see her socializing—not as much as she used to, of course—but socializing and seeing friends and going out to see shows, is a great sign.
IT: “Echoes in the Canyon” couldn’t have been the first time you met Jakob Dylan.
GN: Oh, no no. He’s a nice kid, too, and the Wallflowers are a good band.
IT: Last question about the movie: Neil Young appears uncredited at the end of the film playing a blistering guitar solo, but he didn’t sit for an interview like you and David Crosby and Stephen Stills did. You know Neil better than I do; any idea why he doesn’t speak in the film?
GN: Yeah, Neil is a very private man, as you know. He lives his life, he is a slave to the muse of music, which I appreciate tremendously. I’m still in touch with Neil every couple of weeks. Everything seems pretty fine. I believe that he is a totally unique and wonderful artist.
IT: I just watched you and your band play a great version of “Immigration Man.” Tell me about them.
GN: I have two people that I play with, my lead guitar player, Shane Fontayne. I’ve been working with him for about the last eight years. He’ll be with me on lead guitar and singing. And Todd Caldwell, who was the Hammond B-3 organ player in the Crosby, Stills and Nash band, will be with me on keyboards and singing.
IT: I’m sure you’ve played a lot of great guitars over the years. What do you like to play these days?
GN: You know, several years ago, Martin made a Graham Nash model of acoustic guitar. I put pickups on mine, and those are the ones I use. I really love it, it’s beautifully made and it sounds fantastic, so why bother with anything else?
IT: Any plans for a Hollies reunion?
GN: [laughs] Very interesting that you should ask me that because yesterday I got a call from [Hollies lead singer] Allan Clarke. And I’m not opposed to making music with Allan. I’ve known him for 72 years [laughs] and Allan and I always had a very interesting vocal blend, and maybe we’ll get together and do something. It will be an interesting bookend to my musical life.
IT: Last question: Having come through the ’60s, are you surprised by the lack of protest music in the wake of what’s going on in the world?
GN: I think that the people that own the world’s media, you could probably count on a couple of hands. And the one thing they do not want is music on their radio and on their television that disturbs the status quo, that tells people information that other people may not want the public at large to know. They have learned since Vietnam that you can’t let the people get too upset, because what they do is, they start agitating, they start meeting, they start marching, they start writing to their congressmen and senators and presidents, and trying to change the world. And I’ve been part of that world for the last 50 years, and I’m glad I’m still here.•