Graham Nash is 80 years old now, and he’s still on tour. The singer-songwriter of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame has a new live album (and, because one art form isn’t enough, a new book of photography). He’s playing at the Payomet Performing Arts Center in North Truro on Tuesday night, July 26.
On the phone, he sounds sharp as a tack, but there’s one thing he can’t recall. Though he knows he’s played Cape Cod before, he can’t remember which town. “Probably Provincetown,” he guesses. “My impression is: fantastic lobster.”
He’s touring with a mixture of songs both old and new. There’ll be songs from his days in the Hollies, a pop-rock band he formed as a Lancashire teen in the early ’60s, songs from his days with David Crosby and Stephen Stills (and sometimes Neil Young), and songs from his two solo folk albums from the early ’70s, Songs for Beginners and Wild Tales. There’ll even be songs he wrote “yesterday,” he says, since he’s still got his nose to the grindstone.
Fans of Nash can expect that he’ll play the songs in ways that resemble their original arrangements. He says that when he plays his songs, even those from 50-plus years ago, he’s trying his best to tap into the emotions he felt when he was composing them. “I have to be honest with my audience,” he says. “They deserve the best version of me singing those songs.”
Some of the songs, especially those on Songs for Beginners from 1971, are thought to be about his relationship with Joni Mitchell, which lasted from 1968 to 1970. Mitchell was in a brief relationship with David Crosby before getting involved with Nash. She’s even considered partially responsible for getting the group of guys together, although verifying this theory may drive you down a wormhole of ancient gossip that has no end.
Nash says he wishes he didn’t have to keep driving home some of the messages from his old songs. “Military Madness,” for example, one of several protest songs on his first solo album from 1971, is only too relevant today, he says. He is incensed about the war in Ukraine.
It’s disturbing, he says, to see Russia “trying to completely annihilate another entire country purely for the whim of one man who wants to be Peter the Great in 2022,” he says. “Wouldn’t you be frustrated if you wrote ‘Military Madness’ 50 years ago?”
A photographer and a songwriter from an early age, Nash says that the pandemic lockdown days weren’t too much of a shift from the patterns of his everyday life. “I’m not a partygoer,” he says. “I was lucky to be able to stay in my apartment and create songs and images.”
His father influenced Nash’s interest in photography. He recalls his dad, whom he describes as a 270-pound working class man from the north of England, taking him and his sister to the zoo, where he would photograph the children next to the animals.
He was young when he adopted his father’s hobby. He took the portrait of his mother in the new book of photos when he was 11.
In 1990, photography led him to buy an early large-format inkjet printer from the company Iris Graphics, which he set up in a carriage house in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Using this printer, he and pioneering computer graphics expert David Coons, who was involved in transitioning Disney’s animation process from traditional to digital animation, produced a show of Nash’s film photography in three-by-four-foot prints for department stores in Japan.
Nash released a photo book titled A Life in Focus just last year.
“I want to do it all,” he said. “I’m curious about the world.”
Some of the proceeds from Nash’s Payomet concert will be going to the Guacamole Fund, which supports grassroots environmental and social justice activities.
Songs for Old-Timers
The event: Graham Nash in concert
The time: Tuesday, July 26 at 7 p.m.
The place: Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Road, North Truro
The cost: $55-$95 at payomet.org