Graham Nash, Harmonic Sound Catcher

“Music is astounding, isn’t it?” Graham Nash is genuinely enamored with the wonders of sound. There’s always a special twinkle in his eye whenever we get together to talk about the indelible music he’s made since the early 1960s, the new music he’s planning to make next, and how he plans to have it all, both new and old, sound even better. Nash, 71, and I met at the Broadway HQ of Random House publishing arm Crown Archetype in New York City to dive deep into his quite revelatory autobiography, Wild Tales. In addition to discussing all of the shadows, shades, and sweet sonic details to be found within Tales, we also delved into why he’s been working “under the headphones” on a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young project that may very well become the first official hi-res Pono release. Carry on...

Mike Mettler: One of the earliest things in relation to the nuances of sound you mention in the book is the first thing anyone hears is their mother’s heartbeat [page 49]. Rhythm is a part of everyone’s life, even before we’re out in the world. We’ve all felt that beat inside, before we were born. It’s in our DNA.

Graham Nash: [nods] Even before you’re out. Yeah, your mother’s heartbeat is the very first rhythm section you hear — the very first drum set. [chuckles]

Mettler: When people ask, “Where did you get that ability from?” you can say, “Well, everybody has that ability from the start; it’s just a matter of how you manifest it.”

Nash: That’s right. And if you practice and build that muscle, it’s like I say often: If I’d been a plumber for 50 years, I’d be a great plumber.

Mettler: It’s that Outliers rule, right?

Nash: 10,000 hours, yes. I really enjoyed that book [by Malcolm Gladwell]. Work, Bill Gates, The Beatles — 10,000 hours, slogging away. Yeah, I did my 10,000 hours.

Mettler: Me too — but I think you’ve put in at least 20,000 hours more than me. Back to the beginning. You say on the very first page of Wild Tales, “All my life I’ve had music in my head.” Is there a specific thing that touched that off for you, a tangible moment that you realized as a kid that melody was a part of you?

Nash: Yes. As I said in the book, when I was 6 years old, I looked out my window and felt like I saw a golden city in the clouds after a rainstorm [page 13]. And I could hear the music of the town outside where I grew up [Salford, Manchester, in England]. I could hear the clip-clop of the horses, the iron wheels on the cobblestones, and mothers calling their children to come and eat — you know, that was all music to me.

Mettler: Earlier, you told me you’d “been under the headphones for the past 5 years.” What’s the ultimate goal? What are you trying to do?

Nash: To get as much good music out there as possible. I think that music is the common language we all share. It can really make you feel less crazy, maybe make you feel less lonely, or make you feel like somebody else knows what you’re going through. Because that’s what David [Crosby], Stephen [Stills], Neil [Young], and I are — four human beings who have to deal with our shit the same way everybody else does. But we deal with it by creating music and talking about it.

Mettler: And even better when it’s played on vinyl.

Nash: [smiles] The upcoming CSNY 1974 deluxe package accounts for at least eight sides of vinyl in it.

Mettler: Oooh, can we talk about that?

Nash: Sure, let’s talk about it.

Mettler: When will that be coming out?

Nash: I’m 11 mixes away from the end of a 40-song set. I’m deeply into this. Right now, I’m figuring out the cover with my friend Joel Bernstein. We listened to every single thing. We chose the best delivery of the song. The idea was this: Did Neil kill me with his delivery? Did Stephen blow my mind with “Word Game”? Which track, which one, is the best? I wanted those kind of takes. So Joel and I put this thing together. It’ll be 40 songs, and it’s the 40-year anniversary next year. I’m thoroughly expecting it to be out by March 4.

Mettler: So you’re reclaiming the sound from that tour, quite literally.

Nash: Not only that, but CSNY was an incredibly fine rock & roll band. We could really do it. I mean, not only did we have four interesting individuals and four strong songwriters, but we had the songs. I mean, Neil Young, in 1974, had an incredible burst of songwriting. He has a lot of songs on here, all written around that time, that are brilliant.

Mettler: That would be, what, songs like “Human Highway”?

Nash: [nods] “Human Highway.” “Don’t Be Denied.” “Pushed It Over the End.” “Ambulance Blues.” Just on and on and on. And one of the things about this box set, which was supposed to come out last year, is that I just kept finding things. I found this minute-and-a-half Neil song called “Goodbye Dick,” about Richard Nixon. It’s killer! I had lunch with Neil here in the city recently and I told him about it, and he goes, “Ahh, I remember that one. I only did that once, right?” I said, “Yeah, you only did it once, and it’s f---ing brilliant! And I’d like to use it.” And he goes, “Well, go ahead, man. Sounds good.”

Mettler: Did you also talk about putting this out in high-resolution audio?

Nash: Yes. The very first release on Pono, Neil Young’s new hi-res playback machine, will be that Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live 1974 album. All in 192/24, the highest resolution we can get. Neil has been a hi-res fanatic for years, you know.

Mettler: I sure do, and I cannot wait to hear that album in hi-res. Ok, one last thing: There’s a telling phrase you used in the book to describe why CSN works together so well: “the pull of gravity” [page 324].

Nash: [smiles] How interesting you bring that up. It’s that pull of the music. And by far, no matter how badly and how great we have treated each other over these last 40-odd years, it’s still the music. That’s why my book starts with the phrase, “It all comes down to the music,” and why it ends with the phrase, “It all comes down to the music.”

Mettler: It’s all right there. And as you say near the end of the book, you’re a slave to the music [page 344].

Nash: [nods] I’m a slave to it. Because my heart got touched. So why shouldn’t your heart be touched?

An extended version of this interview appears on Mike Mettler’s own site, soundbard.com.

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COMMENTS
savage's picture

So right...
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CSN was my intro to vocal harmony. I wore out all of my original CSN and CSNY records in the 70′s. I also wore out their track on the Woodstock album. Wish I still had the originals as they got misplaced in the shuffle of growing up.

I still love vocal harmony. I hope that all of CSN and CSN&Y tracks will become available on high rez that won’t wear out. To me it is timeless music.
Thank you very much for this interview

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