The songwriting legend on his finest work, from The Hollies to CSNY
EARTH & SKY
With CSN on a break, Nash records his third solo album
Earth & Sky happened mainly because of that picture on the front. When I saw that shot, taken by my friend Joel Bernstein, I knew I had to make an album for that cover. Just the feeling of it all. Again it was just a bunch of songs I needed to get out. There are a lot of songs in your head and there’s not a whole lotta room in there, you need to get them out so you can forget about them. Normally the songs would be pretty complete when I got into the studio, so you sit the musicians down, play them the song and figure out what key it’s in, then you’re off and running. That’s the great thing about working with great musicians [including Craig Doerge on keys, Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Tim Drummond on bass], as you hardly have to talk to them. My father told me: “Never buy a dog and bark yourself” – you don’t work with great musicians and tell them what to do. We spent maybe a month recording this. Yeah, it was pretty quick but, you know, great players.
CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG
The final studio stand of CSNY
Looking Forward was interesting: it was Crosby, Stills and Nash in the studio making a CSN record and the door opens and Neil’s there. So he comes into the studio and he goes, “So what you guys working on?” We showed him and he’s like, “Oh fuck, I wanna be a part of this.” That’s what happens a lot – the album we did with the boat on the cover, [1977’s] CSN, in Miami, we had just finished “Shadow Captain” and someone said, “There’s a weird guy taking a piss in the parking lot…” So we went outside, and it was Neil! He’d just come to make sure we were doing good stuff. He didn’t become a part of that, of course, but it was funny. Neil’s an incredible musician, I really respect him. He does exactly what he wants and sometimes that pisses people off, but he’s true to himself and God bless him. I don’t think my writing style has changed over the years. I’ve always done the same thing, I’ve always had to feel something before I can write about it. I look at something in the news or on the TV or I experience something and if I feel strongly about it, I write songs about it. How do I write? Every single which way you could think of. I’ve written songs starting with a kick drum, I’ve done it in every possible way. The best way is to write like you don’t know that you’re doing it; then all of a sudden you get out of this creative fog and write a song.
SONGS FOR SURVIVORS
The first Nash solo album in 16 years, including a Richard Thompson cover
The songs here were written within six months of starting this record. You start off with five or six songs and you’re writing more and suddenly the record is done. I worked with Russ Kunkel on this, and his son Daniel, an unbelievably great engineer. Russ was very hands-on, with a great sense of time, a great sense of arrangement. I covered a Richard and Linda Thompson song, “Pavanne”. I had been a fan of Richard’s for a while – he’s a brilliant musician. It had been a long time since I’d recorded a solo album by this point. But you gotta understand, I had been a busy boy. I produced 16 CDs with Joel Bernstein, and I toured, I did 300 shows with CSN, I wasn’t sitting on my ass. We played a lot in the ’90s, because we like to work and we’re communicators. Once we wrote the songs that we feel should be sung we need to go out there and sing them for our fans. The truth is we never took any fucking notice of any deadlines at all. When Crosby, Stills & Nash signed to Atlantic, we signed for six albums – but we hadn’t done six albums until, like, ’82! So we never took notice of deadlines and it’s why we loved [Atlantic boss] Ahmet Ertegun so much, as he kept the lawyers off our backs. Because we were supposed to give them an album every year – yeah, good luck!
THIS PATH TONIGHT
BLUE CASTLE, 2016
A swift sixth, lamenting the end of his marriage and the birth of new love
Shane Fontayne and I shared a bus when we were touring around the world with CSN. I’d write a set of lyrics, I’d give them to him, and he would go into his bunk and the next morning there would be a song. Quite frankly, I was always a little uncomfortable writing with people, but not with Shane – for some reason it feels like I’m writing with myself. The art of being an artist is to know when to let go, and I think Shane wrote some really great pieces of music for me. The recordings all came together incredibly quickly, we wrote 20 songs in a month. And then we recorded it all in eight days. It’s six people in the studio at the same time with me as the vocalist, singing at the same time. “Myself At Last” is our second attempt at the first song we tried! “Encore” is me trying to figure out who the fuck I am when the last show is over, who am I when the lights are fading? Am I going to give to the universe or do I want to take from the universe? It took a while to come out – one of the reasons was we were waiting for the best pressing plant in Germany and they were a little blocked up. The resurgence in vinyl has been just incredible in the last five or six years, so everyone is scavenging like fuck to find the old machines they’d thrown away. There’ll be more stuff from me, that’s for sure. Don’t forget, I wrote 20 songs for this and there’s only 10 on the album. It won’t be 14 years before the next one, I’ll tell you that.
The March 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with My Bloody Valentine and Rock’s 50 Most Extreme Albums on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, there are new interviews with Joan Baez, Stick In The Wheel, Gary Numan, Jethro Tull and many more and we also look back on the rise of progressive country in 70s’ Austin, Texas. Our free 15 track-CD features 15 classic tracks from the edge of sound, including My Bloody Valentine, Cabaret Voltaire, Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, Flying Saucer Attack and Mogwai.
Uncut: the past, present and future of great music.