An album inspired at least partly by divorce can certainly be a downer. But Graham Nash is confident that This Path Tonight, his first new solo album in 14 years, isn’t just rolling in the deep.
“I think it’s a very hopeful album,” Nash, who’s in the midst of a divorce from his second wife, Susan, tells Billboard. “That’s why I started the album with ‘Where are we going?,’ because I don’t know. I only know I’m on the right path. But I’m not a dark person. I’m trying to be as positive as possible, and even though it looks bleak and it looks like I don’t know where I’m going, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Nowhere does that light shiner brighter than on the track “Target,” which Billboard is premiering exclusively below and was inspired by Nash’s relationship with girlfriend Amy Grantham, a New York artist who shot This Path’s Tonight cover photo of Nash in Woodstock. “This is a song from my heart to the heart of the lady I love,” Nash says, adding that producer Shane Fontayne “brought a kind of Irish bouzouki instrument out on the road once, and when he was playing the chords on it it really sounded great, almost dulcimer-like. It actually sounded a little reminiscent of (Joni Mitchell‘s) Blue, actually. I decided I wanted to write a song about Amy, about my approach to her heart and put it in that kind of cupid symbology. So there it is.”
It’s a major time of change for Nash: There are no plans for Crosby, Stills & Nash to continue on together after decades of collaboration. “Right now, I don’t want anything to do with [David] Crosby at all. It’s just that simple,” Nash says “In my world there will never, ever be a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young record and there will never be another Crosby, Stills & Nash record or show.”
Nash’s focus is on This Path Tonight, out April 15 and produced by former Lone Justice member and Bruce Springsteen sideman Fontayne, which catches the British vocalist on a creative high, inspired significantly by the new love in his life. “I was kind of flat for about 10 years,” acknowledges Nash, who nevertheless produced a number of archival releases with Joel Bernstein, including the live CSNY 1974 box set. “I do other things than music, of course, but I was flat in my music. I was just existing. And I realized I need to be happy. I’d forgotten how to be happy. So now the divorce proceedings are going well — they’re never painless — but in the middle of that I fell in love with Amy and she set me back on fire, and Shane and I wrote 20 songs in a month and recorded them in eight days.”
Fontayne assembled a crack band that included session regular Jay Bellarose on drums and his wife Jen Condos on bass, and CSN keyboardist Todd Caldwell. Nash didn’t know any of them prior to the recording but liked having a fresh group to work with. “When I asked Shane to produce it, I told him ‘I want it intimate. I want it funky. I want it close. I want it personal. I don’t want it too polished,’ and that’s what we got,” Nash says. “It’s very different than anything I’ve ever done. This is the first time I’ve ever walked into a studio and said, ‘Hi, you’re the drummer? I’m Graham. Let’s record…’ I’ve always known who the fuck I’m gonna record with. Not this time.”
Nash will perform at Bluesfest in Australia later this month, and he and Fontayne start their next U.S. duo run on April 22 in Beverly Hills, Calif., with Europe set for May and June. He’s hoping that This Path Tonight will do well enough to take the full band on tour during he early summer.
“The shows are just amazing,” reports Nash, whose Graham Nash: Touching The Flame exhibit is running into the spring at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum in Cleveland. “We’re playing these (new songs) live, and I understand if I play ‘Our House’ or we do “Guinevere,’ I understand people on their feet cheering. That’s fantastic. But when you bring people to their fucking feet cheering for a song they’ve only hear once, that’s insane. And it happens night after night, so I’m feeling very good and very positive about these songs.”