People often envision rock stars as idealistic loners who live in a mansion away from prying eyes.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
Graham Nash exemplifies the power of networking.
Thats one of many aspects revealed in his best-selling new memoir, Wild Tales, which brings the recently knighted performer to Kansas City in conversation at Unity Temple on the Plaza.
Sure, there are stories of sex, drugs and rock n roll plenty of them but his book is a fascinating been there, done that compendium of collaborating with some of pop cultures biggest names.
As the N in CSN aka Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) Nash has been cranking out albums since the mid-1960s. The Lancashire County, England, native scored his first of many top 10 hits as a member of the Hollies before heading stateside.
Nash is one of the few musicians influential in both the British Invasion and the Los Angeles scene during their respective heydays. Nashs best-known compositions include Our House, Teach Your Children and Just a Song Before I Go.
The twice-inducted member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame spoke with The Star about the creative pursuits, personality clashes, hedonistic indulgences and philanthropy that characterized his career.
Q. What is the wildest tale in the book?
A. Probably the wildest tale is the only section of the book that my legal department from my publisher called me about. They said, Before we publish this and expose ourselves to massive lawsuits, we must make sure this is true.
That was the story of (David) Crosby selling his Mercedes to a cocaine dealer for crack. Then the dealer ODd. While the guy was dead in bed, Crosby stole into his house and took the pink slip back for (Crosbys) Mercedes.
Id known this story for many years, of course. But I called David and said, Im going to tell this story. What do you think? He said, Not only is it true, so you shouldnt change a word, but you should know that after I got the pink slip for the Mercedes back, I sold the car for crack.
Is it odd knowing your children have read these debaucherous stories?
It doesnt bother me at all. My kids have been with me all their life, of course. They know about my life. Theyve been on the road with me. They were witnesses to what I did in my life. I never used cocaine in front of them, but they can read Rolling Stone. Theyre not stupid.
Your book paints a portrait of the 1960s and 70s that seems far removed from the music scene of today. What are the main differences?
One of the main differences is music. We have always considered ourselves just links in a gigantically long chain of people that wanted to move from town to town telling you that the emperor really has no clothes.
We wanted to communicate about real issues in our lives. Thats a great part of what music is to me. We dont have dancers. We dont have fireworks. We dont have small people throwing food in slow motion. Its just the music.
Drugs are a big part of your book. In retrospect, do you think drugs were more helpful or damaging to your musicality?
Theres no answer. It is what it is. And it was what it was. A lot of people have asked if we would have made better music or more music if we were straight. Theres no answer to that question because we were all high as kites most of the time.
I cant take myself out of that picture and figure out what it would have been like if we were straight.
You cite a Stephen Stills interview where he claims the band members make up for each others stupidities. Whats your main stupidity?
Probably vanity. I look in the mirror, and I want to look like James Dean or Brad Pitt. In four days Ill be 72. I look in the mirror and still feel like a 25-year-old kid. I still have the same passions and energy for music. But who is this old guy Im looking at? Fortunately, Im married to a woman who cant wait for me to look like Jacques Cousteau.
Gotten any feedback from your CSNY bandmates about the book?
Yes, I have. The truth is, there were only two people who I was concerned about. I didnt give a (expletive) about anybody else. One of them was my dear wife, Susan (Sennett), because a lot of people wanted to know about my relationship with Joni (Mitchell). They think Joni played a huge part in my life. She did, but thats over 40 years ago. Ive been with Susan for 37 years.
I was a little hesitant about what Susan would say. But in her inimitable style, she just laughed at me. Shes a strong, independent, self-sufficient woman and doesnt give a (expletive) who I (slept with) 45 years ago.
The other person was David. He loved the book and didnt want me to change a word. He knows I was brutal about my description of him and his wife, Jan (Dance), and what they went through. But he also knows that I love him deeply and will support him forever.
Stephen was a little miffed about how I described his father as a hustler. I always asked him about his father, and he always told me he was a bit of a hustler, so thats what I put in my book. That was the only four-word part of the book that Stephen objected to.
The Hollies werent played much when I was growing up in Kansas City, but the book has compelled me to check out the bands catalog. Are you hearing that a lot from readers?
Absolutely. Theres a tremendous respect for the Hollies, certainly in the musician community. For me, its like when you have a new girlfriend, you dont talk to your new girlfriend about your old girlfriend and I never spoke to David or Stephen about the Hollies.
We were so in love with what we were doing. We had these songs, this energy, this passion. There was no room in my life for the Hollies after I left. In the last 15 years, Ive been going back as you have and been seeing what we did. The Hollies were a very, very good band.
Youve had multifaceted outlets for your creativity: music, photography, art, writing. Which is the most challenging medium for you?
I like to think of my songs as being true. I want to write songs that have a reason for being. If I take that sensibility and apply it to my photography, beautiful composed, intimate moments are desirable.
But Im trying right now to combine my photography into pastiches that have a different kind of truth other than, Oh, thats a cool picture.
What lessons should readers take away from Wild Tales?
The fact were all on a journey, and we better make our minds up to make it the best journey possible. We all have choices. In my life, I always searched my heart because thats what my mother and father taught me. Every situation that Im confronted with, I always consider both ends: What is the most positive way to deal with this?
What is the most negative way to deal with this? I always ultimately go to the most positive way. Theres an answer for everything. Its your choice. I dont believe the universe is out to mess with me. I think the universe is out to support me, love me and propel me into the future.
• Graham Nash is in town for two events on Thursday. Hell give the keynote address at the 2014 Folk Alliance Conference and Winter Music Camp at the Westin and Sheraton hotels in Crown Center. The address is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. For details, go to FolkAlliance.org.
• At 7 p.m., Nash is featured in conversation at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St. Admission is $28 for a copy of Wild Tales and two tickets. A 45-minute video presentation created by Rainy Day Books Roger Doeren about Nashs career begins at 6 p.m.
Folk Alliance conference
Folk Alliance Internationals relocation from Memphis to Kansas City in 2013 wasnt merely a boon for area music lovers. The economic benefits of the organizations move will be realized at the annual convention when as many as 2,000 fans, musicians and music industry insiders converge on the Westin and Sheraton hotels at at Crown Center. While the primary focus of the event is business-related, the public will have an opportunity to immerse themselves in music.
Public showcases Wednesday to Saturday. Westin, Sheraton hotels at Crown Center. 816-221-3655. Go to FolkAlliance.org for a full schedule. Tickets for the Folk Alliance Music Showcase are $25 per night.