The iconic songwriter Graham Nash, who will perform at the Old Whaling Church on July 18, rose to fame with the Hollies in the early 1960s, but he was best known as one-quarter of the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young (CSNY). Then, of course, he was one-third of Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN), and half of Crosby and Nash, before embarking on a solo career. Mr. Nash is also noted for his political activism and his work in photography and printing. While most small-press interviews with major musicians are too short to delve deep into topics like global politics, or what really happened between Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, The Times caught up with Mr. Nash during a break from his tour to discuss favorite songs, favorite guitars, and why you just might catch him out perusing an Island photography gallery.
What’s one song you’re proudest of writing or working on?
Wow, that’s trying to say who your favorite child is. I guess probably “Teach Your Children” or “Our House” will be the two that touched hearts more than any other songs.
Were there any of your songs which became popular that you didn’t expect?
I didn’t expect “Just a Song Before I Go” to be the biggest CSN hit single that we ever had.
What venue or show were you the most excited to play?
That depends. We’ve played very beautiful places in our lives. Certainly the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Olympia in Paris. I’ve played a lot of incredible places. I’ve even done a show at the United Nations General Assembly Building. It’s hard to pick just one, but I sure do love to play.
What musician have you worked with who really inspired you?
I think probably Joni [Mitchell] when we were together. Some of those early shows were pretty spectacular shows.
Who have you met that left you starstruck?
I don’t think I’ve ever been starstruck. There are a lot of people that I’ve made music with that I really enjoyed making music with — David Gilmour being one.
Are there any decisions you’ve made in your career that you regret?
Not at all. Certainly not musically. I have regrets of course, I wasn’t there when my mother died or when my father died, and those are my only real regrets.
What song do you think has the best harmonies?
“Suite Judy Blue Eyes.”
What’s your favorite instrument to play?
My stage acoustic guitar, which is a Graham Nash model made by Martin. I’ve had it about six years maybe.
You’re a photographer too. How did you get into photography?
I started when I was about 13 years old. I have a book of images called “Eye to Eye,” and the first portrait in it I took when I was 11. I started a printing company called Nash Editions in the late ’80s. The first printer we ever used is now in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
And you’re also a collector? What’s your favorite photo in your collection?
To start [Nash Editions] right at the start of the digital revolution, I had to sell my photograph collection. I raised the several million dollars I needed, but I do have images that I won’t sell. One of them is a portrait of Marilyn Monroe when she was about 15 in high school. I have a couple of images by Diane Arbus, which are astounding.
Where did you find those?
All over the world. When I’m in a city I don’t just stay in my hotel room. I get out there walking, and go to galleries, especially photography galleries and swap meets and art shows, all that stuff. So I collect from around the world.
What artist or album have you had on repeat lately?
“Sergeant Pepper’s [Lonely Hearts Club Band].” This new mix that came out recently is absolutely brilliant.
What is it you like so much about the new reissue?
I can see John and Paul and George and Ringo in the studio more. It brings you closer to the actual moment of recording.
What question are you most tired of reporters asking you?
Is CSN going to get back together again?
Well … are they?
What is the role of the musician in society?
Musicians and artists have a responsibility, and it’s two-part. The first responsibility is to tell the truth as much as we can. And the second is that we must talk about the times in which we live. We must pay attention to what’s going on in culture and in society as we’re living it.
How are you trying to do that in your new work?
Well, I paint too. I just did 16 paintings on my frustration with the Trump administration. I think this administration has set us back, particularly with women’s issues. And the energy that I’m feeling and the anger I’m feeling, I’m pouring onto canvas.
What are you excited about on your current tour?
Several things. I want people there to know that I want to be there. I think they pay hard-earned money to see me, and I want to give them value for money. And most especially I want to see a smile on their face when they are leaving the concert.
Why do you keep touring after all these years?
I’m a communicator. I have ideas I want to talk to people about, and I do that through my music. And one of the things that’s particularly thrilling to me right now is — you must understand I’ve played to hundred of thousand of people at the same time — but these small intimate theaters are giving me the chance to look into the eyes of the people who are paying money to come see me. And I can see if I’m making a connection, if I’m making sense to them.
What are your goals after this tour?
The only goals I have are to have some more peace in my life, some more happiness in my life, some more love in my life, and some more creations in my life. And I’m doing that every single moment.
Martha’s Vineyard Summer Concert Series presents Graham Nash at the Old Whaling Church, Tuesday, July 18, at 8 pm. Tickets can be purchased at mvconcertseries.com.