It somehow seems so fitting that just a few weeks ago, Graham's daughter Nile Nash, along with founder and director of all things (((folkYEAH!))), Britt Govea, released Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash's Songs for Beginners on the always amazing Grass Roots Record Company. The record features covers by Alela Diane, Vetiver, Brendon Benson (Raconteurs), Sleepy Sun, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Mariee Sioux & Greg Weeks (Espers), Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes) and more! You can hear samplings of tracks from the beautiful album below:
Britt was kind enough to answer my questions about the release and how it all came together. Check out the interview below!
Phenomenal cover artwork by the inimitable Tahiti Pehrson
Miss Ess: What does the original Songs for Beginners mean to you?
Britt Govea: It's a record, for me, that I keep coming back to over time.
Its beauty and spirit are both timeless and inspiring.
ME: Why is it so special?
And the singing, well, in many ways, is unbeatable!!!!
ME: Why did you decide to produce this project now?
BG: The time was right and the hour was near for Graham to be honored and celebrated for his solo work and great craft of writing and singing songs that continue to stand the almighty test of time.
How did each artist decide what song they would cover? Or was it assigned?
I started a list and Nile added a few, then Nile assigned songs to each artist.
And then what kind of direction did you give (if any) about the sound/direction of each track?
Trust and respect! Let artists do what they do, that's the (((folkYEAH!))) way!
We just give them a stage or a mic and let them do as they feel and it always yields great rewards!
It's all about respect and honor!
How did you pull the artists together?
Myself and Nile Nash got together to chart out a plan of artists whom we both know personally, both admire and respect musically and love.
How did you decide who to ask and was there any kind of criteria they needed to meet?
Artist friends whom we knew truly loved the original record and Graham Nash and a few that we thought would do inspired versions.
What did Graham say when you came to him to get permission to make the record?
Nile informed him that we were doing it with love and respect! He, I am told, was honored and flattered.
And what does he think of the finished product?
Nile told me he cried when he first heard an advance peek at some of the new versions of the songs.
When I listen to the original Songs for Beginners, it seems full of sharp-eyed criticism, yet optimism and hope about what we can accomplish politically. Do you feel, with the current political scene and the last election, there is a similar feeling in the air at all? Or are we way past that point in time?
The times, sadly, with regards to human rights and basic respect for humanity, on a worldwide scale, in many ways are not super different than in 1971. This is a bit shameful, but one thing Graham has taught us all is that you can never give up and never stop hoping for the best in people to be revealed with compassion, understanding and straight up love.
We all fail and we all succeed, every day, as Buddy Holly would say, "it's a-getting closer, moving faster than a rollercoaster"...right?
What was it like to make your video for Bonnie Prince Billy's cover of "Simple Man," "Hombre Sencillo?" Tell us about it!
I directed the video (with my pal Brian Ziffer) and I also wrote the treatment and story. It for me was very reflective of that time in my life when the universe "was spinning my head around," as Graham has said. I really poured all my heart and soul in that short film / video when we shot it in late February and when I edited it in March/April 2010, again with Brian.
What's coming up next for Grass Roots Record Company?
New Mariee Sioux full length record that will blow minds!
Big Eagle record (Robyn Miller), so good!
Upcoming releases from Farmer Dave Scher and the amazing Jonathan Wilson!!
Also, a tribute to Roy Harper with a load of amazing tracks already in the can by Chris Robinson, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Vetiver, Jonathan Rice, Jonathan Wilson, Gary Louris and much more to come!
Plus the launching of my boutique 7 inch label in late summer with amazing duets by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Mariee Sioux plus a BPB cover of a Merle Haggard song that will make you weep, it's that folking good!!!!
Thanks so much for your time, Britt!