David Crosby is one of those rare musicians who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as are all of the members of Crosby, Stills & Nash. For Crosby, it’s his work with CSN and the Byrds that earned him his spots (Graham Nash is also in with the Hollies, Stephen Stills with Buffalo Springfield). Despite all of that acclaim, Crosby is working primarily as a solo artist these days, and he’s much happier for it.
Why wouldn’t he be? He gets to tour with his son — pianist James Raymond — with whom he was reunited when the pair were adults, forming the project CPR along with guitarist Jeff Pevar. The two became very close very quickly, while Crosby’s other son, Django, is the singer-songwriter’s road manager. So he gets to be out on the road with two of the people he loves the most.
“[James and I] met about twenty years ago, and it was just a joy, because we instantly became very, very tight, and we really write and play incredibly well together,” Crosby says. “I love the guy. He’s just a fantastic human being and a great musician. So it’s an enormous pleasure. I’m out here with two of my kids, and they’re both really good human beings, which makes me a very happy guy.”
Crosby says that while he’s the focus of these recent solo projects, he’s still working with other songwriters. He’s collaborating with others as he’s always done, and he's content doing so. That’s in stark contrast to his feelings about his former bandmates.
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“I’m writing with other people all the time,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve been writing so much. Am I loving being able to form these two groups and guide them in the direction I want to go? Yeah, very much. I’m very proud of CSN. Crosby, Stills & Nash is a good band. We did some good work. But it had got to the point of turning on the smoke machine and playing our hits, and we don’t like each other, so it’s not fun. These bands that I’m in now are pushing the envelope musically, and really doing fine work. And I’m happy, all the time. That’s a pretty strong recommendation.”
Crosby’s fifth solo album, Lighthouse, was released in October last year, and he says that, while sales are down across the industry as a whole and have been for years, he considers the record an artistic success, with his fans loving it.
“Of course, nobody buys records anymore, because streaming just killed us,” Crosby says. “Streaming doesn’t pay, for you folks out there who don’t understand it. If you play Déjà Vu on Spotify 10,000 times, I might be able to buy you a coffee. It took away half of our ability to make money, for all musicians. That’s bad enough for people like me, who have already got a career going and can sell tickets to concerts. It’s terrible for young people trying to get established, because people now assume that they can get it for free, so they do. It’s a very bad situation for the musicians. We’re getting ripped off.”
The sixth David Crosby album, Sky Trails, is finished and will be released soon, marking a particularly prolific time in the artist’s solo career. The songwriter says that he is finding inspiration all around him, humans being the “utterly fascinating gizmos” that they are.
“I write mostly about love; I always have,” Crosby says. “Every once in a while, something is so egregiously bad that you pretty much need to point it out. When (the) Kent State (shootings) happened, I think we (Crosby Stills Nash & Young) were totally right to do ‘Ohio.’ That’s part of our job. It comes from the troubadour thing in the Middle Ages: We’re supposed to carry the news, every once in a while. It’s not our main job, but it is part of our job. I wrote one of the new Sky Trails record called ‘Capitol’ about Congress, that is extremely critical. Congress has the lowest approval rating a congress has ever had.”
Crosby concedes that no matter how much a songwriter tries to duck the subjects right now, it’s almost impossible not to be political in the current climate. Indeed, he’s been in the public eye recently thanks to a verbal spat with Ted Nugent, which should surprise nobody. Crosby believes that an overt political conscience from high-profile musicians is a good thing.
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“We should stick up for what we believe in, and I think what’s going on in D.C. right now is so awful and dumb and stupid that of course we’re supposed to write about it,” he says. “I mean, how could we not? The climate deniers in this bunch are taking apart all of our efforts to cope with global warming. They’re not just screwing over the American people — they’re screwing over the human race. Screwing over everybody on the planet, because of these guys’ stupid prejudices and their concern for the quarterly report of the corporations that own them. And believe me, the corporations own these politicians. They’re concerned with the short-range money, not with the long-range differences to the human race. And so we’re doing a huge disservice to the entire planet by backing away from global warming. It’s very concerning to all of us.”
Crosby gets audibly agitated when talking about politics, but is soothed when considering his forthcoming gig in Boulder, a place where he spent a lot of time in his formative musical years, singing in basement coffeehouses and sleeping on couches. He even goes as far as to refer to Boulder as “one of the best towns in the country” — high praise indeed.
After this run of shows, Crosby plans to enjoy a summer off of work for the first time in years, playing with his dogs and spending time with the family before getting back to writing in the fall. Now that he’s content with his work and enjoys spending time with the members of his various solo bands, he really only needs to stop to catch his breath.