David Crosby’s Glorious Renaissance

by WL Author

(photo by Anna Webber)

By Steve Houk   livingonmusic.com

These days, David Crosby is a pretty happy guy. No, I’m serious.

And that’s a big deal, especially considering Crosby’s ornery reputation (I’ve never experienced it in our chats), his wild and woolly past (putting it mildly), his various challenging travails (like jail and a new liver), and his openly stated disgust with the darkness (yes THAT darkness) that he feels is hanging over the country right now. Frankly, it’s pretty stunning he’s in such damn good spirits.

But as he approaches 78, it is his music that continues to keep him most content, most buoyed, most vital and centered, still after all these years providing him with a voice to speak his fascinating mind. And Crosby takes this responsibility very seriously, because to him, his music is really all he has to give. It’s what his lasting legacy…it’s what HE…is all about.

“I feel it’s like a sacred trust,” Crosby confided, as he prepared for the next gig on his current Sky Trails Band tour which stops at the Birchmere on June 4th. “They’ve given me this talent to do it, so I have to do it. I’m 77 years old, and I have a limited amount of time, so I’m working very hard to do as much work as I can, while I’m still here. It’s the only thing I can do, it’s the only contribution I can make, it’s the only place I can make it any better. Right now, things are pretty dark out there. It’s not real good. And I, and we, need to feel like we can make it through the day. And music helps you do that.”

One thing that helps Crosby facilitate this “sacred trust” and also stay above the doom and gloom are his excellent current bands, which bring an infusion of youth, energy and gobs of fresh talent into his legendary wheelhouse, and spur him on to keep writing, keep creating, and bottom line: keep making great music. And since 2014, putting out four stellar albums in four years and being now halfway through a fifth, all after not making one for over 20 years prior to that, is clear and present evidence that something is still working for the two-time Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer and one of popular music’s most enduring voices.

“I am making music at a high rate of speed here,” Crosby said with a spark. “But what’s going on, man, is I’m pretty happy that I’ve got two really good bands. They’re all younger than me, so they keep me pedaling faster, just to keep up. Plus I love the Lighthouse band, and the band that I’m out with now, this Sky Trails Band, is one of the best bands I’ve ever been in, it’s an excellent band. We can play anything we can think of, and we can think of some really strange shit. But the joy is in making really great music. And these two bands make really good music.”

David Crosby and the Sky Trails Band including Crosby’s son James Raymond on keyboards, Jeff Pevar on guitar, Mai Leisz on bass, Steve DiStanislao on drums and Michelle Willis on additional keyboards and vocals (photo by Anjali Ram)

For Crosby, his songwriting collaborations with both seasoned as well as shiny new songwriters is now the norm these days, something that wasn’t always the case. The renewed prolificity of his writing is due to a few important factors.

“One, the last 10 years of CSN, we weren’t friends, therefore it was not a place I wanted to bring songs, so I had some saved up. Two, I used to 90% write by myself, now I 90% write with other people. And they’re very inspiring writers, particularly my son James, I write with him all the time. I write with other people too, I wrote a song on the last record with Michael McDonald, I write with Marc Cohn, I write sometimes with Becca Stevens, I write with Michelle Willis. I write with just about everybody.”

Even being in his late 70’s, not typically an age when social media is top of mind, the rejuvenated Croz has found Twitter to be a fulfilling way to genuinely communicate his thoughts and ideas and opinions to not only fans but the world at large. And with more than 135K followers and counting, people are listening.

“I like it, for one, because you can talk to people, and people are fascinating to me. I also like it because the trolls, people who want to pick a fight with you, you can just delete them. I probably delete a couple of people each time I’m on there because I just don’t bother fighting the trolls. When they come up and boast on there and say, ‘You know, you lousy hippie, you don’t know how wonderful Donald Trump is! He’s the best thing that ever happened!’ I don’t bother trying to explain it to them, what a dunce he is. I just delete them.”

(photo by Anna Webber)

And in one of life’s great ironies, one that he clearly recognizes, Crosby was recently brought on as a contributor to Rolling Stone under the title of advice columnist, in a feature called “Ask Croz.” Yes, kid you not, the world is now asking for advice from David Crosby.

“I think it’s so funny, man,” Crosby said amidst a chuckle or two. “The idea of anybody asking me for advice is hysterical, absolutely hysterical. They ask me a bunch of questions, unprepared, I don’t get to see them ahead of time. And then I wing it. But that’s why they did it, basically, because it’s funny. And so, we’ll see how it turns out. I just did a bunch of them. We’ll see if anybody likes them.”

With a helluva life behind him, and seemingly some truly rewarding and creatively satisfying life still ahead, David Crosby is happy doing what he does best, making music, and exceptional music at that, all as he approaches 80. And it’s not complicated, it’s not a heavy lift, as to why Crosby feels that music is what keeps his supremely accomplished and gifted old soul cranking away.

“Because music is one of the most fun things on Earth, man. It’s a lifting force. It makes things better. The same way war makes it worse, and brings out the very worst in human beings? Well, in the same way, music makes it better, and brings out the very best in human beings.”

David Crosby and the Sky Trails Band perform Tuesday June 4th at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria VA 22305. For tickets, click here.

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