Photo by Will Blochinger
For David Crosby, known mostly as the artist behind the capital letter of his surname in bands such as CSN, CSNY, or CPR, a solo career was intermittent, at best. The first album on his own, If I Could Only Remember My Name, came in 1971, with two more, in 1989 and 1993, respectively. So forgive even Crosby, himself, for being surprised by a recent burst of activity that includes three studio albums in three years— Croz, Lighthouse, and Sky Trails —and a live EP assembled for Record Store Day. We spoke to Crosby the morning after a tour stop in Los Angeles, and two days ahead of Record Store Day, about his creative resurgence, the importance of working well, or not, with others, and his sometimes trouble-making tweets.
With the soon-to-be released Sky Trails, you will have issued three solo studio albums in three years. What’s going on?
It’s kind of out there, isn’t it? I’ve never done this before in my life. I think it’s two things. One, I’m really happy with my family. Two, leaving CSN. I mean, I’m really proud of CSN. They are a good band. We did very good work. But, it had gotten to the point where it was just turn on the smoke machine, play your hits. And, we didn’t like each other. It was not so good. So, leaving it was like opening all the doors and windows in the house and letting the breeze blow through. It was fantastic. All of the sudden I generated this huge amount of songs, one after another. It’s immodest of me to say so, but they’re pretty good. I just followed the music. I’m just now putting out the third record of three, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m really proud of the work.
Did you discover something that has contributed to this noticeable increase in output?
I’m writing pretty much the same way I have. I’m writing more with other people, which I like to do because it increases the possibilities. It increases the number of colors you’ve got, because the other person always thinks of something you didn’t. But, it’s mostly that I’m happy. I’m a really happy guy right now, man. That produces a lot of music for me.
Does the happiness allow you to remove some inhibitions or is it steering you towards happier material?
It produces all kinds of songs. I’m certainly not happy with Congress. I wrote a song about them called “Capitol,” that’s unkind, to say the least. They’re such a bunch of a-holes. I can’t believe they’re behaving the way they are, but, then, I can’t believe we’ve got this idiot for a president. There is some critical stuff about them, but mostly I write love songs. That’s what I always have written, mostly.
You also have a special EP coming out on Record Store Day. What are your thoughts about the EP and the day, itself?
Streaming has killed the record business. We no longer make any money off of records because they don’t pay us. They pay point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-four, or something like that. So, if you play Déjà Vu something like ten-thousand times on Spotify, I could, maybe, buy you a cup of coffee. It’s that bad. We make records because they are going to last longer than we will. Record Store Day is sort of a way of fighting back. It’s a place that we really love. We love vinyl. Every artist I know loves vinyl. And, we love mom-and-pop record stores because they are not big chain stores, and because they don’t cheat us. They pay us, and they love music. Which is definitely not true of the Spotify people. They just love making two-to-four-million dollars a day, which is what they’re doing. So, we love Record Store Day. The minute people started telling me about it, I said, I have to be a part of that. What we did was we took four of the best songs the Lighthouse band does—including two of the very best, “Guinnevere” and “Woodstock”—and put them out on an EP that you can only get, ladies and gentlemen, at your neighborhood record store. You can’t get it anywhere else. And, it’s really good.
You often get asked about reuniting with your old bands. What does it take, in a general sense, for you to consider getting back together with people to make music again?
It’s about the songs, almost always. That’s really what I care about; the songs. It does matter, the vibe of the people, and whether you are friends or not, whether or not you can sing together. There are a whole lot of variables about it. I’m happy how it is. I love making music with other people. I’m in two bands, now. There is the acoustic band—the Lighthouse band—in which we sing four-part harmony. Real, actual four-part harmony. Which is pretty rare. I haven’t seen that in my life hardly ever. It’s a joy. And, this (current) band is fully electric. We’re just rocking. We kicked butt last night. And, I think we’re going to keep doing that.
That’s the band you are on tour with now? With Jeff Pevar, Stevie DiStanislao, and your son, James Raymond, all of whom you’ve played with in CPR?
We’re sort of re-creating that. We’ve added these two girls: Michelle Willis, who’s in the Lighthouse band, also, singing harmony and playing keyboards, and Mai Agan, who is just an amazing bass player. An amazing girl from, of all places, Estonia. She’s just a great player.
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