The David Crosby Story

David Crosby (left) during better times with friend Graham Nash at a 2011 Occupy Wall Street rally (Photo by David Shankbone/ CC BY 2.0)

David Crosby looks fearlessly into the waning light of his life, embracing the time remaining to him with all the energy and enthusiasm of a child waking up to a sunny summertime morning. CSN and CSNY are now things of the past, but all is well in Crosby’s world. The fire still burns, the muse still beckons, and the voice still soars. Moving gracefully into his 79th year, “the Croz” has entered what he stoically knows is the home stretch of his mortal journey, but this outspoken troubadour, the delightfully eccentric wizard responsible for writing some of the best self-proclaimed “weird shit” of this or any other time, continues to exude the energy of eternal youth. It’s in his voice, it’s in his attitude and it’s fueled by the musical company he keeps these days.

Since 2014, Crosby has entered a true Golden Age of creativity, recording and releasing four critically and commercially-acclaimed albums within a five-year span. He has toured America and Europe with two markedly different bands: the Lighthouse Band, an acoustic-based affair consisting of Crosby, Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, and singer-songwriters Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis, and also the Sky Trails Band, an electric, jazz-infused rock conglomerate featuring Crosby, his son James Raymond, Jeff Pevar, Steve DiStanislao, Mai Leisz and Michelle Willis. On tour with the latter band this summer, the shows are leaving audiences exhilarated and rapturous from the sheer musical magnificence that emanates from the stage, night after night.

On July 19, Sony Pictures premiered the highly-anticipated documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name, in select theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. A general release is scheduled to follow. The documentary was directed by A. J. Eaton and produced by veteran music journalist Cameron Crowe, of whom Crosby notes, “He and I have been friends ever since he was 17 years old. We introduced him to girls, and his mom definitely wanted to have us all shot.”

David Crosby (Photo by Anna Webber)

Crosby says that the experience was cathartic, and paradoxical in that it brought pain, but also much joy.

“If you’re making a documentary, normally, it’s very shallow. They go around and get anybody famous that you’ve ever met; they stick a mic in front of their face, and ask, ‘Isn’t he great? Isn’t he wonderful?’ This one, we wanted to give you an honest picture of a guy, and how he accomplished the good things he did and why he did the stupid things he did, and who he was. You don’t want to just prettify the picture; you want to find out who the person is. That’s how all three of us looked at it. There was a unity of purpose; we definitely felt that we knew what we wanted to do and we did it, and it was very honest.”

In addition to touring this summer, Crosby is working on his fifth album in as many years, this time around with the Sky Trails Band.

Describing the recording process, he relates, “We’re just going song by song, going right down in the trenches, taking each song as we get it, and serving that song. Then we’ll figure out that stuff later on, as we go along. I don’t know why I’m making the albums one after the other…well, I do. That’s a lie. I do know why. It doesn’t make sense, because they’re not paying me for them. Streaming just really killed it, man. Streaming’s the reason I had to sell my boat. It took away half my income, because they just don’t pay us. Streaming is like if you worked for three weeks and they paid you a nickel. It’s not okay. They’re making billions—with a “b”—of dollars, and they’re not paying us, and it’s our music. I’m very resentful about that one. It left me pretty broke. The only way I can make any money at all is by my performances. I’m not in a big band; I’m a leftover from a big band, so it’s been very difficult that way. But I do think I’m making really good music. This new song I’m doing with James might be better than all the others put together.”

On his frenetic writing/recording/touring pace during the past five years, Crosby is as gratefully surprised as his fans.

“The truth is that I can’t explain this resurgence but it’s there. The only smart thing I’m doing is recognizing it and working as hard as I can. If I’m going to be allowed to be a good writer at this stage of my life, and given a voice to sing really well, I am going to write and sing constantly. And, praise the Lord in between. It’s fantastic for me, man. I don’t want to slag my previous partners, man. I like ‘em all, they’re all good guys, and they’ve all done really good work. But I don’t want to go back there.”
Crosby keeps active outside the music world as well. Rolling Stone has recently launched its Ask Croz column, which gives the artist a chance to expand on his now-famous Twitter presence.

Explaining how this evolved, Crosby says, “They were looking at the Twitter thing and (my following) of 130,000 people and stuff. They liked the attitude of it. They said, ‘we’ll send you a bunch of questions, pick the ones you think you can be funniest about or that you can deal with best’…it’s a great thing, because the questions (are) like them teeing the ball up for you and handing you the bat. You can take a swing at the thing and put it where you want, pretty much. So, it’s fun. It’s certainly an opportunity to get in trouble.”

A conversation with Crosby would not be complete if the subject of America’s current political situation were not touched upon. Asked about the crop of Democratic candidates, he is quick to respond. “I’d be happy with any of them. Whichever one of them becomes the candidate, I will work for, because I don’t want this son of a bitch ruining my country anymore.”

For the complete conversation, visit Island Zone Update.

Roy Abrams
Roy Abrams is a musician and a veteran music journalist. For more, visit his blog, Island Zone Update.

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