Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are a monument on the musical landscape. The first real super group, they stand as a hulking behemoth of talent, history, and legend, not unlike Mount Rushmore.
If CSNY are in fact the Mount Rushmore of music, David Crosby is definitely the Teddy Roosevelt of the bunch. He’s outspoken, brash, bold, has an inherent distrust of politicians, survived longer than anyone thought he would, is fond of firearms, has been fighting tirelessly for 50 years for causes he believes in, and has an iconic haircut and mustache that haven’t changed in years, if not decades.
Like Roosevelt, Crosby’s boldness can get him into trouble (such as his comments about Neil Young’s new girlfriend, Daryl Hannah), but he is also a generous and charitable softie who is prone to childlike giddiness, like when he’s discussing the two albums he’s been working on, or his upcoming solo tour that kicks off at Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa on March 5.
The show promises to be a dazzler. It’s just Crosby and a guitar—a unique and personal experience that sheds new light on some of his most cherished work. The set list will range from classics from The Byrds, CSN and CSNY to solo stuff, including songs off of 2014’s “Croz” album plus new material from upcoming releases.
“It’s just me and the song, so I have to come with really good songs and then I have to sing them really well and genuinely,” said Crosby during a recent phone interview in between recording sessions for a new album. “I’ve got a song, and there’s a story in it for me to tell you. Either I can make you feel something with that song, or I can’t. The more you pare it down, the more the words count, and I really like that part. You’re not having to compete with any lead guitar players.”
A solo tour gives Crosby the chance to fully utilize the in-between song chatter, something he has always loved to do. A passionate activist streak has run through his career since it began, with topics like his anti-war stance and the ineffectiveness of bumbling politicos regularly appearing as part of his set.
“It’s not encouraging the state that the United States is in right now,” stated Crosby. “I would say it’s very tough, but I don’t think that’s a reason to lay down and put our paws in the air and give up. I think that this is our country, and I think we have to keep trying to make it be our country. It’s very tough because the corporations have managed to buy congress, and they own it, and that makes getting anything done very difficult.”
Disagree with him or have a question you would like him to answer? Crosby is totally game.
“I had an idea which is, I’ll have a site called [email protected], and people can send in questions about anything, and I will answer them during the show.”
Essentially a live version of Crosby’s infamous Twitter Q&A’s (he roasts everyone from Kanye West to The Beach Boys’ Mike Love), this new interactive feature of the show should prove to be entertaining and enlightening.
His fondness for Twitter allows him to communicate with fans, something he loves to do. Have a music suggestion for him? Want him to listen to your band? Shoot him a tweet!
“I get turned on to all kinds of music I otherwise would not have heard,” he admitted. “If they send me something on there and say, ‘Hey this is my band’s new song, will you tell me what you think?’ I will! I’ll actually listen to it and I’ll tell them.”
“It’s not always a pleasant experience,” he added with a laugh. “I do tell them what I actually think. I figure I owe it to them.”
Crosby also offers his own music suggestions over Twitter, like Snarky Puppy, a jazz group he adores and recently collaborated with on the song “Somebody Home.” Crosby was so wooed with Snarky Puppy’s bandleader, Michael League, that he brought him on board as producer and co-writer on a just completed solo album.
When asked if he agrees with League, who recently said that he’s writing the best music of his life, Crosby is bashful.
“Well I don’t know. Yeah, I would, but I don’t want to be the one to say it,” he said with a laugh. “I think I am writing really good stuff, but I’m co-writing a lot of it with other people. On the one with Michael, I co-wrote five really good songs with him.”
Crosby is currently working on a second solo album for release this year with his son and fellow Crosby, Pevar & Raymond band member James Raymond. This partnership also has him giddy, and bursting with paternal pride.
“He and I wrote most of the ‘Croz’ record together,” said Crosby. “I’m pretty proud of him, he’s a better musician than I am, and that’s really something to be proud of.”
“Croz” was Crosby’s critically-acclaimed return to solo work after 20 years, making the prospect of two new albums in 2016 seem miraculous. Crosby owes this to the “very high-grade communication” he has with Raymond and League, but also frequent and fruitful visits from that ever elusive muse.
“It’s just the songs came, you know? That’s basically how it works. If the songs come, then I’m in the studio working. I don’t really have control over it, I just try to make space for it. It comes when it comes and I’m very grateful that it has.”
Crosby took a break from his marathon recording sessions to attend The Grammys, where he was floored by his pal Bonnie Raitt’s performance, as well as someone less expected.
“I really thought that Lady Gaga [and her tribute to David Bowie] absolutely killed it. I think she was terrific! When she got into ‘Fame,’ that was so good. I wanted her to only do that song because it rocked so hard. It was so excellent. She’s not like the other pop-tarts, she can actually sing and write and play. She did good.”
When asked if any of the many accolades he received (like numerous Grammy awards our multiple Hall of Fame inductions) have really knocked his socks off, Crosby is true to form.
“That wasn’t my purpose in the first place. I’m trying to communicate music to people. My father, who was a cinematographer and made movies, won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. He used them for door stops. That kind of educated me to the fact that, those awards are nice, and the respect of your peers is a great thing, but I don’t take them as seriously as I take my audience, the people that are actually listening to the music and buying the music. That’s who I take seriously.”
And audiences can take David Crosby seriously when they buy tickets to his rare solo acoustic concert on March 5. For tickets, visit SCFTA.org.