David Crosby wants to make all the music he possibly can before he peters out
Famed and celebrated for the timeless songs he created as a member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young), David Crosby has also had a solo career that started relatively slowly, producing four albums in 43 years since 2014 experienced a creative renaissance and ensured that his name is independently synonymous with pure, emotional songs full of rich harmonies.
Five acclaimed albums followed over the next eight years. Crosby and his son James Raymond formed the core of Croz (2014), Sky Trails (2017) and For Free (2017), while Lighthouse (2016) and Here If You Listen (2018) formed in collaboration with the Lighthouse Band, the collective term for his collaborations with singer/songwriter Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League, the multi-instrumentalist bandleader of the eclectic jazz band Snarky Puppy.
Recorded with the Lighthouse Band in 2018 and comprised of songs old and new performed – and recorded – gloriously, Live At The Capitol Theater is Crosby’s first-ever solo live album and DVD. We caught up with the irrepressible Croz to talk about that and his ongoing musical odyssey.
Releasing as much music as you’ve been making lately suggests that there’s more to you than just making a living.
It’s not a living. I have money. It was a wish to make as much music as possible in this small space where I can still make music. I am a human; we fall silent somewhere after eighty years and I’m eighty-one… That’s the only contribution I can make. The only place I can do anything better is to make as much music as possible.
I’m really excited about the live album because I think it’s exceptional chemistry and it’s a very honest record. We didn’t hide any bugs, we didn’t fix anything; this is really us.
Didn’t want to wrap up what inspired this creative streak, or was it already underway and you wanted to continue with it?
What inspired me to leave CSN. When I left CSN and did Croz, that’s where I just got on a real winning streak. I was holding back a bit and wasn’t happy with my situation, wasn’t happy with the chemistry and just didn’t feel like doing my best. And suddenly I had a clear path and just really walked with it. I had a wonderful time.
One of the main reasons for the flood of records is that we have two bands, one of which is the Lighthouse Band. The four of us have a chemistry that was explosive for me, and I nurtured it…
We have another [album] in the can waiting to fall. When we go on stage it’s a very honest relationship; We’re not trying to do showbiz, we’re trying to make the best music possible. And people like it, you can tell. And it feels good.
What do you think is the secret behind this chemistry?
I don’t know man. Of course, this has to do with their ability in singing and playing. But the way people merge into a creative process on the rare occasions that this happens, there are so many variables that I doubt anyone will ever be able to scientifically represent it. I can’t and I do. it is what i do
I can’t even really describe the process to you, but there is chemistry and it happens between certain people – Becker and Fagen, Lennon and McCartney. Some people work together and it’s explosive.
A song you played at the Capitol Theater that night was 1974, which the band reworked from a demo you made forty years ago. Why had it lain dormant for so long?
It’s just one of those scraps of merging harmony stuff that… You know, you don’t want to waste stuff, so save it. Michael walked into this one and said, “Man, come on, let’s put this into words. That’s a really nice set of changes.” And we did.
After the fourth song, Vagrants Of Venice, you tell the audience, “This could possibly be a really good night.” Why did that night feel so special?
It was the last night of a tour. We had cleaned up pretty good and were feeling good, man. It’s always a matter of feeling. You know, you can do everything by the book, right and perfect, and it doesn’t work at all, and sometimes everything is wrong and it still works great. It has some feeling and I can’t explain it, but it was one of those nights. We knew it, we felt it – you can see it on our faces.
The show ended with a scintillating rendition of Woodstock, a song of hope and possibility, and feels like a very promising conclusion to proceedings.
Yes. I thought it was free of most of the precepts, most of the normal limitations of people’s thinking. It was quite a spectrum – we come from folk and jazz and pop, and we’re very different people from different generations and different countries – but what’s happening is very human. It is very good. And the audience was very cultured and very interested in it and not looking for hits but they were interested in what we were doing. And we were really happy about that.
“Hope” and “possibility” are also two words that come to mind when looking at the recent recordings of Woodstock’s author, your friend Joni Mitchell, whose recovery has allowed her to return to the stage recently. How did that make you feel?
I find her wonderful. I think she’s the best singer-songwriter of our time and any ground she can regain makes me happy. Wasn’t that Brandi Carlisle doing that to her? Man, she deserves a lot of credit. That was a wonderful thing. She persuaded Joni to do this and she directed the whole thing and I will find her and thank her because I just love her for it.
How do you feel when you sing your songs in front of people?
I feel accomplishment. I feel like I’m doing my life’s work. I’ve been given the ability to do it and I feel blessed, so I feel like I’m complete. When I sing a song well and can take people on a little journey – “Come on, let me tell you this story” – I feel complete. I feel good. i feel whole I feel like I’m doing my life’s work.
David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band’s Live At The Capitol Theater album and DVD are available now through BMG.