David Crosby doesn’t dodge questions.
Whether it’s an interview, a tweet or his new advice column for Rolling Stone, the mouthy rock star speaks his truth. There’s no sugarcoating or spin control. From his mouth to your ears.
What will it take for Crosby, Stills & Nash — and possibly Young — to get back together?
“I don’t think that’s doable, man,” he said in a recent rapid-fire phone interview. “All three of them are pissed at me and think I’m just horrible. I think that’s probably done with.”
Do you go onstage stoned?
“Definitely not. Even though I have a lot of fun if I’m stoned, I do better with the audience if I’m straight. So I smoke afterward. I like smoking pot. I don’t do it in the daytime because I’ve got [things] to do. It relaxes me. It really helps me sleep.”
Why are you playing the 50th anniversary Woodstock in August?
“They offered me good money. It’s a gig. I need gigs, man. Ever since they stopped paying us for records because of streaming, that cut my income in half. So the only money I make is from live performances.”
Actually, Crosby, at age 77, is on a roll. The two-time Rock Hall of Famer has recorded three impressive albums of new material in the past four years. He’s alternating tours with two different bands, one acoustic, one electric. The latter, Sky Trails, performed in May in Minneapolis at the Pantages Theatre.
“In the last few years that CSN was together, we really weren’t friends. It wasn’t a place I could take a song and get treated lovingly,” said the sweet-voiced singer with the droopy mustache. “So I had saved up some ideas.”
After CSN wound down in 2015, Crosby reconnected with his son, James Raymond, who’d collaborated with him in the band CPR from 1996 to 2004. And he ran into Michael League of Snarky Puppy. Both put together new bands with Crosby — Sky Trails and Lighthouse, respectively.
“These two groups of people have been stimulating me like crazy,” he noted. “Truthfully, it’s been the best possible thing for me, man. It’s been pure music. It’s music that wasn’t aimed at money. It’s music that’s been really satisfying to work with. Good, complex, intelligent music. That’s made me a very happy guy.”
Before he hits the road, Crosby will publish his first “Ask Croz” column in the June issue of Rolling Stone.
“Would you ask me for any advice, man? Hee-hee-hee,” he laughed. “It’s one of the funniest ideas I’ve ever had. Rolling Stone asked me to do it. I’m definitely going to have fun. I expect that I’ll probably get into trouble.”
TWITTER FEUD WITH KANYE
The place you find Crosby most often these days is on Twitter.
He likes talking to people and discovering music there. Plus, it helps him deal with insomnia. He’s sent more than 50,000 tweets.
“I sleep in patches,” he explained. “An hour or two and then I wake up. I’ll do Twitter then.”
Crosby got into a little feud with another Twitter activist, Kanye West, in 2015 after the hip-hop hero’s performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at England’s Glastonbury Festival.
Said Crosby: “The guy can’t sing himself out of a Kleenex box. Freddie Mercury can really sing. And Kanye is murdering it. He comes out and says he’s the greatest living rock star.
“So I get on Twitter and say: Would someone please drive him over to Stevie Wonder’s house so he can see who the greatest living rock star really is. And would someone buy him Ray Charles’ record collection so he can learn how to sing.”
West’s fans went after Crosby on Twitter. Per usual, he just rolled with it.
Feuds aren’t alien to Crosby. Take for instance, his relationship with Neil Young. In 2015, Crosby dissed Daryl Hannah, Young’s new lady friend and now wife. He apologized later but the damage was done.
Who is the most difficult in CSNY?
“All four of us. We’ve done horrible things to each other many times. We were fully competitive. We made good music anyway. I don’t have a beef with any of them. I think they’re all nice guys and do good work.”
It’s been a couple of years since he’s talked to any of them.
“I think they should get over it. That’s their life, not mine,” said Crosby, sounding neither contrite nor defensive. “I just can’t wait around. I have to make the best music I can. Right now. Today.”
Crosby is not feuding with anyone in the Byrds, the other group that landed him in the Rock Hall of Fame. For the past decade, he has reached out annually to Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn about doing a reunion tour of the pioneering 1960s country-rock band. Instead, McGuinn has been touring with fellow founding member Chris Hillman, doing a post-Crosby Byrds album, 1968’s “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”
HIS PAL DYLAN
The Byrds broke through in 1965 with a cover of Bob Dylan’s folk song “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The songwriter attended the Byrds’ recording session.
“You could hear the gears running in his head,” Crosby recalled of Dylan. “He went directly out and got himself an electric band.”
Crosby and Dylan became pals. In fact, Crosby was instrumental in getting the Minnesota-born bard to go to Princeton University in 1970 to receive an honorary degree, an event chronicled later that year in Dylan’s song “Day of the Locusts.”
Dylan didn’t want to go. “It wasn’t his kind of thing,” remembered Crosby, but he persuaded Dylan that it was a big deal and offered to accompany his friend.
“Then they wanted him to put on a cap and a gown. He didn’t want to do that. I said, ‘You ought to compromise: Put on the gown but not the cap.’ It was a very funny conversation with some very pompous officials from Princeton, and Bob couldn’t have cared less.”
In 1990, Crosby joined Dylan in the studio to sing harmony on the album “Under the Red Sky.” Dylan played a tune so Crosby could learn it. “Then we went in the studio and recorded it completely different. He likes it to be a little uncomfortably unsure.”
Now Crosby finds himself in harmonious situations with two bands.
He’s recorded two songs for a follow-up to Sky Trails’ eponymous 2017 debut. Besides Crosby and Raymond, who plays keyboards, the band includes guitarist Jeff Pevar from CPR and keyboardist-singer Michelle Willis, who’s also in Lighthouse.
He’s talking to Jason Isbell about writing songs together. The two sang together at the Newport Folk Festival last year and will share a bill at Red Rocks outside Denver on Sept. 17.
With various health problems (a liver transplant in 1994) and legal issues (jail time for drug and weapons charges) behind him, Crosby focuses on family and music.
“I don’t have a lot of time. I need to make all the music I possibly can. Let me be clear, man. Music is the only thing I can do to make anything better. It’s the only real contribution I can make.
“Just like war drags the human race down, music lifts up humans and brings out the best in them. So it’s a big deal to me to keep doing it. I can’t stand around and wait for anybody. I’ve got to be working as hard as I can.”