“I’m on kind of a crusade about songs,” says David Crosby. “I really love ’em. I think they’re a lifting force, you know. The way that war is a depressing force on humanity, music is a lifting force, and I think when you create songs, you do a good deed. You help lift, and make things better.”
Crosby, a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (as a member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash), will bring his crusade to the South Orange Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 18. For information, visit SOPACnow.org.
The show kicks off a tour that precedes the release of Crosby’s next solo album, Lighthouse, due out Oct. 21. The lead single, the gentle, meditative “Things We Do for Love,” can be heard already, though; you can listen to it below.
Crosby will tour again once the album is out, but these shows will be something different, featuring just him and his son, James Raymond.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” says Crosby, who turns 75 on Aug. 14. “Just the two of us — him on piano and me on acoustic guitar. In November and December, I’ll do a tour that’s really ‘The Lighthouse Tour,’ but this one is just … it’ll include some of that, but it’s my whole lifetime of work — stuff drawn from everything, from The Byrds till now.”
Crosby has worked with Raymond before, in the trio CPR (also featuring guitarist Jeff Pevar) and other formats, and they have also written many songs together, including about half of Crosby’s 2014 album, Croz. Crosby has also been doing a lot of co-writing, lately, with Michael League of the band Snarky Puppy, and Becca Stevens.
“If you look at it as a painter, with a palette,” Crosby says, “when you write with somebody else you double the number of colors on the palette. The other guy always thinks of something you didn’t think of. It widens the whole set of possibilities.”
Raymond, says Crosby, “is a very sophisticated musician. He’s a better musician than I am, and a schooled one: He can read and write this stuff. He’s a jazzer. He really goes to the deep end of the pool, so to speak. And he and I have an easy, good, clear channel with each other. And so the writing happens fairly well. I know that’s immodest to say, but that’s the truth.”
Songwriting, Crosby says, is “the key to the whole deal anyway, man. That’s the problem with current pop music: The songs are just about as deep as a birdbath. They’re just shallow shit, highly polished, and of very little value: All surface, no substance.
“That’s not what we try to do. When I write a song, I’m trying to talk to you. I’m trying to take you on a little voyage. I’m trying to express something to you, or widen your world, if I can.”
The eloquent and outspoken Crosby had a lot to say on other subjects as well, including …
• The possibility of a reunion with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills: “I don’t know. I haven’t closed any doors. Graham Nash has been saying repeatedly, ‘It’s over, it’s terrible, it’s all Crosby’s fault.’ He says that every time he can get anybody to listen. But I haven’t said anything, and I know Stills hasn’t said anything. We’re going on with our lives, and trying to ignore that nonsense. So, I really don’t know.”
• The possibility of performing at political fundraisers or benefits connected to the presidential election this fall: “I have such a low opinion of politicians that I avoid it like the plague. If I was gonna do something, it would have been for Bernie (Sanders). Him I felt strongly about, enough to where I probably would have, if he had gotten the nomination. But I have a terribly low opinion of politicians. I write about ’em in the most critical terms, over and over again. So no, I don’t think so.”
• The death of Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner in January (Crosby, Kantner and Stills co-wrote “Wooden Ships,” which was recorded by both Jefferson Airplane and CSN): “He was a good friend. It’s a hard thing, man. When you get in your 60s and 70s, you lose people pretty regularly, and it’s something you have to resign yourself to.”
• The title of Lighthouse: “That’s an odd thing. It came to me in a flash. All of a sudden, one day, that word popped into my head, and I thought, That’s really how this thing feels, for some reason, and I can’t really explain it, but it felt right. You know how it is with me and feeling: That’s my guide. I pay attention to that stuff. And when it comes that strongly, I said, ‘Okay, so that’s the title.’ ”