David Crosby Is King of the Counter Culture
The folk legend discusses politics, pot, and performance in advance of his show at The Ridgefield Playhouse.
Photo by Anna Webber
For David Crosby, performing at the monumental rock festival Woodstock doesn’t seem as distant as one might think. “Well, it’s very strange. Woodstock gets bigger as you move away from it. It’s like in reverse perspective: As more time passes, the bigger it gets,” says Crosby, who is slated to play Woodstock 50, along with the likes of Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus this summer.
“[The anniversary show] is not an event like that was. It’s a gig, but it’s going to be a fun gig because a bunch of my friends will be there, and a bunch of different people I admire will be playing it. I think I’m going to have a blast.”
Despite his iconic past — as one-quarter of the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young — the Grammy-winning musician is most assuredly not resting on his laurels. “I am recording at a faster pace than I have ever recorded before. I am four songs into my fifth record in a row already,” says the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
“But it has to do with the people that I’m writing with, they’re really talented, and they make it really easy. My plan is to do two tours this summer and finish another record, and by the time next year rolls around, there will be another record.”
Locals can experience songs from Crosby’s 2017 album Sky Trails, as well as selections from his lengthy catalogue of hits when the rocker stops by The Ridgefield Playhouse on June 7. “It’s probably 50-50 old and new,” says Crosby of the show. “There will also be brand-new stuff, and you will definitely hear some songs you’ve never heard before.”
The rocker will be joined onstage by an acclaimed band, one member of which holds a special place in Crosby’s heart: His son, James Raymond. Crosby reconnected with Raymond after three decades of estrangement, only for him to become one of Crosby’s dearest friends and closest collaborators.
“He’s just a fantastic musician and an unbelievable writer,” says Crosby of Raymond. “He and I have now recorded four things this month for the next record. They’re some of the best vocals I’ve ever done in my life — ever. I’m a pretty happy guy.”
Crosby is also the subject of a brand-new documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name, which premiered at Sundance and has a wide release on July 19. In addition, Crosby has just been tapped by Rolling Stone to be the magazine’s new advice columnist. “I think it’s funny as s---. I mean, would you ask me for advice?” he says with a laugh. “It was Rolling Stone’s idea. They called me up and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to do this. Would you do it?’ and I said, ‘Of course I’d do it.’ I look at it as an opportunity to have a great deal of fun and probably get in trouble, one way or another.”
Contemporary politics is another abiding passion for Crosby, who finds a lot to like in the current field of 2020 candidates. “We have a bad situation in this country, and I like a number of people who are running,” says Crosby. “I like Elizabeth Warren; I like Beto O’Rourke; I like Kamala Harris. My favorite is [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez. She’s not running, but she’s my favorite politician. I really like Mayor Buttigieg…. I think he’s fantastic, and holy s---, is he smart. I’d be happy with Bernie. I’d be happy with any of those people.”
“I like to believe in karma because it makes me a better human being; it makes me behave better.”
Along with his political beliefs, the legalization of marijuana remains a passionate topic for Crosby, who is potentially licensing out his name to a new strain of cannabis. According to Crosby, pot will soon likely be legal across the country, but not for what he feels are the right reasons.
“[States] are looking at Colorado and Oregon, who can build a school, road, or a hospital anytime they want because they have millions in state-controlled tax money from marijuana,” explains Crosby. “Now, every state is going to legalize it right away and not because they ought to and not because it’s better than booze for you but because they want that money and need it desperately.”
Yet beyond his interest in politics or the country’s changing cannabis laws, it is his mortality that drives Crosby to create music at faster pace than ever before. “I’m gonna die. It’s pretty simple. No mystery there — so are you,” he laughs. “Knowing that, I figured the one thing that’ll help is to make this music. It’s the only contribution I can make, and it’s the one thing I can do that makes anything better. I’m not engaging in drama with other people about the past. I’m not waiting around to be a big star again. I’m just trying to make the best music I possibly can, as fast as I can do it.”
As for what follows death, Crosby has a few thoughts on that, as well. “I, personally, think that we go around again. I think that the Tibetan Buddhists have probably got it right. I don’t know if all of their dogma is correct, but I think maybe the energy recycles, not the personality, but I think that the soul and the life energy does,” shares Crosby. “I like to believe in karma because it makes me a better human being; it makes me behave better. I think you should believe whatever you want to believe and live it the best you can but not try to force it on other people.”
In the meantime, Crosby will be doing what he does best: performing his music on stages across the globe. In a post-streaming world, touring is the both primary way Crosby makes a living and the one thing that brings him the most happiness. “Live performances are the only way I make any money at all, but I really love it anyway,” he says. “It’s hard when you’re 77 years old, and you can’t sleep on a bus anymore. It beats the crap out of you. But the time when I’m singing is like having your own rocket ship: You get to go anywhere, do anything you can think of, and it’s a joy.”