David Crosby—who still really hasn't cut his hair—is in shockingly fine voice on his most recent album, 2016's Lighthouse. His high, silky tones elevate this folk-rock phantasia into an angel-haired realm that—while not as lofty or as lusty as his work with the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and his early solo output—is better than you'd expect from a 75-year-old music-biz vet with mucho substance abuse under his cape.
It's a wistfully beautiful, acoustic affair co-helmed by Snarky Puppy bassist Michael League, and you can expect to hear much from it at Crosby's Seattle date—along with material from CSN(Y), the Byrds, and his sublime 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name.
In recent years, Croz has become a Twitter sensation, the rare senior-citizen superstar who's opened himself to the social-media masses, answering any random questions they lob his way with blunt honesty and curt humor. (Recent exchange: "Croz you still get stoned?" "Sometimes.") He's also revealed himself to be a staunch advocate for left-leaning causes. Once a hippie, always a hippie, perhaps.
On the phone, and in the spirit of his Twitter presence, I peppered Croz with several questions that non-sequitured over a wide range of topics. While he was not as voluble as one would like (to be fair, we only had 15 minutes), Croz showed that his mind is still sharp.
Do you think that it's fair that veteran musicians have a hard time getting acceptance for their newer work?
In terms of live performance, you have to strike a balance between the newest work, which is the stuff you really want to play, and [old material] people want to hear. Because they love those songs and they want 'em. There's nothing wrong with that. But any songwriter will tell you their favorite songs are the ones they just wrote. That's part of our deal: We need to be playing those new songs to stay alive [laughs].
Are you aware of the cult following If I Could Only Remember My Name has accrued over the decades?
I think it's wonderful that they like it. I'm very proud of that record. We had a great deal of fun making it. Jerry Garcia was there almost every night, and he and I had a blast.
Can you remember if Garcia's contributions changed the way you played guitar or composed songs on that record? Were you trying to accommodate him or was he pushing you into new directions?
No. He and I would have fun. Both of us are not guys to stick to the rule book very much. We like to do odd and unusual things. For us, it was a great source of new music and joy. He was a very wonderful cat.
Can you discuss your use of alternate tunings?
What happens is, you go to detuning. You tune the bottom string down from D to E, and that's a joy. That's just the first step on the slippery slope. It gets a lot more complex from there. I ran into two people who changed my life on that. One of them was Joni Mitchell, who used more tunings than almost anybody, and used them brilliantly. The other one was Michael Hedges, who was even more sophisticated than Joni, which is really saying something. Both of those people were a joy to work with and taught me a great deal.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry as it pertains to artists making a living through royalties and streaming services?
It's terrible, man. Streaming has killed us. They don't pay us. If it keeps going the way it's going, we're not going to be able to make any more records for them to stream, because we don't make enough money to go into the studio.
Are you doing okay on back-catalog royalties?
Not really, because we don't get any performance royalties, because streaming is killing us. The only way we make money now is selling tickets to live performances.
Do you still think that, as the gorgeous opener to Name puts it, "music is love"?
It's probably not that simple, but it's a good thing to sing.
How do you feel about the way you've been portrayed on The Simpsons?
Ha-ha-ha. I feel fine about that.