The Core: David Crosby on Trump, Kanye West and Working with Snarky Puppy

Mike Greenhaus on November 8, 2016

With CSN in the rearview mirror, Croz cruises ahead with a pair of solo albums and a fresh, new outlook.


Somebody turned me on to a Snarky Puppy YouTube video, and I started tweeting about them. They’re a terrific band. [Snarky Puppy bassist and leader Michael League] got ahold of me and asked if I would do their benefit record series, Family Dinner, and I said, “Hell, yes!” I spent a week with them in New Orleans and had such a blast. They’re totally my kind of musicians—they’re way off the deep end in love with the music, and it’s really the only thing that matters to them other than their families.

So I invited Michael to come to my house so we could try writing together and we came up with three songs in three days. Admittedly, I had some music stacked up that I had been working on for a year, but I was stunned. When we saw how easy it went down, we immediately knew that we were making a record and that became Lighthouse. Michael produced it and brought in a brilliant engineer named Fabrice Dupont. They worked drastically fast. We wrote the album together and recorded it in 16 days. It wasn’t that there was a sense of urgency, it’s just that nothing took very long to accomplish—no drama, no egos, no agenda. He’s a very good writer. He has confidence in himself. It was about serving the songs—fast, clean and joyous.


Michael’s a very good communicator. He’ll play you something and, if you try to take it a little step further, he’s really open about it. He’s not afraid to express his opinions very strongly, but he’s not locked into anything either. He just wants it to be the best it can be. The only other person I can write with like that is my son James Raymond. He and I wrote [my 2014 record] Croz, and we have another record, Home Free, that’s coming out next year. It’s strange—most people my age have teetered out. They don’t really have the urgent feel to write—they are very lazy about it or they feel like they have already said what they’ve got to say. They generally don’t write like this, but I’m having the densest, longest, richest surge of writing I can remember ever having. I hadn’t released an album in 20 years before Croz, and now I’ll have three records within a few years of each other, which is quite unusual. It’s because I’m very happy. My family is good; my life is good. I know exactly what I want to do and I’m having a blast doing it.


Michael really liked my first record, If I Could Only Remember My Name. He liked the words, he liked the vocal stacks and he loved the acoustic guitars. When we got together to make Lighthouse, I thought we were going to use his big band and all those great players and make a band record. But he said, “I’d really like to make a mostly acoustic record with just guitar, some bass, big vocal stacks and really good words.” I said, “That’s right in my wheelhouse. I’m all for it.” Michael’s in a jazz band, but he listens to music from all over the world. Musicians call him a “wide-head.” I think, in that sense, we’re very similar.


I have a lot of fun on Twitter, but I don’t do it the way other people do. I’m not “hashtag this and hashtag that.” I talk to people just the way I talk to you. I like communicating with people. So Twitter is fun for me, but I do get in trouble there. Saying that Kanye West is a complete poser and hasn’t got any talent at all got me in a lot of trouble. Saying that Trump was a walking intelligent-free zone got me in trouble, too. It’s OK—everyone knows I’m an opinionated guy, so I just go on. [Ed. Note: Crosby has also quibbled with his former Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmates on Twitter and in the press recently. When asked if he has any plans to work with the group in the coming years, Crosby answered with a short, definitive, “No.”]


It’s just a coincidence that Lighthouse is coming out right before the election, but I have strong feelings about the shape America’s in right now. It’s a nightmare that that son of a bitch could even get to be a candidate. But this record isn’t based around that or a reaction to that—it’s independent of all that crap. I think the thing that ties all three of these new records together is the quality of the songwriting. I write by myself, but I also write with other people because it increases the number of colors you have to paint with. The quality of the songs on these records is pretty high. That’s a bit modest of me to say, but it ties them together. [Laughs.]


My son James is a terrific producer and a fantastic writer. We have almost all of Home Free already cut—it’s a band record. It’s a very good feeling and I’m extremely grateful that the songs are coming to me. As I said, I don’t see that happening to most of my compatriots. They seem to be running out of steam. I’ve gotten much better at working with other people and widening my scope. That’s the big advantage to working with other people— more options, more variables to work with. I’m still writing by myself as well—always have, always will. I’m really enjoying just writing for some reason. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, I think. I feel very alive.