An audience with David Crosby: “I made so many mistakes that I can’t claim to be wise!”

As For Free caps a remarkable renaissance, Croz answers questions from the Uncut audience: he recalls jamming with Hendrix, being “stupefied” by The Beatles… and the making of High Noon

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“I’ve been having a fairly good time, man,” admits David Crosby, logging into Zoom from his home in the “stunningly beautiful” countryside near Santa Barbara. It certainly sounds like there are worse places to be locked down. “I’m looking out through a bunch of trees at some cow pasture. It’s a sunny day, absolutely lovely – California at its best!”

He has his dogs to walk, a pool to swim in and a garden where he and his wife grow vegetables – and pot, naturally. “But I have also been working on records at long distance with my son James and with my other writing partners. It’s not as much fun as doing it live and in person, but we have been able to make pretty good music, in spite of the fact that we couldn’t get in the same room. So that’s been life! I’m feeling pretty happy and I’m really loving making music.”

Thanks to social media, Croz has also gained a reputation for generously sharing his findings from 79 years spent on this planet. Does he enjoy being a wise old oracle now?

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“I dunno, man, I made so many mistakes that I can’t claim to be wise! But I’m kinda happy with my role right now. There’s a bit of curmudgeon in there. Some of it’s gonna piss people off, I’m sure. But that’s not my aim. My aim is to be funny if I can, and insightful if I can.” Then again, “There’s some people I might want to piss off!”

Your songs are flowing faster than at any time since the ’60s. What do you attribute that to?

Well, that’s easy. I learned a long time ago, when I wrote “Wooden Ships” with Paul Kantner and Stephen Stills, that you can write really good songs with other people. Most of my compatriots in this business want all of the credit and all of the money, and so they don’t do that. I’ve found that it’s really fun and it generates good art. I didn’t come for the money and I don’t care about the credit, but I do really care about the songs.

My son James is a perfect example; he’s grown into, if anything, an even better writer than I am. He wrote the best song on this record, “I Won’t Stay For Long”. The other people that I write with – Michael League, Michelle Willis, Becca Stevens, Michael McDonald, Donald Fagen – these are all people that I picked because they’re all incredible writers, they’re a joy to write with. And it’s extended my useful life as a writer by 10 or 20 years. I think I would have petered out a while ago without it.

What was it like to write a song with Donald Fagen and how does that work in practice? 

Donald’s not a wide open sort of person, he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He knew going in that Steely Dan was my favourite band. But it’s taken a while for him to trust me enough [to collaborate]. My son wrote the music, I contributed something to the melody. [Fagen] just sent the words and stood back to see what would happen. He knew what our taste was and he knew what we would probably try to do. He’s an extremely intelligent guy and I think he knew what would happen. We know his playbook pretty well, so we deliberately went there – complex chords, complex melodies. We Steely Danned him right into the middle of this as far as we could! And fortunately Donald liked it, so I couldn’t be more grateful. I feel like one of the luckiest guys in the world, truthfully.

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