January 29, 2023
Local News | Kane County Chronicle

Local News | Kane County Chronicle

Late musician David Crosby appeared at Arcada Theatre in St. Charles in 2019

Star talked about writing process, working with son

Famed musician David Crosby will appear May 13 at the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in May 2019, prior to David Crosby’s appearance at the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles. The music legend died Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 at age 81.

ST. CHARLES – The man behind such iconic songs as “Deja Vu” and “Eight Miles High” continues to be a creative force. David Crosby will perform many songs from his illustrious career when he takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. May 13 at the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles.

Joining him will be the Sky Trails Band, which includes his son, James Raymond, on keys, Mai Leisz on bass, Steve DiStanislao on drums, Jeff Pevar on guitar and Michelle Willis on keyboards and vocals.

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf spoke to Crosby about the upcoming show. The interview has been edited for length and style.

Eric Schelkopf: Will your upcoming show at the Arcada Theatre cover your entire music career?

David Crosby: It's tough, because I've made four records in the last four years, and I'd like to play everything on all of them. We have brand new tunes as well, really good ones.

Schelkopf: Are there songs that you especially enjoy performing and why?

Crosby: We do Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock." We have a different version of it.

We have a version of it that we like a lot that's four-part harmony. I like "Guinnevere" a lot, still. I like "Wooden Ships" a lot. We have a good arrangement of that. There's a bunch of really good stuff. And the brand new stuff is some of the best stuff.

Schelkopf: You did mention that you've been pretty prolific lately, coming out with a new album every year. Is it just because you have all these ideas now that you want to get down on paper?

Crosby: Yes. And also, it just really makes sense, because they really don't pay us for records any more. Streaming just changed the [expletive] out of us.

They just let you work for about four weeks and then they pay you a nickel. So there's no reason to do it, but I'm partly through a fifth album. We keep making up these songs and we love the songs and I love recording them.

Schelkopf: I know you will be backed by your Sky Trails Band at the Arcada Theatre show that includes your son, James Raymond, on keyboards. Of course, he produced your 2017 album, “Sky Trails.” What's it like working with your son?

Crosby: It's been fantastic. He's a better musician than I am. We've been working together now for 20 some years. He's my best writing partner and also one of my best friends.

Schelkopf: When you reunited with your son, were you surprised that he had become a musician?

Crosby: Yes, surprised and thrilled.

Schelkopf: Do you think your genes passed down to him?

Crosby: Absolutely. No question. It is genetic. There's no question.

Schelkopf: I know he produced at least a couple of your records.

Crosby: Yes. He's going to be one of the best producers in my life. As long as I'm alive, I'm going to be making music with this guy.

Schelkopf: What makes him a good producer?

Crosby: Song sense, in the first place. He understands what a good song is. He's a really fine writer himself. And he has a really good sense of how to serve a song.

Schelkopf: There's been a lot of attention placed on you this year. The documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name” premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival. Are you happy with how the documentary turned out? What did you want to convey in the documentary?

Crosby: When they make documentaries these days, they're usually shallow. They're usually about as deep as a bird bath.

They don't tell you anything about who the person is. What I want to know is what are they thinking? What do they feel? What matters to them?

I want to know what the inside of the person is, what they care about. We talked about it and none of us wanted to do a surface job like that. We wanted to do something much more honest, even if it was gritty and even if it was painful.

And we did. He asked me the hardest questions anybody's ever asked me. So it's a very honest documentary.

Schelkopf: What are some things that you talked about?

Crosby: The hardest stuff was talking about people that I've hurt. I have definitely lived a checkered life.

Talking about places where life hurt me was pretty hard. But the point is, if you're trying to grasp a picture of a human being, you don't want to just look at their high spots. You've got to look at the whole thing. So that's what we did, and I'm proud of it because it's a very honest documentary.

Schelkopf: And I suppose some of the documentary deals with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I understand that you would like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to reunite. Do you think there's a good chance of that ever happening?

Crosby: No, I really don't. What I've said is that I bear them no ill will.

We all made a lot of mistakes and we were all horrible to each other at one time or another. I've moved on with my life and I'm doing the very best I can to make the best music I can.

If they wanted to, I would probably try to do CSNY because there's some excitement playing with Neil. He's always trying to push the envelope and I like that. But I don't think it's possible, let alone likely.

Schelkopf: What does it mean to you to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once for The Byrds and then also for CSN?

Crosby: I guess it's an honor. I don't really take that stuff too seriously.

I do think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should induct CSNY, also, because it's a totally separate band. And I'd also like to be in three times, just because it would [tick] off Eric Clapton.

It wouldn't [tick] him off, he wouldn't care at all.

Schelkopf: You once said, 'My songs emerge from my life, or wherever they do, unbidden and unplanned and completely on a schedule of their own.' How do you come up with song ideas?

Crosby: I work at it. I don't take it for granted.

I work at it every day, every day I pick up a guitar. At night, I build a fire after dinner and then I smoke a joint and then I fool with the guitar.

It's kind of like saying, 'Hello, muse, are you out there? Come in. Hello.'

If some words come, I always write them down right away. I learned that from Joni Mitchell. She taught me that. She said that if I don't write it down, it didn't happen. That really rang a bell in my head.

So I write everything down all the time. If I get three words in a row, I'll write them down. And what happens is that you see that later and it triggers more. So I work at writing.

It’s my job. I like it a lot. I do it every day.

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle. He started with the Kane County Chronicle in December 1988 and appreciates everything the Fox Valley has to offer, including the majestic Fox River.