David Crosby
David Crosby
Photo by Henry Diltz

David Crosby Talks GroundUp Music Festival: "Don't Think You'll Get a Better Shot at Hearing Real Music"

Did David Crosby, who will play the North Beach Bandshell this Friday, always want to be a musician?

"I wanted to be an actor once, but, yeah, I wanted to make music."

Is it true Dennis Hopper based his character in Easy Rider on Crosby?

"Yeah."

Was he offended by that?

"Why would I be offended? Dennis was a friend of mine."

Because the character was kind of crazy —

"Look, I'm here to talk about a music festival I'm doing"

Crotchety? Maybe. This guy is the living, breathing personification of the '60s. He played guitar with the Byrds, America's answer to the Beatles. He harmonized at Woodstock with rock music's first supergroup, Crosby, Stills & Nash.

So you get him out of his funk by asking about his upcoming performance at GroundUp Music Festival.

"I don't think you'll get a better shot at hearing real music than at this festival," he says. "It will knock your socks off. It's me on the stage with Michael League, Michelle Willis, and Becca Stevens. It's acoustic, four-part harmonies that are really delicious based on my last album, Lighthouse, but we do some stuff from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It's the most fun I've had touring in 25 or 30 years."

Crosby has been incredibly productive lately. After releasing only three solo albums in his first 70 years on Earth, he is set to release his third solo album in the past three years later this spring. His voice, as anyone who has heard him perform live lately will attest, still resonates. "I don't have a secret. I don't understand it since I did everything wrong in my life to my voice except for smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey. At 75, my voice is sounding better than it ever has."

He is especially proud of 2016's Lighthouse. He has immensely kind words for producer Michael League, who, along with his jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy, is putting on GroundUp Music Festival. "Michael and I wrote three of the best songs I ever wrote in the first three days we worked together. After we wrote them,  we had to record a whole album."

His 2017 album, Sky Trails, resumes his working relationship with his son, James Raymond, who also helped write and produce the 2014 record, Croz. Asked if he encouraged or discouraged his son from living a life of music, he tells a tale straight out of a soap opera: "His mom put him up for adoption in the '60s. I didn't meet him until 20 years ago when I was getting a liver transplant at UCLA. He shook my hand, and we've become great friends and musical partners ever since."

What's next? Neil Young recently said he'd be down with touring with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young again.

"Sure, I'd do that," a no-longer-crotchety Crosby says. "Why not?"

GroundUp Music Festival
With David Crosby, Esperanza Spalding, Snarky Puppy, and others. 1 p.m. Friday, February 10, through Sunday, February 12, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; groundupmusicfestival.com; 305-672-5202. Tickets cost $85 to $825 via eventbrite.com.

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