David Crosby brings new music, passionate activism to Kent Stage

October 31, 2017

David Crosby brings new music, passionate activism to Kent Stage

CLEVELAND, Ohio – David Crosby is as much a realist as he is a jokester.

Why, at the age of 76, is he being so productive? After all, three albums in three years is a hefty output for any artist, let alone one who is nearly 25 years removed from a liver transplant, who also has had to deal with heart surgery.

“I gotta get this out before I kick off,″ said a chuckling Crosby in a call from his home in California. “It’s not all that far off, so that’s probably part of it.

“You get to this stage of your life, when imminent doom is standing there looking at you, and you say, ‘Well, [bleep],’ ″ he said.

But Crosby being Crosby, the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer (he’s in as a member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash), the guy who is at the Kent Stage for a sold-out show on Sunday, Nov. 5, is not just putting out music to put out music.

“If I were hustling to put out junk, that would be dumb,″ he said. “I don’t do junk. . . . I’ve been writing with good people – my son, James; Becca Stevens; Mike McDonald – and I’m loving the music we’re making.″

Oddly enough, at least to those on the outside, it’s been reaching outside his legacy that has inspired the albums “Croz,″ “Lighthouse″ and his most recent release, the amazing “Skylight Trails.″

“It’s not really so much a desperation move of ‘Oh, my God, I’m gonna die tomorrow,″ ’ he said. “Some of it is getting out of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

“I was unhappy there,″ he said. “We didn’t like each other. We stuck together longer than almost anybody [but] . . . there is a certain joy in making a fresh start.″

Crosby acknowledged that CSN could’ve gone on, milking the cash machine by the band staying together to “turn on the smoke machine and play your hits,″ however much more lucrative that might be than touring as a solo artist now.

At this stage of his life, he needed new challenges. “Skylight Trails,″ a jazz-influenced, complicated collection of tunes, scratches that itch.

“I’m drawn to jazz because it’s one of the more sophisticated forms of music,″ Crosby said.

And of course, politics remains a common thread for the man who sang on former bandmate Neil Young’s epic “Ohio,″ a protest song spawned by the 1970 shootings of students at Kent State University

“Capitol,″ a tune co-written with his son, whose professional name is James Raymond, comes closest.

″ ‘Capitol’ is obviously my attempt at assassinating Congress, which would be a noble deed,″ Crosby said of the tune that includes the line “They come for the power / For the power they stay.″

But he’s not yet tackled President Trump.

“Trump’s worse,″ he said. “We’re in a fight for our country, our values. It’s all on the line. We need a song, and we don’t have one.

But not just any song. “I need one as good as ‘Ohio,’ ″ Crosby said.

The singer-songwriter realizes that there will be those who criticize him, both for his political views and for voicing them. Those folks, he said, don’t get the role of songwriters.

“How it works is this: Our job, our main job, is to take you on little emotional voyages.

“Part of our job comes from our history as troubadours in the Middle Ages, carrying news from town to town, and part of it comes from being the night watch, yelling ‘2 o’clock and all’s well!’ or ’12 o’clock and you’ve elected an imbecile to be president,′ ″ he said.

The difficulty is in sharing those thoughts but doing so in a way that’s not lordly, like some hunk of musical didacticism.

“When you see America start shooting its own children, you write ‘Ohio,’ ″ he said. “That’s what Neil did. [But] you can’t let yourself fall into preaching. It’s not our job to preach, but it is part of our job to call attention to something egregiously wrong.″

And, obviously, while there’s still time to do it.


David Crosby & Friends

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5.

Where: The Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St., Kent.

Tickets: Sold out.