David Crosby doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable doing interviews, but he reserves comment until the end of the talk.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “My music speaks for me better than I do.”
Crosby needn’t apologize. During a 20-minute conversation, he covers a slew of topics, ranging from the reunion with his son/keyboardist, James Raymond, to the documentary, “David Crosby: Remember My Name” by Cameron Crowe.
The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and co-founder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby will be joined by Raymond when he plays the Celebrity Theatre on Thursday, September 12. This rest of his band is bassist Mai Leisz (pronounced “lease”), drummer Steve DiSanislao, guitarist Jeff Pevar and keyboardist/vocalist Michelle Willis.
Together, they will promote Crosby’s album “Sky Trails,” and play other songs from across his catalog.
“The band starts with the keyboard player. He’s my son,” Crosby says proudly. He hasn’t publicly named Raymond’s mother, with whom he gave the baby up for adoption in the 1960s.
“He was about to have his first child and he went looking to find out who his genetic parents were. It was a total gift. It turns out he’s a better musician than I am.”
Crosby calls Raymond a “stunning writer” with whom he has worked since they were brought together. As a matter of fact, Crosby says, the father and son had just taken a break from songwriting.
“We just have an incredible partnership,” Crosby says. “We teamed up with Jeff Pevar, who’s an amazing guitar player, nothing less. He’s a good singer and a good writer. We perform together as CPR. Jeff is in the band also.
“James brought his lifelong friend, Steve DiSanislao, as the drummer. Steve is now David Gilmour’s drummer He’s a very sought-after musician. Then there’s the bassist, Mai Leisz. She’s from Estonia, and a girl who’s in both of my bands who’s such a good singer, Michelle Willis. She plays keyboards, too.”
Released in 2017, “Sky Trails” is Crosby’s sixth solo album. Overseen by Raymond, the project sports sophisticated, jazzy arrangements. Highlights include the Steely Dan-ish “She’s Got to be Somewhere,” “Before Tomorrow Falls on Love,” co-written with Michael McDonald and “Amelia,” Joni Mitchell’s 1976 reflection on the incompatibility of art and love. Crosby’s political side is represented by “Capitol.”
Crosby says Raymond is also responsible for another album he’s made in the last five years, “Croz.”
“They are two of the best records I’ve ever made in my life,” Crosby adds. “They’re stunners. I shouldn’t be the one saying this, but they are amazing records.”
Crosby and Raymond are both jazz-influenced musicians who enjoy playing complex material. The imagery comes through when they’re together.
“We love writing and we are good at it,” he says. “We have a really good time when we do it. When I found out he was a musician and could write music, I took a set of words to him about Jim Morrison I’d written called ‘Morrison.’ It was so good. He pulled a cassette tape out, put it in his truck and played it for me. I felt I died and gone to heaven it was so good.”
The two perform “Morrison” with CPR.
Crosby’s tale has been told through the eyes of Crowe in “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” which was released on July 19. The producer and Crosby are longtime friends.
“You know the movie ‘Almost Famous’?” he asks. “We were the band. He was the kid.
“The documentary is amazing for a couple reasons. He’s very good at it and he’s a brilliant filmmaker. He’s known me since he was 16 years old. He knows all of it—everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. He knows the whole deal. He and I didn’t want to hide anything. We knew it would be painful. We went deeper than we thought we were going to go.”
Crosby says the result is a “remarkably honest piece of work.” The painful truths of his health issues, the dissolution of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and his music make the film stand out.
“It’s hard being naked in public,” he says. “But I was safe in the sense they would be honest. They wouldn’t cover anything up. I had a confidant in (director) A.J. Eaton and Cameron going in. It mattered to them that we be honest as much as it mattered to me, which I hadn’t found before.”
Still, through his decades-long career, Crosby doesn’t feel like anything special.
“I don’t feel like a celebrity,” Crosby says surprisingly. “I do really love making music, though.”
David Crosby and Friends, Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.267.1600, celebritytheatre.com, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 12, $40-$85.