What: An Evening With David Crosby
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Royal Theatre
Tickets: $55.50 and $91 at rmts.bc.ca, 250-386-6121 or in person at the Royal McPherson box office
Protest musicians come and go like dust blowing in the wind. David Crosby is proud to say he’s still speaking out, even if he does so mostly through social media these days.
“I don’t know how I could possibly be more outspoken, particularly on Twitter and Facebook,” Crosby said from his home in the Santa Ynez Valley, California. “I keep getting in trouble.”
Trouble is nothing new for Crosby, the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member who divided the audience at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 when he spoke out about the blurry details of U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
He has been drawing fire ever since.
“I don’t judge it too much,” the spry-sounding 74-year-old said with a laugh. “I try not to let anything discourage me from being a decent guy. I stick up for what I believe in. For me, that’s part of feeling good about myself. I need to be able to think that I’m a standup guy.”
Crosby, who comes to Victoria next week as part of his solo tour, will likely spend half the time talking during his return to the Royal Theatre, where he played with Crosby, Stills and Nash in 2008. His work as a songwriter is without question — he wrote or co-wrote a series of gems in the 1960s and ’70s, including Eight Miles High with the Byrds and Guinnevere, Wooden Ships and Almost Cut My Hair with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But he seems to like talking as much as any activity.
“I have trouble not doing that. I wind up shooting my mouth off more than I meant to. I’m a very opinionated guy — a very opinionated guy. Whatever crosses my path while I’m up there, I can wander almost any place.”
Crosby dishes it out, but he can also take whatever is thrown his way. A larger-than-life character, he knows he can be tough to stomach for long periods. For that, he offers no apology. “People my age mostly peter out. I don’t really understand it.”
In a surprise move, Graham Nash spoke out dramatically this week in an interview, saying of his longtime bandmate: “I don’t want anything to do with Crosby at all.” Nash went on to say that CSN is done for good, and that Crosby “ripped the heart out” of the group.
Which wasn’t surprising. In 2015, Crosby shredded Neil Young, his former bandmate in CSNY, by calling his new girlfriend, actor Daryl Hannah, a “purely poisonous predator” for taking up with Young so soon after his divorce. Crosby later apologized, telling radio host Howard Stern: “I’m screwed up way worse than that girl.”
Or at least he was at one point. Crosby’s checkered past includes a nine-month stint in jail for drugs and weapons charges, which stemmed from addictions that nearly killed him. He had a liver transplant in 1994 and has been sober nearly 30 years.
Crosby said he learned a lot about himself during his recovery.
“I wasted a lot of time being stoned. When I was doing hard drugs, I wasted a ton of time just being wacko, and that really disturbs the hell out of me. Now, I don’t waste any time.”
He’s making two solo records, one of which is mostly done. They will be the followups to 2014’s Croz, his first solo album for 20 years.
The run of recent activity is unlike anything Crosby has been a part of since the close of the 1960s, when he was a featured performer on three records by the Byrds, CSN and CSNY during a two-year-span.
“I’m in the middle of my most dense, most intense writing period I’ve had in I don’t know how long. It’s an amazing burst of creativity.”
Politics played a role in Crosby’s return to the studio. He is an equal-opportunity critic in that regard, having railed against George W. Bush and Barack Obama at various points. Crosby and his bandmates were criticized by some fans for going overboard during CSNY’s Freedom of Speech Tour in 2007, which prompted some audience members to walk out in protest.
In the decade since, the state of America has left Crosby even more alarmed.
“It might be a little more discouraging now than it was [in the 1960s], and it was pretty damn discouraging when I started doing this,” he said.
Here’s the great thing about Crosby: If you want to know how he feels about something, simply ask him. He doesn’t mince words when talking about Kanye West (“a poseur with no talent at all”) or Donald Trump (“a walking intelligence-free zone”), and will gladly suffer the consequences of shooting from the hip.
To further hammer home the point, Crosby will dedicate part of his concert Wednesday to answering questions from the audience sent to him via email at email@example.com.
He is never at a loss for words. But he would rather his fans heard his opinions from him directly, not some interpretation on the Internet.
“I’m not always polite, but I’m fairly truthful,” he said, chuckling at the obviousness of his answer. “Some people find that disturbing.”