Snarky Puppy, the jumbo-size brainchild of bassist-composer Michael League, is one of the more versatile groups on the planet right now. On its own, the Grammy-winning orchestra plays a virtuosic, high-energy blend of jazz, funk, hip-hop and more. But the group is also an expert backing band, as demonstrated on its Family Dinner albums, guest-studded affairs that raise money for worthy causes.
On Family Dinner Volume Two, a CD/DVD package out February 12th, the band teams with host of collaborators, including veteran singer-songwriter David Crosby, who contributed a brand-new song to the project. (A portion of the album’s proceeds benefit the Roots of Music, a charity that provides musical opportunities for youth in New Orleans, where the album was recorded.) Check out the performance of “Somebody Home” above, and read on for the backstory — and a preview of Crosby’s upcoming solo album — in Crosby and League’s own words.
“First of all the song … ‘Somebody Home’ … the title is a phrase I have been using for years, meaning there is a human soul, an aware intelligence, present in a person. When you look in their eyes you get the sense there is someone home there looking back at you. There is a mistake that people make, men particularly, about only seeing the physical woman and not seeing or getting to know the human inside. Our whole society is tilted that way … surface over substance. We mistake the wrapping paper for the real gift which is inside the wrapping. We celebrate the looks and miss the soul and heart where the real, lasting beauty lives. So, in a way, I am trying to apologize to all women on behalf of all us men.
“Secondly … when I was wandering around YouTube looking for music I had not heard yet, I ran into the band Snarky Puppy and loved them immediately. Fine players having a blast playing intelligent, beautifully written compositions that swung hard. I started tweeting about them … ‘OK here’s your Snarky Puppy song of the day’ or ‘Time to get Snarked again’ … and I’d rant about how good they are.
“Eventually word got back to them about this and I finally wound up on the phone with the composer, bandleader and bass player Michael League, who asked me if I would like to sing with them on the Family Dinner benefit record they do each year where they invite various other musicians and singers to join them. My wife Jan and I went to New Orleans and had one of the best weeks of our lives. These guys are musicians all the way though. That have devoted their whole lives to music. They didn’t do it to get rich or on the cover of Rolling Stone or famous. They do it because it is their life’s work. We became friends and the song went very well. As I write this, Michael is producing, writing, playing and singing with me on the new solo record we are making. A great deal of joy has come into my life from all this. I am very grateful.”
“David and I discussed various song options during our first conversation about the Family Dinner album, and he initially recommended a reimagining of either ‘Déjà Vu’ or ‘Guinnevere.’ I was excited, honored, and terrified to have the task of creating a new identity for two of the most famous songs from one of the century’s most famous songwriters. On a whim, I called him back and asked if he had written anything new lately. (I always prefer to do previously unrecorded material for Family Dinner, and a Crosby world premiere sounded like a good idea to me.) He said, ‘Yeah, sure, I wrote one this morning. Want me to send it to you?’ The song he sent was ‘Somebody Home.’
“It has the beautiful, simple, poetic lyricism that I love about David’s writing. And most of all, the song and the performance itself are so vulnerable. … Many artists fight against this as they age, but Crosby has embraced it. In my opinion, he’s writing the best music of his entire life right now.
“I count myself fortunate to have worked with some of my musical heroes. Some of them want to be treated like heroes, and some of them want to make music. David is absolutely the latter. He’s the single most music-obsessed person I’ve met in my entire life, and it still amazes me. It’s all he cares about. He wants to be challenged, to be inspired, and to create. And he loves to talk shit, which means that he fit in with my band like a glove. I’m producing his next album at the moment and the process has been incredible, from the writing to the recording process. He’s receptive to what the musicians around him have to offer and he has an unparalleled respect for the art of song. David is the real deal, no question. He’s constantly searching for the next chord, the next lyric, a new tuning — it’s nothing short of inspiring to watch. Watching him has proven to me that this is what we’re supposed to do until we’re in the ground. Music is life, and he lives it.”