Forty years after the release of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s debut, David Crosby is still on the road — with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. Given the trio’s tumultuous history, could Crosby have ever imagined that?” No, absolutely not,” says the 68-year-old singer on a day off before a CSN show in Virginia. “If you’d asked me then, I would have said no. But I was quite a different guy then.” Having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — first in 1991 as a member of the Byrds, then in 1997 with CSN — Crosby is a natural fit for the Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concerts on October 29th and 30th at Madison Square Garden. Friends like James Taylor and Jackson Browne are expected to join CSN at the show to celebrate the mellow singer-songwriter strain of rock & roll from the early 1970s. On their current tour, CSN have been revisiting tunes from that era, some of which may end up on the covers album they’re prepping with Rick Rubin. Their set lists have included the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band,” the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes.” “It’s fun singing this stuff,” Crosby says of what will be CSN’s first studio album since 1994. “We’ll go back home after the tour and rest a minute. I will become the couch that burped. And then we’ll start.”
The night the Byrds were inducted, in 1991, was the first night of the Gulf War. How did that affect the mood?
I have a vague memory that someone told me they started the bombing, and that word was whispered around the room. One thing I remember is that I was in a wheelchair [laughs].
From your motorcycle accident the year before?
Yeah. I hurt the whole right side of my body. I also remember it was very awkward seeing the other guys in the Byrds. There were not a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. Gene [Clark] and Michael [Clarke] were fine. Roger [McGuinn] doesn’t like me [laughs]. And that’s unfortunate, because I would love to make more music with him. He’s an amazing musician and a great singer and storyteller. But everyone handled it well, and we were proud to be there.
In 1997, Crosby, Stills and Nash were inducted, but Neil Young made headlines for not showing up to be inducted with Buffalo Springfield.
That’s typical. Neil, as I’m sure you know, is extremely difficult to predict. So I don’t try. I gave up on that a while ago.
CSN has been around for four decades. Have the years gone by quickly?
I try not to think about it, really. I’m glad that we’ve been able to keep making music, that’s kind of a miracle, but I try really hard not to think about how old and creepy I am.
You were scheduled to play around 70 concerts this summer. Does the pace ever grind you down?
I love playing the music, but I get lonely being by myself in the hotel rooms, and I wish I was at home with my family. But we’re lucky to have a job. There’s a lot of people who don’t.
How did your upcoming project with Rick Rubin come about?
Columbia called our management company and said, “Is it true that CSN are not signed?” And they said, “Yes, that is true.” And they said, “Well, we’re very interested in that.” They had an idea for an album that they really wanted to see happen.
You’ve already started working on it, right?
We worked at Rick’s studio in Malibu. But I don’t think we’ve gotten anything I would keep. We make lists of songs, then we pick ones we feel we can do well, and then we spend some time learning them. Then we make an arrangement and sing ’em to Rick. And he picks the ones he likes. And then we make another list.
Sounds like the album could take a while to finish.
Uh, yes. I can tell you what’s very damn hard to try: a Beatles song. You wrap yourself around one of their songs and make an arrangement and try to do it. And then you go and listen to the Beatles’ record of it and go, “Ah . . . no.” It’s too amazingly good.
Where do you keep your Hall of Fame trophies?
Oh, probably in a box in the garage. My dad, who was a cinematographer, taught me a lesson about taking that stuff too seriously a long time ago. He had an Oscar, one of the first ones they gave out. He used it as a doorstop.
Is there anyone who isn’t in the Hall of Fame who should be?
Well, there are quite a few people who think the Hollies [Nash’s former band] should be in there. They had more hits than the Springfield and the Byrds put together. I think it’s because they’re too “pop.” But then, so was Mikey Jackson.