August 21, 2018 David Crosby Announces Fall Tour With Lighthouse Band
June 7, 2016 David Crosby Announces New North American Tour Dates
David Crosby – Here If You Listen
In the last four years alone, David Crosby has released three acclaimed solo albums that prove his musical passion to be as powerful as ever. With Here If You Listen, the 77-year-old singer/songwriter continues that singular creative streak, delivering one of his most joyfully adventurous albums yet in a career that spans six auspicious decades.
On Here If You Listen, Crosby again joins forces with the three musicians who helped lend his 2016 album Lighthouse - and the tour in support of the album - its captivating grace: Michael League of Snarky Puppy, Michelle Willis and Becca Stevens. But in a purposeful departure from Lighthouse, Here If You Listen emerges as a highly collaborative effort, with all four artists trading off lead vocals and bringing their distinct songwriting to the mix.
“If leaving a group like Crosby, Stills & Nash was like jumping off a cliff, then finding the Lighthouse Band was like growing wings halfway down,” says Crosby. “These three people are so startlingly talented, I literally couldn’t resist making this album with them.”
Produced by League and co-produced by Stevens, Willis and Crosby, Here If You Listen bears a stripped-down, acoustically driven sound centered on the band’s stunning harmonies. But despite its sonic simplicity and minimal percussion, the album unfolds in infinitely shifting textures that find each musician tapping into their own carefully honed palette and idiosyncratic sensibilities. “The songs are taking on all of our collective influences, which is kind of crazy if you think about it—hearing the influence of Björk on a song with David Crosby lyrics, for example,” League notes.
With most of the album written collaboratively in League’s Brooklyn studio Atlantic Sound, Here If You Listen matches its intricate arrangements with lyrics both raw in emotion and rich in insight. Attuned to the chaos of the present day but visionary in perspective, the songs question, challenge, and demand self-reflection just as often as they illuminate and soothe.
On opening track “Glory,” Crosby and the Lighthouse Band instantly immerse the listener in the more enchanted world of Here If You Listen. With its bursts of lyrical wisdom by Willis (“The strength of the heart is in continuing”), the quietly luminous track blends its sublime harmonies with melodies that climb and wander and endlessly mesmerize. “Glory” also speaks to the band’s sharp yet playful sense of songcraft, as Stevens weaves in ethereal guitar harmonics inspired by an alternate definition of the title word (i.e., an optical phenomenon marked by halo-esque light).
With its serpentine guitar themes and otherworldly harmonies, both crafted by Stevens, the gently haunting “Vagrants of Venice” shows the inventiveness of Crosby’s songwriting and storytelling. “It came from a vision I had of Venice about a hundred years from now, when the water’s much higher and there are these half-destroyed buildings sticking out from the surface,” says Crosby of the fable-like track. “The leftover people who live there fish out the windows of the palace of the king, and burn ancient furniture and art to stay warm.”
In another flash of time-bending magic, Here If You Listen features two tracks crafted from recently unearthed, decades-old demos: “1974” (a shiningly hopeful tune) and “1967” (a delicate reverie the band adorns with urgent, choir-like harmonies that contains “the only time I ever had tape running when I actually found the melody to a song,” according to Crosby). “I think it’s so beautiful that both versions of David are on one song,” says Stevens of the former. “Singing along to this young version of him as if he’s still in the room was a miraculous occurrence.”
One of the most moving moments on Here If You Listen, “Your Own Ride” draws deep power from its cascading piano work (courtesy of Snarky Puppy’s Bill Laurance) and achingly tender lyrics written to Crosby’s son, Django. “I’ll never forget the feeling in my heart when David’s family heard it for the first time,” Stevens recalls. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I sat there promising to burn the moment into my mind forever, in case I ever forget why I play music.”
Elsewhere on Here If You Listen, Crosby and the Lighthouse Band drift gracefully from songs like “I Am No Artist” (a gorgeously strange gem that threads Stevens’s hypnotic vocals through verse from poet Jane Tyson Clement) to “Other Half Rule” (a politically charged and pensive track on which League laments “Rocket men and little hands/Never taking time to listen”) to “Janet” (a Little Feat-inspired number where Willis warns against “pouring your sweet love/Into a bitter cup”). And on the album-closing “Woodstock,” the foursome gloriously revisit the classic anthem penned by Joni Mitchell and covered by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “You don’t often get to sing a song by one of your heroes with another one of your heroes,” says League. “The fact that it speaks to this generation as much as it did to David’s makes it even more poignant.”
From song to song, Here If You Listen radiates the palpable sense of joy and wonder each musician brought to the album’s creation. “I love that it genuinely sounds like what happened: four people from different backgrounds with mutual respect and commitment to their work, coming together to create something they found meaningful,” says Willis. In many instances, League adds, that unity was bolstered by an unabashed openness on Crosby’s part. “I was really excited about David’s enthusiasm for using new textures in his music,” League says. “Each time I’d recommend something like an ARP synthesizer, or any other sound that isn’t normally associated with his musical past, I would get a ‘Let's do it.’ I kept waiting to get shut down, and never stopped being surprised when he said yes.”
For Crosby—who first crossed paths with League after discovering Snarky Puppy on YouTube, and later linked up with Stevens and Willis—that eagerness traces back to what he sees as an undeniable kinship between himself and his bandmates. “They’re all exactly like me—apart from family, music’s the only thing that matters to us,” Crosby says. “They’re willing to make sacrifices for it and dedicate their lives to it, and those are the only kind of people I really ever want to work with.” And while teaming up with one of the most legendary artists in all of rock & roll history was at times daunting for the other musicians, the collaboration ultimately elevated everyone involved. “There were definitely moments when I felt I couldn’t hold my weight,” says Willis. “I think we all felt that at times, but the camaraderie and energy of everyone else forced us out of self-doubt and into action.”
Now at work on the successor to Sky Trails (a 2017 album produced by his son, James Raymond), Crosby is pushing forward with the late-career resurgence that he regards as something of a charmed responsibility. “Music is a lifting force,” says Crosby. “It brings out the best in us—it makes us laugh, it makes us want to dance and love each other. So that’s my magic; that’s what I want to do in this world. I just want to make as much as I can for as long as I can, because I know that’s entirely my purpose.”
Here If You Listen Press
Sky Trails Press
Tonight Show - performance
NPR Music - First Listen
Spin - Q&A
NPR Music - "Sell Me A Diamond" premiere
NPR Music - "Songs We Love"
Rolling Stone - Lighthouse review
New York Magazine - fall preview