Listen to Title Track From David Crosby's Upcoming 'Sky Trails' Album: Exclusive

Henry Diltz
David Crosby

David Crosby's Sky Trails, whose title track is debuted exclusively below, is the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member's third album in three years -- pretty prodigious for a guy who took 18 years between his first two solo albums. And knowing what we do about Crosby's longtime sobriety, it's certainly not chemically assisted.

"Y'know what, man? The easy thing would be to say, 'OK, I was all constrangled being in that group, and as soon as I got out of that group I blossomed," Crosby tells Billboard, referencing Crosby, Stills & Nash (and occasionally Young), which has been dormant since 2015. "I don't know if it's that simple. I think I was still working on these tunes even when I was still in Crosby, Stills & Nash, but I don't think they would have been done with that group. I quit them, and I started doing this, and it's been spectacular as far as the writing goes. I've just been so lucky."

Crosby also credits diversity with turning up the flame on his muse. He's currently working with tw -band configurations, electric and acoustic, which he says "gives me a wide range of ability." And he's also embraced co-writing, which has helped the folk-rock legend increase the volume and the breadth of his material.

"For me, writing with other people really works," explains Crosby. "The other person always seems to have something you didn't, and I wind up writing a wider range of stuff than I would write by myself -- and I write a pretty wide range of stuff by myself. But writing with other people definitely widens the scope. They all write completely different than I do." Crosby adds that "there's only three or four people I can write with, honestly" -- which on Sky Trails includes Michael McDonald, Mai Egan and his son James Raymond.

Crosby wrote the "Sky Trails" track with Becca Stevens, drawing on both of their experiences as touring artists. "We both spend a lot of time on the road," Crosby notes, "and when you're on the road, after the second or third week you don't know where you are. You’re out there somewhere, and all the cities look roughly the same, and you lose track. I know it sounds funny, but it happens to us road musicians all the time, and that leads to a kind of disorientation. There's no instruction book for this, you know?"

Sky Trails, which also includes a cover of longtime pal Joni Mitchell's "Amelia," is also marked by a jazzier flavor than Crosby's other work -- though Crosby's work has included hints of jazz before. "It's sort of a built-in thing with me," he acknowledges. "I listen to a lot of jazz. I listen to a lot of Steely Dan. I really like Weather Report, I really like Miles [Davis], really like 'Trane [John Coltrane]. I've listened to a ton of different jazz artists over the years, so I'm tilted in that direction. The music's really different; It's more sophisticated, but if you let that tilt your singer-songwriter music, it just makes it more interesting singer-songwriter music to me."

The new album comes out Sept. 29, and Crosby returns to the road to promote it on Oct. 30-31 at the City Winery in Chicago. CSN(&Y), meanwhile, remains estranged, and Crosby says he has "no idea" if either the personal or professional relationships can be repaired.

"It's the same thing that happens with all groups," he maintains. "You start out being very much in love with each other, and you love each other's music and you're having a blast, and you wind up 40 years later not liking each other and [now you] just turn on the smoke machine and play your hits. And it's no fun. It was stifling music for me. It was making music be no fun. This (solo career) is like jumping off a cliff, and then halfway down I put out [2016's] Lighthouse and that was like growing a set of wings."