Paul Zollo, author of many books on songwriting and a songwriter himself, interviewed David Crosby live on stage in Aspen on April 8, 2008, as part of the Lyrically Speaking series put on by the Aspen Writers' Foundation.The Interview was covered in the Aspen Times by Stewart Oksenhorn. It's an enjoyable read (especially when the reporter recounts Paul Zollo prying a bit too deep into Crosby's feelings about Stephen Stills) and it offers the following thoughts on songwriting:
The famed rocker responded that writing songs is a shadowy process, and noted that songs tend to come to him in moments between wakefulness and sleep, when the mind is slipping into the unguarded realm of dreams.
So Crosby, notable for membership in two landmark groups, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, could shed little light by speaking on the songwriting process. Even his own songwriting, which has yielded such gems as "Wooden Ships," "Long Time Coming" and "Déjà Vu," is a mystery to him: Songs come to him every which way; any sense of methodology is foreign to him; inspiration comes from a place that he cannot locate.
But when Crosby finally, after a bit of a tease, picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing those off-kilter licks from "Déjà Vu," illumination came at last. There are some things that defy words, and while songwriting on the whole may not be one of them, the way that Crosby writes seems to be. It was noted repeatedly by Zollo that a David Crosby tune doesn't follow the standard structures of a song - not even close, in fact. So the best way to gain an understanding of Crosby's writing was to see and hear the results, and when Crosby picked his way through "Déjà Vu" - and later, parts of "Long Time Coming" and "Triad" - they were instances of clarity: "So that's the essence of his songwriting."