From director A.J. Eaton and producer/interviewer Cameron Crowe, David Crosby: Remember My Name is not just a great music documentary about an iconic rock musician, but it’s also an intimate, honest and heartfelt portrait of a man who’s had soaring career highs and incredible personal lows, and isn’t afraid to acknowledge the role he played in it all. Through candid conversations with the singer/songwriter, the film looks at Crosby’s time in The Byrds, as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and contrasts that with his experience touring today, surrounded by the young musicians who have helped inspire four albums, with his fifth currently in production.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who has known David Crosby since he was a teenager, to chat 1-on-1 about how he ended up getting so heavily involved with the documentary, what he wanted the film to be, how Crosby is “like a classic rock Garrison Keillor,” what first interested him in Crosby as a musician, the journey from meeting Crosby as a teenager to having him inspire Almost Famous to now having that translate into a musical stage show (debuting at The Old Globe in San Diego from September 13th through October 20th), and realizing that they had something really special when it came to this project. He also talked about the four-hour cut of Almost Famous, how much that film was shaped during the editing process, and that there are a ton of deleted scenes from that film that have never been released, but still might see the light of day.
Collider: I really loved this film! I’m a huge music fan, and I’ve been a concert photographer for many years, so this was an easy sell for me, and I just thought it was so fascinating. It’s definitely not the typical music documentary.
CAMERON CROWE: It was almost accidental that this even exists. It’s that thing that comes along, when you’re working on one thing and it’s all that you’re thinking about, and then, this other little assignment or project comes along and you’re like, “Okay, I’ll just bang this out.” And then, you go back to the other thing and it’s like, “Why can’t this be more like that thing that happened over here?” You never know where you’re gonna find some kind of revelation, and this was a little side project that became a main project. We’ve never really produced anything like this. I don’t really do that. If I put my name on something, you’ve got me. So, we delayed all of our stuff, at least six months, maybe more, to get this movie made and finished, to the way that, when I first saw A.J. and Crosby and said, “I can’t be involved with you guys, but as a fan, can it be this?,” and basically, we later came to make that movie, that was my dream version of what I knew a documentary on Crosby could be, knowing how candid he is.
If you can catch that, and also be true to his music, because he’s much more of a musical visionary than he’s given credit for, and you can bring that together, then cool. But what happened was that it started to get emotional, and it started to do that thing that you dream of in movies where, if you’re lucky, you catch something. This odd little documentary started to acquire a real heart and soul, and it became about mortality and life, and what do you do with the time you have left? I showed an early cut to my then 96-year-old mother, who once said, “No rock in the house, whatsoever,” and she said, “I believe him. That’s the most true version of heroin addiction that I’ve ever heard.” And she’s a counselor who’s heard hundreds of drug admissions. Anyway, if you’re lucky enough to make something or be a part of something, they’re all your children, in a way, but this one was the child that you don’t expect who says, “Hey, me, over here. I’m going to be important to you. Pay attention to me.”
Did you also know just how self-reflective he would be?
CROWE: Yeah. He’s an entertainer, when he tells a story. He’s like a classic rock Garrison Keillor, or something. He can build a story and tell you all of this stuff. I just love that you don’t need a lot of other people to tell you how to feel, just let him tell you. And he’s really the last standing dude of that generation, that lived through all of the versions of pop stardom, in the last 50 years, and is as sharp as ever. So, let’s listen to him.
You’ve been a fan of David Crosby for a long time. What was it about his music, originally, that drew you in, and then made you want to keep following him, for all of these years?
CROWE: That’s a good question. The first thing was that my sister brought home The Byrds’ Greatest Hits, and I was like, “Man, I want a mustache like that. Will I ever be able to grow something, anything?” And then, I started listening to his music. It’s strange, he tells you that he’s the only guy in CSN, or CSNY, that never had a hit. I was like, “Really? Is that true?” To him, Stephen Stills is the hit maker, but I just think about it as the four guys, and he’s the guy who has this formless vibe. Jackson Browne has this line where he says, “David Crosby is a genius musician crossed with Caligula.” He’s had this big lifestyle, but in the middle of it, he writes these meditation-like songs that are open-tuned, and there’s only one of David Crosby. He draws you in and takes you to a place, where it’s transcendent, if you let it wash over you. It’s what people that love The Grateful Dead tell you about the way their music makes you feel. Crosby does that to me, and I wanted the documentary to have that kind of vibe to it, too, where you could put it on and go to that place, but then, he’s also talking to you. I just like being a fan of David Crosby because he’s unpredictable and he’s difficult, but there’s no middleman. You feel that, as a fan, he’s always talking to you, and he does that in the movie.