The Eye of the Acoustic Storm
Each week, a different artist is spotlighted in “The Eye of The Acoustic Storm.” Hourly segments of “The Eye” feature the artist’s music along with bio information and sound bites.
The Acoustic Storm Interview
James Raymond is keyboardist and vocalist for CPR. Raymond grew up with adoptive parents and never knew the name of his real father until 1992. Two years later he met his dad, David Crosby. Soon after, they began to write music together and formed the trio CPR with guitarist Jeff Pevar. In addition to his work with CPR, Raymond wrote “Lay Me Down,” which appears on the recently-released album “Crosby-Nash.”
James Raymond spoke with The Acoustic Storm in May, 2004 from his home in Altadena, California.
ACOUSTIC STORM: “CPR,” the band’s first studio album was released in 1998. One of the stand-out tunes on that album is “Yesterday’s Child”. You wrote that with David Crosby, your dad. What is that song about?
JAMES RAYMOND: I think David sent me the first verse that started “I know where there’s a spring that bubbles up from somewhere deep in the hearts of man”, so it pulled me into this other dimension and I kind of knew what he was talking about. There seemed to be this yearning for passing on a world that wasn’t screwed up to your children, and that was the overall emotion I got from that first verse he wrote, so I just tapped into that and kept going on along those lines. We kind of played ping-pong with that one; I wrote the second verse and sent it on to him and he wrote a couple more lines and sent it back to me, so that was sort of an email song (laughs). And when we got to the end we just said, hey, this is kind of cool and I had the melody and wrote all the music for it and it worked out. But I think that was the general feeling…let’s try not to pass along a world that’s not totally screwed up.
ACOUSTIC STORM: It’s a beautiful song. What about the title?
JAMES RAYMOND: Well, I’m not certain how the title ties in. Maybe, subconsciously, there’s something in there about me being his child from yesterday, maybe another life of his kind of thing. I don’t think I was consciously thinking of that as I was writing it, but reflecting back on it now I can kind see some sub-text there, maybe.
ACOUSTIC STORM: What was the inspiration for One For Every Moment\”, which is your only solo composition on the first album.
JAMES RAYMOND: My wife was the sole inspiration for that. I think I started writing that while we were dating and then I finished it a year or so later when we were married. But a lot of the kind of visual stuff comes from when we were dating and I was first getting to know her.
ACOUSTIC STORM: You were into music long before you connected with your dad. What were you musical beginnings and influences?
JAMES RAYMOND: Real early on I was drawn to the piano, though we didn’t have one. But whenever we went to someone’s house that had a piano, my parents would lose me and always find me at the keyboard just picking out \”Twinkle, Twinkle\”, or something, and they finally realized, wow, it’s pretty deep in this kid, so we better get him a piano. I think my cousin gave me my first record ever; \”I Want To Hold Your Hand\” by the Beatles, and I just wore it out. And as I got an allowance and was able to begin buying records, I was locked onto different kinds of things. I was really hooked on Three Dog Night as a kid, and then I discovered Elton John, those were my first albums, stuff like \”Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.\” And then I was heavy, off into Elton-world, from the time I was eight or nine until, well, now. He was a huge influence, the Beatles too.
Then I got more into R&B in high school because where I lived, all the good musicians played R&B and they said, ‘you’re going to play in our band because you’re good.\’ The garage bands I was in played Earth, Wind & Fire, Cameo, The Commodores and that kind of stuff, so I got a schooling in R&B at a young age. That’s where I grew up around San Bernadino, Rialto; it was a big funk, R&B enclave and all the older players that were my mentors were all heavy-groover, kind of funk players. Then I also played in some rock bands, but those musicians weren’t quite as good.
ACOUSTIC STORM: How old are you?
JAMES RAYMOND: I’ll be 42 in a couple weeks.
ACOUSTIC STORM: You look younger. Actually, I was trying to figure out the chronology of your musical education, thinking you were in your 30\’s, but yet your first record was \”I Want To Hold Your Hand.\”
JAMES RAYMOND: When I got that 45 from my cousin I think it had already been out for a decade. Let’s see, I got that in 1970, so I guess it had been out about six years. But, as a kid, I still had my ear to the radio and heard other Beatles songs, and as I tell Crosby now, probably a lot of CSN that I was singing along with and didn’t know why it was so genetically imprinted in me.
ACOUSTIC STORM: I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot about this in the past decade, but take us back to your perspective of how you first met your father and the events leading up to it.
JAMES RAYMOND: I always knew that I was adopted, at least from the age of reason, because my parents would say ‘you came to us in a special way’, so I always knew something was going on there. But as I was growing older, I never had a burning desire to find my parents. I don’t know why, I do know I was very happy with my parents and didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying I need to find my real parents. When I was about to get married in 1994, my adoptive dad, John Raymond, thought maybe now was a good time to search for my birth parents because I was starting a whole new chapter in my life. So that kind of fueled the fire for me to put into motion the process of finding my birth parents.
I ended up filing a bunch of paperwork with L.A. County, and at about the same time my mother was looking for me. She initiated a search within a month or two of me beginning my search. So they hooked us up not long after that, maybe a month after filing papers, saying ‘we’ve found your birth mother, she’s living in Perth, Australia as an expatriated American, and she wants to talk to you.\’ That’s how it all started. They said I had to come down and sign some papers so they could open the file. So I did that and they brought out this file and I saw the names and the circumstances surrounding my adoption, and there was David Crosby on my birth certificate. Of course I thought it was some other David Crosby, who happens to be a musician and has the unfortunate problem of having the same name as the famous David Crosby, but it turned out to be the real guy. Once I found that out, all I knew about David was his public persona, pretty much, I didn’t have any other records, although I knew their music, so I had a David Crosby listening party and got to know his music on a more intimate level. I still felt funny about coming out of the woodwork and contacting him, but when I found out he was ill, having a liver transplant, I stepped up my efforts to try to reach him and through some musician friends, I did. That’s how we met. I got a message to him with my phone number on it and about a week later he called me after he got out of the hospital when he was feeling better, and we made plans to meet. That’s how it all came about.
ACOUSTIC STORM: That’s great, a very touching story, certainly for you, also for those of us who have learned about it. When you were having that listening party, you must have been saying to yourself ‘this is wonderful music,\’ and it must have made you feel proud.
JAMES RAYMOND: It did, especially since I wasn’t that familiar with his body of work, his solo work specifically, and once I heard that I thought, wow! Harmonically he’s right in line with what I like as far as chords and his alternate tuning things, it felt very natural to me. I understood it right away like it was already in me. So that was really cool and I thought how good it would be to meet him, if he was into it, and we could hang out and play some music. And now look at us; we’ve been in a band together for seven years.
ACOUSTIC STORM: What’s your relationship with David Crosby in the band? You met him as a full-grown adult so you’re not intimidated because he’s your father. Do you feel like an equal in the band, or do you have to defer to him because he is your dad?
JAMES RAYMOND: It’s pretty equal. He’s made it very clear to me that he respects me as a musician and a writer and we trust each other. He’s been around a lot longer, so in many cases I will defer to him because he knows more than I do. The cool thing is that he’s very open and gracious in that way. The ego-thing doesn’t come into play in this band, it’s all about the music and that’s refreshing for all of us. I’ve learned a lot from him, asking what his take is on certain things and how he would do it…that’s how you learn.
ACOUSTIC STORM: It also helps that you play a different instrument than him.
JAMES RAYMOND: Yeah, I’m glad I’m not a guitar player; I’m a frustrated guitar player because it’s such a cool instrument. But that did work out nicely. Harmonically, the way he plays guitar, it works out pretty well with the way I play.
ACOUSTIC STORM: It seems that CPR has helped rejuvenate David\’s creativity. From what I\’ve read and heard, he’s real excited about CPR; not that CSN or CSNY doesn’t stoke his fire anymore. It just seems that from a new music standpoint, he really feels like the sky is the limit with CPR.
JAMES RAYMOND: It’s a cool dynamic that way. The guys that I brought into the band, Stevie D. on drums and Andrew Ford on bass, are such good players, that I think he feels like he’s driving a Masserati that can do just anything he wants. And it’s true. We’re a band of players that are comfortable playing jazz, real hard rock or R&B; a lot of different styles, so I think it’s refreshing to him not to feel limited. Not that those other bands are limiting, but I think that he feels he can go anywhere with this band. We’ll rearrange something like a Cuban, Latin thing, like we did on the recent tour and it’s so right up his alley and he’ll say, ‘yeah, that’s what I want.\’ So we all kick each other in the butt as far as that goes.
ACOUSTIC STORM: How do you think Crosby felt when meeting you for the first time? I\’d think he would have relished it, especially having struck up this musical relationship.
JAMES RAYMOND: I think, initially, he was just relieved that I didn’t show up as an angry guy with a bone through his nose saying, ‘you left me.\’ There was a lot of relief on his part that I was fairly normal and not pissed. That was a good start. Then, I think, his next trepidation was like, ‘oh no, what if he sucks.\’ He wanted to hear some of my songs and I think he was extremely worried that I was no good. I knew he was very good, but he didn’t know anything about me. So, again, I think that relief was a big emotion when he found out I could play and write. Then that opened up a friendship, a musical-hang kind of thing.
ACOUSTIC STORM: If you and David had been close all along, do you think he would have invited you into a band?
JAMES RAYMOND: We often say to each other that we met at the right time in both of our lives. Because if we had met in the 80\’s, when he was still in a rough period and I was developing, it could have been real weird and bad for both of us. Jan was pregnant with Django and my wife was pregnant with Grace, so were both going to be new dads and the timing was just perfect for us to meet. I think that has a lot to do with the way everything developed with us. It was very lucky.