Singer Michelle Willis on the 'joy of knowing' late David Crosby, a mentor and friend

TORONTO — David Crosby was an acclaimed musician to many, but for Michelle Willis he was also a surprise mentor who became a friend in recent years.

The Ontario-raised singer-songwriter says she first met Crosby, who died Wednesday at 81 years old, during a recording session for the instrumental band Snarky Puppy.

Both of them had been invited to record on Snarky Puppy's 2015 album, a collaborative project that attracted friends from around the world.

Crosby sensed a "chemistry" between him and Willis in the studio, she says, and in the years that followed invited her and some of the other artists to join his Lighthouse band on tour.

Willis says on the tour bus she got to know Crosby as a practical joker and that his humour was part of the "joy of knowing and loving him."

Crosby, who founded the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, encouraged Willis to release her "Just One Voice" album last year.

The two also reunited with Lighthouse tour mates Becca Stevens and Snarky Puppy founder Michael League to record an album at the Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles in late 2021.

The untitled project still doesn't have a release date, but she hopes to follow through with Crosby's wishes to get it out sooner than later.

“It’s a beautiful album and he sang better than I’d ever heard him, at times,” she said.

“He had so much power, like magnitudes of depth on this record.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2023.

David Friend, The Canadian Press