Chris Hillman: "I Figured Out When to Leave the Fantasy Behind and Cross the Line Into Reality"
You say it will never happen, but never say never, right? As long as you guys are still around, who knows what might happen?
You're right. There's been offers that would astound you for us to get back together, but it's not going to happen. And I'm OK with that. I respect Roger, and he really loves what he's doing now. We're all getting older. We're all lucky that we're still working. David just made a really good album. He's singing great, and it's different, and he's coming up with some really interesting stuff that's out of left field. And that's refreshing.
How about a Hillman-Crosby album? I'm just tossing this out there now.
I think I'd rather do a Hillman album and have friends guest on it. That's the best way to approach it. [laughs]... You gotta make something look really great to make it enjoyable. You can't put a gun to someone's head and say, "Let's get the Byrds back together." It's like you can't march some poor guy on drugs into rehab at gunpoint. If they're going to clean up, it's got to be his idea. They have to come up with some kind of epiphany where they think, "Oh, that's a good idea." I'm happy doing what I'm doing, to be honest with you. There's not much more I really want. I'm totally blessed to be able to do what I do.
You left behind this incredible legacy in your wake. That must be incredibly gratifying.
Well, I'm -- excuse the corny cliché -- I'm really blessed. I had a great job, to be able to do what I wanted. I got to do what I love, and I survived. I made stupid mistakes like everybody else, but I never went over the line of decency. If I had, I wouldn't be talking to you now. It was really great. If everything stopped tomorrow, I'd have had a wonderful time. I'd say, thank you very much. I got to do what I love. I don't have animosity towards anyone. No, I'm not some perfect being that you're talking to. I still have areas I try to get better all the time. There's some stuff I'd like to do, but it's narrowing. I'd like my kids to be successful.
Can you still relate to your contemporaries, those that you came up with in the '60s?
I'll tell you one thing, and this is kind of left field, but it ties everything in. Everything that my generation in the '60s was going on about, f'ing on traditional values, boy, were we ever wrong. Everything that we were stepping on were the things that held civilization intact for thousands of years. And we're reaping the benefits of it now. I'm not at all like my peers. I'm very conservative. I'm not a fan of the current administration at all. I'm more libertarian if anything. That lends itself to some interesting conversations with David Crosby.
[laughs] I say, let's put it this way, Crosby. Ted Nugent and I are on the same page. He and I are one side of the fence, and all the other guys are over there. Anyway, it's just a joke.
There are certain people you've known who sadly aren't with us anymore. People like Gene Clark, like Gram Parsons. How often do they enter your thoughts? Are they still present in any way to you?
I think of them all the time. I think of them in a good light. I never think of them with anything bad. I had two great years with Parsons when we hired him in the Byrds. There was about six months with him there.
And then you went on to play with him in the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Yes, I did, and the first year was really good. Then we lost him. We lost him to excess, and I had to part company with him. I just remember the good times. He was funny. He was bright, He was great to write songs with. He had a great take on things. And Gene was a great guy. Even after the Byrds, I would work on some of his projects. And that was sort of interesting. He would call me and I would come in and play on his records. I liked the guy. I always respected him, even when I didn't like him. I miss Mike Clark too, the drummer.
Thanks to the grace of God, I always think of the good old days. I don't believe in holding a grudge or this or that. It's not worth it. In the early days, when we were just getting together, Mike Clark and Gene and I lived together. Gene would write four or five songs a week, and we would use maybe three out of five. That's how prolific he was. So we'd sort of work them up and then we'd share them with David and Roger. Gram gets a little more attention now than Gene, but it doesn't really matter. They both died tragically. And that sort of enhances the legend.
It does indeed..
I don't know why I'm talking about all this, but I guess the point is, we blow these people up to some mythical proportions, whether it's a musician or an actor. Look at Philip Seymour Hoffman. Look at how much press he got. What a great actor. So you say, wait a minute. All these guys -- Gram, Gene, Jim Morrison -- they're all good. They were all gifted and talented. What is that? Likewise, Philip Seymour Hoffman. He wasn't just some hack actor. He was a really, really good actor. Very good at his craft. I could get into a basic spiritual take on it all. I do believe this, that that place that you get to when you find that success, everything you do, it's almost like the devil opens this door and says, "Great, come on in. I got more stuff to show you." It's very rare that someone that talented maintains that stability, and what helped me was I figured out when to leave the fantasy behind and cross the line into reality.
The Desert Rose Band, featuring Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, and John Jorgenson, perform at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at the Bamboo Room, 25 S. J St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $33 to $38. Call 561-585-BLUE, or visit bambooroomblues.com.