Think about how uncommon it is for a songwriter to go on tour with the muse of one of his or her well-known songs.
That’s precisely what’s happening with Stephen Stills and Judy Collins, who will be performing together in Reading June 27. They even put out a crowdfunded album last year as “Stills & Collins” called “Everybody Knows” (as in the Leonard Cohen song).
“We end the show with ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,’ and we do (Stills’ Buffalo Springfield composition) ‘Bluebird,’ and it’s just fun,” Collins said in a phone interview. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” which Stills wrote while he and Collins were romantically involved 50 years ago, is one of several Crosby, Stills & Nash songs in their rotating set list.
“I was smitten,” Collins said, remembering her reaction when she first heard the romantic, yet complex, song. It was after they had broken up. “I thought: ‘What a beautiful song.’ But it’s not gonna get me back,” she said.
“We do ... (the Traveling Wilburys song) ‘Handle with Care’ (which they recorded for ‘Everybody Knows’). We do ‘Southern Cross,’ ‘Who Knows Where the Times Goes?’; I do ‘Both Sides Now’ and he does ‘For What It’s Worth’,” Collins said.
There’s also a new song that the duo performs that Collins referred to as “The Dreamers Song.”
“I’d see (Stills) in New York from time to time. We always remained friends. I don’t know how, but we did. We got together ... to do Graham Nash’s television show. He said: ‘Will you come out and sing something together?’
And I said: ‘Of course.’ I think that was the first time we were in touch in any kind of a public way.”
As far as any lingering awkwardness from their time as a couple, Collins said: “We got through that a long time ago.”
The idea of Stills and Collins formally playing concerts together didn’t come about until they met up backstage at an AARP-sponsored all-star concert in Florida. “Stephen and I looked at each other, and said: ‘Why not?’ We started trading emails with each other about what songs we would do,” she said.
Married to designer Louis Nelson since 1996, Collins said she is friends with all of her exes, a list that includes actor Stacy Keach. Her 2016 duets album “Silver Skies Blue” received a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. Collins has also appeared in HBO’s “Girls,” and her latest book is 2017’s “Cravings: How I Conquered Food.”
Stills, who released an autobiography last year titled “Change Partners,” has the distinction of being the first artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice in one night. CSN and Buffalo Springfield were part of the hall’s Class of 1997.
With CSN separated for the foreseeable future, Stills formed a blues-rock supergroup in 2013 called The Rides with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg. “It’s fun. I’ve been to a show,” Collins said of that band.