Interview date: 01/28/2008
Run date: 02/07/2008
Empowered by agelessness, buoyancy, and renewed appreciation for life following a battle with breast cancer, three-time Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow is back in the spotlight for a relatively novel reason – her music. Crow’s sixth studio album in 15 wildly successful years, Detours, dropped February 5 and marks a reunion of sorts with producer Bill Bottrell. Bottrell helped architect Crow’s debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, which launched a rocket ride for the former Michael Jackson background singer. During some downtime before blazing her latest promotional trail, the new mother found a few minutes between feedings to chat with us about her disgust over this country’s political detours, a fondness for antiquing, and her ongoing pursuit of the perfect song.
Bullz-Eye: So where are you waking up this morning? Is it freezing cold where you are?
Sheryl Crow: Actually, it’s going to get warmer today. I’m in Nashville.
BE: Is that home now?
SC: Yeah. It’s been freezing here, but it’s supposed to get up to like 50 today, which will be very nice.
BE: Well, I’m calling from Dayton, Ohio, home of the fabulous Fraze Pavilion, a place I think you know well.
SC: Yeah, yeah. I actually like Dayton a lot. Good antiquing up there.
BE: If I remember, you stumbled around the Oregon District when you were last in town.
SC: Yep. Yep. (trying to recall)
BE: So you’ve got a new record coming out, which I have, unfortunately, not heard, other than the two video clips I saw on Amazon for “Shine over Babylon” and “Love Is Free.” They were both done acoustically in this particular video. Don’t know if the whole album sounds like that, but what can you tell us about Detours?
SC: Well, I’m trying to think what you would’ve heard…
BE: It was out on Amazon on the retail page for your new album…
SC: Oh, yeah, yeah…that was a little acoustic thing we did for Amazon. The album is not actually acoustic, but there are definitely a couple of songs that are acoustic, one of which is “God Bless This Mess,” which you might’ve seen. The album is very lyrically driven. Thematically, it’s pretty consistent, in that it deals with how life takes us on journeys away from who it is we think we’re going to be and it winds up dictating that we examine who we really are. I think definitely in the last, um, seven years this country has been taken on a massive detour, and we’re gonna really have to figure out how to get back to who we are. So that’s what the album is about. I feel bad you haven’t heard it. It would be much easier to talk about it.
BE: I’m glad I at least got to hear the two songs on Amazon, “Love Is Free” and “Babylon”. “Love Is Free” has got to be about New Orleans, yes?
SC: Yes, it is. I spent a lot of time down there making my second record, and I feel like I have a relationship to the city. How we’ve left these people, we’ve kind of lost them in our consciousness. It’s disparaging. The thing that’s amazing about these people is how they maintain this incredible stoicism that they’ve had throughout history. It’s really what the song is about.
BE: What we see from five or six states away on the nightly news or on the sports programming of the weekend is how New Orleans is back to normal. Just had the National Championship game down there, Mardi Gras is kicking up, come on back down, everything’s back to normal. Something tells me that’s not the case.
SC: No, it’s most definitely not the case. Just by visiting down there you can see that most the city’s not been built back, and it’s pretty grave. But yeah, obviously they want to get tourism going again, and that’s a valuable point.
BE: I know you have some political stands that are near and dear. Is Detours more politics or human nature?
SC: It’s a combination of both. There’s a large section of the songs that are very politically driven and very straight-forward. Not so much political as in stating my case, they’re more just a comment of what’s going on. The idea is that we’ve become desensitized to what’s happening, from the environment to this war to our administration being corrupt. We’ve allowed these things to happen by virtue of the fact that we seem paralyzed by just how much there is to deal with. Then there’s a large part of the record that’s very personal, from relationships to having had cancer to, just, all kinds of things.
BE: Certainly, your life has changed greatly these last few years, from cancer to starting a family to new music. I don’t know how, but we still got you out on the road last summer for a few dates. My wife and I saw you here, in fact, the very week that we discovered she had breast cancer herself. We’ll never forget that week for obvious reasons.
SC: Oh, my goodness!
BE: She’s been fighting it mightily ever since, and we’re finally done with chemo just this week. It’s amazing how the timing of our meeting today came to be.
SC: Wow. My heart is with her. How is she doing?
BE: She’s actually doing very well. It’s the mother in her that keeps her going. As you well know, cancer is a mighty force but it has to take a back seat to being Mom. You can’t stop living.
SC: Oh, well, that’s great to hear. My heart will definitely stay with you. That’s just an intense experience to go through, especially with little ones. Uh, God.
BE: (clearing the air) Looks like Bill Bottrell is back on board for this record. You haven’t worked with him since, what, the second record a little bit?
SC: Since the first record. Well, the second record I think we worked together for one day (laughs).
BE: Obviously still on good terms if he’s back 15 years later?
SC: Yeah, yeah, I think the two of us had our own separate detours we had to experience in order to come back and be fully evolved people. We really had an amazing experience, very inspired and a lot of fun. It was much like a homecoming, just a fantastic experience.
BE: You’ve started to pop up on the CMT and the country format. I guess that probably started with your Kid Rock duet a few years back. Is Detours going to feel, at all, country?
SC: Not particularly. I would say it errs on the side of folk music, although, it’s really hard to say. I think you’ll get it when you hear it. It’s pretty much in-your-face and very heavy at times.
BE: Moving to Nashville recently, what was the draw there?
SC: I’ve been trying to move here for years. My last relationship took me to Austin, but I didn’t follow through with my plan. Once I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt like I had to get closer to home. My sister lives here, been here 20 years, and my family all lives within 3 ½ hours. Also, raising a baby by myself, I felt like I needed to have my family. So, the timing just seemed right.
BE: Well, you mentioned it, congratulations on the addition of your son last year.
SC: (Giddy) Thank you!
BE: That’s gotta be a life changer.
SC: It is just a great joy, I have to say. I was ready at this moment in my life to have my life shift. It’s been a real blessing and a lot of fun. He’s a real happy baby, easy going. I’m just in hog heaven.
BE: He’ll be a year old in spring, right?
SC: In May, yeah.
BE: He’ll be walking in no time!
SC: He’s trying so hard to walk. It’s getting more and more interesting. He’s into everything. It’s just really, really, fun.
BE: Career-wise, 15 years ago you’re singing back-up to Michael Jackson. Things had to get pretty crazy pretty fast when Tuesday Night Music Club took off. From there you’re on a run of great albums, great tours, great collaborations. You’ve played with everyone from the Stones to Chrissie Hynde to Kid Rock to Brooks & Dunn last year. What’s left to do?
SC: Oh, man, that’s hard. I don’t think you ever feel like you’ve done everything you want to do. For me, it’s such a compelling time to be an artist right now. I guess I’m always in search of the perfect song, which I don’t feel like I’ve written yet, nor am I sure I ever will. You know, a song like The Beatles “Yesterday.” I’ve been really, really lucky to work with a lot of people I admire and love and have been inspired by. There’s always those people out there to work with, you know, young up-and-comers and also people I’ve already played with. I’m always looking forward to getting a chance to play with (Bob) Dylan or, um, Stevie’s (Nicks) a dear friend and huge source of inspiration. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Willie Nelson, that’s always fun. You never get bored.
BE: So what are you listening to these days, either on the radio that catches your ear or on your Ipod?
SC: Well, making the record I wasn’t really listening to much. But, well, I’m enjoying Feist and…um, well, who else…I listen to a lot of old stuff. I listen to a lot of country. I don’t have the radio on a lot, but when I do it’s on Willie’s Place, which is an XM station. I guess mostly country music.
BE: When are we going to get a Sheryl Crow station on XM?
SC: (Laughs) Hey, I know! Right?
BE: Am I one step ahead of you?
SC: I know. I’m just not sure if I wanna work that hard.
BE: (Laughs) Are you going back out on the road this year?
SC: Yeah, definitely. We’re gonna do Jazzfest, then Beale Street and a couple other festivals. Then we’re going out the end of April probably through August.
BE: Any hints on who it might be with?
SC: Don’t know yet.
BE: You think it could be a country bill, or will it remain more Pop or mainstream Rock?
SC: I don’t know. We’re sorta in between a lot of tours that could be good pairs. And a lot of people aren’t touring this summer, so we’re just gonna have to wait and see.
Interscope Rep: Hey, sorry, I got some other writers lined up. We’ve gotta wrap up.
BE: Well, thanks so much for your time, Sheryl.
SC: Please tell your wife I’m thinking of her and best of luck. Stay strong.
BE: I certainly will. You’ve been a great inspiration to her and we love all your stuff.
SC: Thank you. You take care.