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Sheryl Crow: Going the distance – An interview

Sitting in RFK Stadium in 1993, there was a band performing for 90,000, in a reunion tour that had supposedly frozen the world’s nether region. The brightest light on that night was the opening act, Sheryl Crow, a singer-songwriter who had spent her career taking gigs regardless of singing responsibilities — even if it meant singing backup for the self-proclaimed King of Pop.

Sheryl CrowOn that night in early ’90s Washington, DC, Crow was opening for The Eagles and her days of big-hair, singing “Beat It” with Michael Jackson were about to soar away into the past.

Flash forward to 2008, and Crow is an enormous presence in the music world on par with those who gave her a shot, The Eagles. From her first hit, “All I Wanna Do” to the catalog that followed — “My Favorite Mistake,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “Every Day is a Winding Road,” and “Soak Up the Sun” — Crow has been a fixture in popular music.

As she sets to release her first CD in four years, “Detours,” the singer has experienced a well-covered series of events producing a woman expanding on personal triumph well beyond popular culture success.

Life challenges, life changes
Crow’s first setback was the well-publicized breakup with six-time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong. After an abnormally paparazzi-followed courtship for Crow and subsequent engagement to the sports star, they were darlings of celebrity circles. Then, the relationship crashed. Soon after their separation, Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has emerged a survivor and now is the picture of good health.

Most recently, she adopted a son, Wyatt Crow, welcoming him home April 30, 2007. Her son has served as an inspiration, and his presence permeates “Detours” with its February 5 arrival. The deeply personal album covers a range of topics from “Diamond Ring,” about engagements, to “Love is Free,” her ode to a Gulf Coast region still reeling from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

SheKnows chatted with Sheryl Crow recently and discovered a renaissance woman in every sense.

SK: I have to tell you I remember you from an RFK stadium show and there was some other band there, the Eagles I think you call them…

SC: Well, thank you. (Laughing) Yeah, I remember that.

SK: What was it like for you after working in the shadows for so many years to play in front of not simply hordes of people, but Eagles reunion crowds?

SC: It’s funny, we got started when you could still go out and play as a young artist and develop. It wasn’t as quick and immediate as it is now with TV and contests. We felt that we had been out doing it for so long. By the time we actually go out and open up for bands like the Eagles and the Stones, it felt like a natural slow build for us. It was still really exciting and it was everything we dreamt of, but at least we had the groundwork laid.

Every time we’ve gotten to do something on that scale, with artists who have literally wrote the book of rock n’ roll, it’s not only humbling, but it’s a good old fashioned schooling. And it’s always a lot of fun. When can you ever go out and play for a stadium full of people unless you’re playing with the Stones, Eagles or great band like that? We’ve been really fortunate.

SK: Yes, but another one of your CDs that I adore is “Live in Central Park.” You’re the headliner and the guests artists are Keith Richards, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. How did you get so many legends to come up there with you on the same night?

SC: It’s been an interesting thing for me because when I first came out I wasn’t really…I didn’t really have anyplace that I fit in very well. All these older artists, more established artists like Bob Dylan, they all in those first years invited me to do things, to appear with them. I couldn’t believe even that these people knew who I was. Let alone…

The interview is then interrupted by Wyatt laughing loudly behind Crow.

SC: My baby’s in the back seat laughing. (Laughs) Anyway, I couldn’t believe they embraced me the way they did. So when it came time for me to get to do the Central Park gig, I just called some people I’ve gotten to play with and had a relationship with. In fact, when I think back on that, I still can’t believe we pulled that off. To have Stevie (Nicks) and Eric (Clapton) and Chrissie Hynde and Sara and the (Dixie) Chicks playing my music, it was, gosh, very, very flattering and amazing.

Wyatt then announces himself with a proud ‘Aeeeeya!’

SK: Now, the new record arrives February 5. After pouring your heart and soul into something like this, what are the feelings going through your head as four years of work are about to reveal itself?

SC: It’s weird. I can’t lie. It’s definitely a strange feeling to write really personal stories and know that it’s going to be dissected by the world. That being said, I went through a lot in the last four years. I felt this urgency to write about what’s going on, not only with me, but what is going on in the world around us and how that is going to relate to us in the immediate future for our kids. Now, being a mom tends to color that a lot.

SK: The album’s title, “Detours,” is that a diversion in a sense of changing musical directions, or does the title exemplify where you’re coming from personally?

SC: It’s kind of everything. I think the idea of “Detours” is that you are taken on these journeys that dictate you to go far, far away from yourself. Ultimately, it demands you come back and reflect—to try to figure out who you are and return to yourself. I think those are the experiences that really influence who you are and teach you valuable lessons. Even on a grander scale, the idea of we as a nation have gone on a, what I feel to be, catastrophic detour is there, too. It’s going to take a lot of time for us to get back on course.

SK: The song, “Love is Free,” is obviously about the people of New Orleans, it really sounds like your visits to the post-Katrina Gulf Coast left an indelible impression.

Sheryl Crow - DetoursSC: I made my second record there, and was there about three months. I felt an affinity with the people down there. I was raised in a small town on the Mississippi River. My parents are from the most Southern tip of Missouri, right on the Tennessee and Arkansas border. I grew up along the Mississippi. There is a stoicism that exists in the people of New Orleans and throughout the entire Mississippi River region. I think one of the things that struck me, when I was recording down there, was it seemed no matter what was going on, there was a parade.

I can remember they announced that O.J. Simpson was not guilty. Everyone had been glued to the TV sets all morning. Then, they announced it. We sat in the kitchen for a while. Everyone was stunned and outside, literally there was a parade. It was probably already going on and had nothing to do with O.J., but it just struck me that these people always find the joy in even the most morbid of events.

sheSo when the hurricane came through, although it’s really changed the face of New Orleans, I find the people there don’t give up easily. They manage to maintain who they are even through the worst of times.

SK: Through works such as yours, do you think that there is a need to keep reminding people in the country that there are still people there struggling because we are a couple years removed and it doesn’t seem to be on the news as much?

SC: Absolutely. I think what happened in Katrina is a pretty clear illustration of where we are as a nation as far as our numbness and inability to actually emotionally embrace what’s happening around us. We seem to be immobilized or paralyzed by all the bad that is going on around us, where we’ve just gone to sleep. So I’m hoping that as I’m watching what’s happening, as we all are, that people are starting to wake up. There has been enough incriminations now where America is demanding better.

SK: What are your first memories of the magic of music?

SC: My parents were in a swing band when I was a very young child. They played around in different towns in our area. They would come home and jam with their buddies. There was always music being played at my house. It was a part of my upbringing. I assumed until I went to school, that all kids had the same upbringing. (Laughs) We were exposed to it all our lives with a deep appreciation for all different kinds of music. I always knew it would be a part of my life. I didn’t know in what capacity, but I knew that it would be something I love and continue to do.

SK: As you’re getting ready to release the record, are you gearing up for a tour?

SC: We are, actually. We’re starting rehearsal in about a week and a half. Some of the new stuff we’ve already played for opportunities with TV and radio stuff. I’ve changed the look of the band, not personal-wise. But I added a bunch of different players. We’ve got back up singers, a percussion player and I’m going to play less bass and sing more. Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it. I think once the record comes out we’ll do some shows in Europe for a couple weeks and then come over here in the summer to get back out there on the road.

Points and Prizes Keyword: DETOURS worth 25 points good through 02/03/08

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