One doubts the legendary Oscar Wilde and musical icon Sheryl Crow have ever been mentioned in the same sentence until now. The thin line between the two is that Wilde once said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Ms. Crow has taken that advice to heart by naming her new album—her ninth—Be Myself.
Her first record since her 2013 foray into country music, Be Myself finds the singer-songwriter returning to the alt-pop sound she crafted in her debut Tuesday Night Music Club almost twenty-five years ago. And Crow, who is 55, hasn’t lost an ounce of her swagger, which should be evident when she begins a worldwide tour in America this summer.
With 9 Grammy Awards, over 35 million albums sold, a coveted opening act slot for The Rolling Stones, and two high-profile celebrity romances (Owen Wilson and Lance Armstrong), Crow has still found time to be a social activist. In conversation, she comes across as articulate with a personal warmth. Speaking from her home outside Nashville, Crow discusses what it's like to be herself now.
What do you want fans to learn about you after hearing the new album?
Sheryl Crow: Hopefully they’ll find something on it that resonates with them. I feel like all the things I’ve written about on this record are already in the ether. They’re topics and experiences which are already happening, which made my job really easy. Strangely, this is not a record in any shape or form that was difficult to make, because—frankly—if you’re an artist we’re living in a time where it’s seemingly very easy to find things to write about.
Do you consider your first single off the record, “Halfway There,” a personal and/or political tune?
I don’t like to analyze my music too much. I think that song can be interpreted both ways. I think that song suggests everyone should rethink their lives if they want to live in today’s world and try to understand a person’s point of view opposite to their own. There’s another song on the record that has a “Gimme Shelter” feel to it, which means it’s very dark and ominous and sets a mood rather than uses a specific lyric to take you into your own special space.
With Be Myself, do you feel you’re improving at your craft?
I truly hope so. I feel my lyrics are strong and honest, which I’m very proud of. There’s a lot of pressure, it seems, on all artists today to duplicate or replay a formula of success that’s worked in the past. For me to be myself, I feel I always have to challenge myself to improve my craft, which I believe I’ve done with this record.
Are you considering writing a song about how you feel about President Trump?
I suppose I could but then the tune would take a political point of view that I would have to really believe in. I’m not at that point in my music yet. I may never get there at least when it comes to making a political statement at the expense of alienating my audience or placating to them. If every day is truly a winding road that’s a journey, I think you must totally commit to it if you’re going to go there.
Would you perform at the White House if President Trump asked you?
[Laughs] I can’t see me being asked to, end of quote.
What are your thoughts on the future of the women’s rights movement?
It’s going to be a daily struggle as it probably will be for any political movement this decade. But even though one party seems to have all the power in government, women are mobilizing themselves to improve their lot and be politically active.
After you performed the well-received title track for the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, why did you decide to not do more soundtrack work?
I’d liked to be asked to do a film score. I’ve had several of my songs be in movies. The James Bond gig was a one shot; I think only Shirley Bassey has done more than one Bond film. For me it was great to be a part of that film history because anyone who watches films the past few decades has probably seen a Bond movie or will someday.
What about acting? Any more interest in that?
I’m not opposed to it, but my music and raising a family are my priorities. The creative challenge of acting in a film and not being myself is, however, appealing to me.
What did you learn from being a backup singer on tour with Michael Jackson?
Never take any audience for granted. Work harder than you did the night before. For that reason, Michael always performed the same show every night, his audience covered such a wide age group. But Michael instinctively knew what they wanted and gave it to them every night. I got a tremendous education watching Michael perform.
What about opening for Don Henley and The Rolling Stones?
Don knows how to mix his political songs with his hits. He has an uncanny ability to read his audience in that respect—when he should sing, what kind of tune. The Stones are consummate pros no matter who is in the band at any time. Mick Jagger knows how to make their hits seem fresh, and like Michael Jackson, he’s not going to take his audience, or their nightly response, for granted. Mick’s enthusiasm for each concert should be the gold standard for any performer.
The Rolling Stones’ legendary guitarist Keith Richards described you in a YouTube video as a “raunchy girl.” What did he mean by that?
[Laughs] You’ll have to ask him. For me, the great thing about touring with The Stones is that they often brought me onstage to perform a song with them. When they did, I felt like I was a part of rock ‘n’ roll royalty. At the point The Stones encouraged me to be myself on stage, their audience accepted me and I realized once again how fortunate I was to be a musician!