Interview: Sheryl Crow
Mon, 17 Dec 2007 10:31:21
From Grammy awards to multi-platinum albums—Sheryl Crow has achieved them all. Since her 1993 debut, she's become one of the few female performers to earn a regular place in the charts, now she's turning to new media to promote her forthcoming album Detours. She took time out for a controversial chat with ARTISTdirect about personal challenges and political convictions.
This is your sixth studio release. What was driving you creatively this time around?
Well, that’s a three-hour conversation! The title is "Detours," and the idea behind that is I think that we—as people, but also as a as a social movement—we go on all these detours that take us away from who we really are. It’s really in the last six years, watching where we’ve gone as a nation until we are now perceived in the world as being out of touch. So, the album is politically driven, but it’s also personally driven. The detours that my life has taken over the last three years have brought me back to a place where I can remember who it is that I am and what I want to feel. Whether it’s having breast cancer, whether it’s having adopted my son—all of these things are defining and refining moments.
And you teamed up again with Bill Bottrell, who produced Tuesday Night Music Club?
Yes. This has actually been the most exciting record I’ve made since 1993, because I worked with Bill again. Both our lives have taken extreme journeys, so coming back together was really a sweet experience—an inspired experience. Where it’s rocking, it’s rocking, and where it’s truthful, it’s very intimate. It’s fully committed to whatever genre the song is written in, the lyrics are very honest. Having Wyatt in my life now really made me unable to edit myself—there was a real sense of urgency. It’s very, very forthright.
And I suppose all of those new experiences have given you new perspectives to bring to your song-writing.
Absolutely. I feel like it’s a very compelling time to be an artist. Because we’re seeing such a switch to people not feeling like they need to pay for music—or movies or art, whatever’s available on the internet—it’s even more compelling to write the truth and go out so people will find it, because it’s not going to get played on the radio. Nobody’s really out there talking about what’s going on. I feel there’s a great need for this conversation—the kind of conversation that’s going on with me and my friends.
The switch you talk about away from traditional venues for music exposure and towards downloading—how has that been affecting your career?
Well, the reason we’re promoting this now is that it is like the Wild West out there. It’s not the old days where you’d put a single out and if people liked it, they bought the record. Now, it’s a completely different road that you take, and I’m really excited about the fact that we’re not even leaking these songs, we’re just putting them out there for people to hear before the record comes out next year. There are four songs going out with videos on YouTube and it’s a great way for people to hear what the record’s about. And along with that, I feel like there’s a great dialogue to be had because hopefully these songs are thought-provoking.
You’re career has spanned such a period of change in the industry. As an artist, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
It is completely different. For one thing, anyone can make a record now. If you have a computer and ProTools, you can do it at home without the cost, and anyone can make a video and stick it on YouTube and six million people may see it. And that’s compounded by the fact you can download a record and not pay for it, so it’s harder for people who are trying to make a living. It’s tricky. There’s got to be a way for us to make our living as songwriters.
And that’s probably when touring and merchandise becomes so important…
Right, and touring is another issue as I get older. I have a little boy now, so there are all these things that will weigh. It’s always been different for the women I’ve talked to in the industry. Chrissie Hynde was so helpful to me when we talked about touring. It’s like you have your children, and then as a mom you stay home and raise them. Or, as a male rock star, you have your kids and then the mom stays home while you tour. I think that freedom gives them longevity in a way women don’t have.
So would you say that being a woman has presented extra challenges in your career?
I’ve never really thought about it in terms of male or female, I just know that as music is changing towards being an entertainment-orientated medium, I think it’s an even more compelling time to be an artist. We’ve got a war going on that nobody talks about—but there’s no demonstrating, or picketing. I think we’re just emotionally detached, and maybe that comes from having so much information from the internet, and 24-hour cable TV. We’ve gone to sleep. In my mind, there are people out there who want to hear lyrics that echo their concerns, and as we see the world changing, it would almost be ridiculous to have music that doesn’t relate. I think we’re going to see a shift—well, I’m hoping we’re going to see a shift towards that.
So have you personally become involved with any issues? I know that environmentalism has always been close to your heart.
Last Spring I went on the road with Laurie David (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) on a bio-diesel bus and went to college campuses. We talked about what they can do in their personal lives, and in future workplaces in an effort to go green. It was an interesting tour because the young people are very concerned, and feeling really ripped off by the state of the planet they’ve inherited. At the same time, there’s incredible ingenuity coming up with ways to live a green lifestyle. The campaign of fear we’ve been living through for the last seven years can make people feel powerless, and there’s so much misinformation out there. It’s easier just to tune out and get on with our shopping.
You seem optimistic that artists can start the debate, and contribute politically…
It’s such a strange and indefinable time right now for artists. You finish your record and then you have no idea what’s going to happen so far as people downloading or viewing. But for me on this record, it wasn’t so much about making a living as it being heard. Hopefully it is addressing what a lot of people are saying.