Sheryl Crow Digs Deeper into Her Country Debut, Feels Like Home
The musicians, vocal freedom and production aesthetics are only a few of the reasons why Sheryl Crow considers Country Music her new creative foundation. No wonder her new album is called Feels Like Home! For more on her latest musical venture, check out the Oct/Nov 2013 issue of CMA Close Up.
It must be such a luxury to work with musicians as good as the ones you held over for Feels Like Home.
This town is stupefying! The quality of musicianship in this town is mind-boggling. We did demos – and there were A Players on the demos! I was like, “Why do songwriters do demos and then re-cut the song with another set of A Players and tell them to learn the demo?” I love the guys that played on this record.
How are they different from the great players you’ve recorded with elsewhere?
One thing that interests me in Nashville is that everybody works off the numbers chart. I read music, but I’ve never worked off of a numbers chart. The dialogue and dictionary of references is so interesting. I learned a lot. The fact that they could go from that and then create music was cool – and also the fact that they would get references, like, “I want this to sound like that.” Basically, I asked them to play as a band, and they brought their A Game. The hang was great.
More than anything else, I loved working with (co-producer) Justin Niebank. I know he’s the guy and that he mixes everybody. He’s brilliant, you know? He was a perfect person for me to work with.
You’ve self-produced a lot on previous albums. With Justin, you could revisit the creative energy of working with another producer.
We had lots of discussions about what we wanted this album to be. I know it was a labor of love for him. He was doing it because he wanted to be a part of discovering what the album could be and helping me discover a second phase of my creative life. It’s great to have a producer that sets up a sound in my ear that I can sing three or four times and it’ll be a performance, as opposed to the gnashing of teeth I’ve done when I produced myself. I didn’t phone it in, but I didn’t put the love and care into bringing it to where I could perform it.
What appeals to you about singing within the Country format? Do the lyric, melodies and emotions of Country stimulate your interpretive approach?
Absolutely, that and the fact that I’m older now. I’m not a snob about things being rock ‘n’ roll. I think I’ve gypped myself a little bit in being sort of a rock snob. I love a beautiful melody and a well-crafted song more than anything. I grew up with (the music of) Burt Bacharach, James Taylor, Cole Porter, Willie Nelson, Billy Sherrill and Jimmy Webb. I wanted to make that kind of a record. I’ve gotten spoiled in that I’ve gotten to go out and sing some of these peoples’ songs.
You’ve had loyal fans for many years. How different is your Country following?
All I can say is, the other night we did a gig with Darius Rucker, the audience was very young and they knew every word to my songs – even a few of the old, obscure singles. They knew “Easy” really well. Then we went and did something with Gary Allen. The audience was a little bit older. And they knew all the songs. That’s probably my fan base, around my age and maybe 15 years younger and 10 years older. And they listen to Country Music now. All my friends do. That’s where you hear songs. That’s where you hear songwriting and you hear guitar solos. What’s happening now is that I’m getting new Country fans, and my fan base is listening to Country as well.
Some of those younger fans may be experiencing you as an exciting new artist.
It’s surprising that so many young fans have come up to me and said, “You were my first concert when I was 13.” Somewhere along the way, I probably became like a Tom Petty – clean family entertainment you could take your teenagers to. So your mom and dad took you there. Now those people are grown up. And, hey, I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s just music, and I love that people come and get away from the monotony of life for two hours.