Crow also just joined the chorus of voices on Twitter -- yes, that's actually her @SherylCrow -- although she prefers to use social networking for promotional purposes instead of cataloguing private tics. "I refused to do it until I had something to twitter about than personal things, although I know people really enjoy reading about the personal stuff," she says. "We're able to upload podcasts and all kinds of things. There are some really wonderful things about getting your art out there in different ways."
She is also relying on tried-and-true methods of promotion: The album was available for preorder on iTunes and streamed on MOG.com the week before it was released. Behind-the-scenes videos of the recording of the album also are available on Vevo.
And after doing five dates with Lilith Fair, Crow will set out on her own 30-date tour in late summer, including stops at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and Radio City Music Hall in New York, followed by a U.K. and European tour this fall.
"We set up a lot of stuff [at the outset] with this album because we really want this music and the sound exposed, but I think there's a very long-term approach to this," Berman says. "Once she starts playing this live and we move into the holidays, we're going to have many lives with this record."
ON THE RECORD
Crow's first big break was as a backup singer for childhood hero Michael Jackson, and it was on Jackson's Bad world tour in the '80s where she met longtime manager Weintraub.
"We were both kids. I was like 26 years old or something," he says. "I'll never forget the first time I saw her sing a solo note rather than with the background singers. It was during a sound check and she sang an Aretha [Franklin] song-and right then and there, I thought, 'Sheryl sounds like Bonnie Bramlett from Delaney & Bonnie.' A white, Southern soul singer with a little bit of a country rock twang. It's funny because her previous records allude to these styles sometimes, but this is the first time she full-on embraced it."
Overall, the 12 tracks of "Memphis" meld the kick-back boho vibe of Crow's early work with Stax-like instrumentation. "We had talked about this idea a long time ago with Mark Ronson as a thought," Weintraub says. "He's great, but he's always super busy, and we were a little wary of the trendiness of using Mark."
"My last record was very commentary-driven, very socio-political, as opposed to pop tunes," Crow says. "I kept running into [producer/guitarist] Doyle Bramhall II, who's this very dear friend. Doyle was working on this Eric Clapton record with Justin Stanley and I was loving what they were doing."
Bramhall and Stanley encouraged Crow to improvise. When doing a take on Marvin Gaye's "It's a Desperate Situation," she broke into a bit of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." That one-take moment of inspiration is now the bonus track on the album.
"The goal of the record was to not have too many songs and to let the songs breathe and be longer than usual," Weintraub says. "All the songs hit with a cool groove. It's OK if the songs go five minutes." And, Weintraub notes, those five-minute songs can be edited down to a radio-friendly 3:40.
The first single from "Memphis"-the sweet, swingy track "Summer Day"-is No. 6 on Billboard's triple A radio chart after six weeks of release. Crow is something of the queen of the triple A format; since 1996, she has had seven songs hit No. 1 on that chart. Five of them-"A Change Would Do You Good," "My Favorite Mistake," "Anything but Down," "Soak Up the Sun" and "The First Cut Is the Deepest"-topped the chart for multiple weeks.
Internationally, Crow has done promotion in London, which is starting to pay off. In the United Kingdom, "Summer Day" stands at No. 29 on the U.K. Radio Airplay chart after three weeks of release.
Most of "Memphis" was recorded at Henson Studios in Hollywood, where Crow inadvertently met up with Justin Timberlake, who was working with Jamie Foxx in the same building. "There's something really wonderful about working in a commercial studio," she says. "The last five records I made was in my own studio, so I don't run into a lot of people unless I invite them over. So I dragged [Timberlake] into the studio and said, 'You have to check out my Al Greenish version of Terence Trent D'Arby's 'Sign Your Name,' " and he loved it. He volunteered to sing background on it."
That little girl who danced along to the Jackson 5 and grew up to sing alongside Michael Jackson now has two children of her own, Wyatt and Levi. Crow dedicates the album-and "all else"-to them in the liner notes.
In part, Crow says, "Memphis" is inspired by the course of a full life well-lived-and an acknowledgement that with wisdom comes a new creative perspective.
"Soul music typically pulls from emotion and vulnerability and desire," Crow says. "In these last few years I've become much more of an emotional person. I've had kids. I've gone through a lot that's been very transformative . . . it was just something so effortless about making this record for me. It was truly an extension of where my soul is at right now."