Sheryl Crow

Nine-time Grammy winner talks "Feels Like Home," her first album of country music. "It's great to be in a format where music and songwriting are still alive and well"

Sheryl Crow is entering new territory on Tuesday (Sept. 10) with the release of "Feels Like Home," the singer's first country music effort.

"I'm excited," she said from her Tennessee home. "For one thing, it's great to be in a format where music and songwriting are still alive and well, and the fan base is into songs. That's the one thing I feel has really propelled my career is having the luxury of writing songs in a conventional style -- a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's what is happening with country music, which is great. It's also really wonderful to be at a record label that loves the album, and loves music. It feels like I've gotten new energy breathed into my career. "

"Feels Like Home" represents a departure of another sorts, as she co-wrote ten of the twelve cuts on the album -- a first in terms of collaborative efforts -- something that she said was rather exhilarating creatively. "After 25 years of doing this, I feel like I'm writing some of my best stuff, and I'm learning a lot." 

One song that Crow can't wait for her fans to hear is the emotional "Waterproof Mascara." Co-producer Justin Niebank helped to give the song a Billy Sherrill / Tammy Wynette feel with a stirring string section that helps to make the track. "That was the first song I wrote for the record. I wrote it with Brad Paisley and Chris DuBois, who are two of the finest songwriters that are out there. Talk about being intimidated. The song is the most important song on the record, and probably my favorite. It's so high drama, and such a throwback to the 60s and 70s country music that I love."

The strings were not the only tip of the hat to Nashville's musical heritage. "We had Harold Bradley play on it, and that finished up the traditional feel of it, which was unbelievable." 

The first single, "Easy," has found favor with radio programmers, currently sitting at No. 18 on the Country Airplay chart. Crow has been very aggressive visiting stations nationwide. She says she knows no other way to do it. "A lot of people have been surprised that I've been out doing radio. They forget that's how I got started -- in a van, pulling gear, and playing in clubs, going to do radio in the morning. That's what you did. That tradition is still alive and well at country -- just like it was in 'Coal Miners' Daughter,' when you saw Doo zip up Loretta's dress and she went in and said 'Here's my new single.' I really enjoy that process. It's very organic, and I think it's important to know the people who are playing your art, your music, your work."

Though this is her first full-length country album, she has enjoyed success on the charts before with such songs as "Picture" and "The First Cut Is The Deepest," and has been a participant in tribute records to such acts as Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. "I got into country music through the back door. We had two country music stations in my hometown, and they were oldies country -- Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, to Waylon and Jessi. I gravitated to stuff like that and the Rolling Stones, the Flying Burrito Brothers. Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris -- especially the stuff she did with Gram [Parsons]. 'Give It To Me' was inspired by that, with it's high drama, melodic feel. I think that was the inspiration for most of the big hits I've ever had. So, making this record didn't feel like a tremendous departure except where the songwriting was concerned. I've always written narratively and also stories, but this was definitely much more succinct and the songs were more first-person."

She said another legend was on her mind when she wrote "Crazy Ain't Original" -- Merle Haggard. "After playing the Kennedy Center Honors, I came home and was thinking about what it must be like to be a songwriter from that generation, and writing about what's happening around you. That was the inspiration for that."

Crow – who will be announcing the nominees for the 46th Annual Country Music Association Awards with Florida Georgia Line on Tuesday – says she is going to be very busy this fall. "It's going to be more of the same with radio visits, guitar pulls, and co-headlining dates with Gary Allan. I'm just gonna keep working!"

On Monday, we'll go inside the "Feels Like Home" album for an exclusive cut-by-cut!