As Sheryl Crow found out while making her new album "C'mon, C'mon" (out April 9 on A&M), music does not always have charms, in the words of English playwright William Congreve, "to soothe the sava
As Sheryl Crow found out while making her new album "C'mon, C'mon" (out April 9 on A&M), music does not always have charms, in the words of English playwright William Congreve, "to soothe the savage breast."
After starting the album in April 2000, she felt her mood sadden as her time in the studio increased. "I was stricken with melancholy on a day-to-day basis," Crow says. "I thought I could work my way through it. I thought it would heal the bruises, but it didn't-it just made a big scab. I thought music would be my medicine, and that's just not realistic."
Part of the confusion came from not being able to figure out where she fits on the current musical spectrum. "I was dealing with competing with what's out there now," she says. "I don't know how to relate to the music out there, so how do I make [my music] current and valid?"
After walking away from the record for a spell, and at times contemplating bringing in an outside producer or even setting aside the album to make a record of covers instead, Crow finally completed the project earlier this year.
Although she describes the process as effortless once she re-entered the studio, the album retains an appealing vulnerability on songs that are equal parts joyful, cynical, weary, and strong.
Despite her inner turmoil, Crow believes she ultimately accomplished what she set out to do: "I wanted to make a rock record that I could play in the summer, in the heat, that just rocked like the old classic rock records. I got away from that in the middle, and when I came back to it at the end, I was able to do it. I think I got pretty close." Crow and her fans will see how close she came when she tours this summer.
First single "Soak Up the Sun" is a bouncy toe-tapper with Liz Phair on backing vocals. Crow co-wrote the song with her guitarist, Jeff Trott. "I had a non-invasive surgery, and I was sick and flat on my back. It was sort of a diversion, and out of that came this lyric that wrote itself very, very fast, and Jeff was howling. It could have been the medication I was on," she says with a laugh. "It was the same medication I was on when I wrote [the groggy, depressing] 'Weather Channel.' It was definitely very freeing."
Another song on the album sure to draw attention is "It's So Easy," a beautiful duet that reunites Crow with Don Henley, for whom she used to sing back-up. "We wanted to write a song about temptation and were hoping to get a country artist to cover it," says Crow, who wrote the tune with her sister. "I played it for [Interscope/Geffen/A&M chairman] Jimmy Iovine, and he said, 'You have to cut it.' No matter how you feel about it, if you're in a clandestine relationship that's adulterous, it may seem great, but you know in your heart, it's not right."
While she knows listeners speculate about whether such songs are about her personal experiences -- and if so, whom they are about -- Crow vows she'll never tell. "The mystery will always remain in the songs. Like 'My Favorite Mistake' [from 1998's The Globe Sessions]. I feel a certain amount of betrayal not talking about it. I feel like people would really like to know [who it's about]. It would also up my value if I talked about it. But I think I like [my past boyfriends], and they're all still alive. Besides, didn't we love that we were never quite sure who [Carly Simon's] 'You're So Vain' was all about?"
But Crow admits she's also become used to people speculating about her personal and professional life, such as when rumors circulated last year that she was taking Christine McVie's place in Fleetwood Mac. "I think the rumor was a product of Stevie [Nicks] and I spending so much time together," she says. "There was never a formal discussion." (Crow was a co-producer and co-wrote some of the songs on Nicks' "Trouble in Shangri-La").
In addition to Phair, Henley, and Nicks -- who sings on the album's title track -- "C'mon C'mon" features a pack of other high-profile guest stars, including Lenny Kravitz (on the swaggering "You're an Original"), the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines (the country-tinged "Abilene"), and Emmylou Harris ("Weather Channel"). "I didn't think about it until it was almost finished, and then I thought, 'It's almost like a duets album,'" Crow recalls. "People who are on the record are like family to me. Most of the time I can't believe I'm singing with these people."
Mike Fratt, executive VP of merchandise and marketing for Omaha, Neb.-based retail chain Homer's Music & Gifts, says Crow's experiences with other artists will only enhance her appeal at his stores. "She's been out working with a number of different artists the last few years, like Kid Rock," he says. (Crow appears on Rock's current album, "Cocky.") "I'm anxious to hear what the results are and how that may have influenced her."
This album is her first studio effort for Interscope since it absorbed A&M through the Universal/PolyGram merger. "I love my relationship with the label. The transition was one of uncertainty for everybody, but it's been great," Crow says. Still, she admits, "My relationship with A&M will be like no other. I grew up there -- it was a real family environment."
The album will further Crow's association with American Express' Blue Card, which started when she performed a Central Park concert in New York to launch the new credit card. (The event was later released as "Sheryl Crow & Friends: Live From Central Park" in 1999.) Scenes from the "Soak Up the Sun" video will be utilized in a new Blue Card advertising campaign.
Crow is unapologetic about the mix of art and commerce. "I used to have incredible reticence about anything that was corporate," she says. "But you know what? In the last few years, all the rules are being rewritten. Everything is starting to overlap, whether you think it's fortunate or unfortunate. You just have to have control so you can control your integrity."