The first Sheryl Crow song I ever heard was "All I Wanna Do." It used to play all the time on the rock station my mom and I would listen to while driving around. I was probably nine or ten then, but I always loved that little part in the song where she sings "A happy couple enters the bar / dangerously close to one another" because of the way she sang dangerously, dragging out that first syllable like an unbuttoned shirt falling over a shoulder, an unexpected surprise. Her delivery made me feel like if I had been watching it on TV, my mom would have changed the channel because it wasn't appropriate for me.
Just two or three years later, I came across Sheryl singing/prowling inside one of those diorama displays at the Museum of Natural History in an animal-print coat and bright-red lipstick, singing "If it makes you happy / then why the hell are you so sad?" And although I was still too young to understand the world of complicated relationships that would result in a song like that, I became obsessed with it, taping it on VHS so I could watch it anytime I wanted. She was the woman I hoped to be like "when I grew up," to one day exude the strength that always came across when I watched her on television.
That was twenty years ago, and while Sheryl has experimented with different genres since then, like the slick summer-pop vibes of "Soak Up the Sun" and the full-on country sound of 2013's Feels Like Home, her new album, Be Myself, is a throwback to the music she was making back in the late '90s. Her signature storytelling is there, as are her catchy melodies, twangy guitars, and take-no-prisoners attitude, all displayed in songs about love, about the weird political situation we are in, and even about social media. I've revisited her music again and again throughout the years since I first fell in love with her, and now that I have lived life, my appreciation for her has only become stronger.
A few weeks before the new album's release, we talked on the phone about psychic lyrics and making a grown-up record while sometimes feeling like being a grown-up sucks.
Laia Garcia: I've read that you were listening to your old songs in order to prepare to start this new record, which was surprising because I've heard that a lot of musicians don't usually like listening to themselves. Was that a problem for you as well?
Sheryl Crow: Oh my gosh. I hate listening to myself. In fact, I find that if somebody plays my music while I'm sitting at a restaurant, I want to run out the door screaming. So, yeah, it's not something I do regularly. In fact, I can safely say that once I make a record and it's mixed and out, I generally don't listen to it again.
On this record, I called my old buddy Jeff [Trott], who I've written a lot with, and he was just moving to town, and I said, "Hey, let's just sit and listen [to these songs and look] for what the vibe was." You know, the second record [the self-titled Sheryl Crow] was really a response to how popular the first record was and the backlash to that. We went in to make that second record in response to people just being sick of me. Everything was just super-negative. We're like, "Let's just close the door and make a record." It felt like just two kids in the studio, like in a laboratory mixing up concoctions. That's sort of what we wanted to try and capture again.