With over 50 million records sold worldwide, Sheryl Crow is one of the world’s biggest musical artists and is set to release her latest album ‘Live From The Ryman & More’ on August 13th.
The album is a dazzling collection of live performances from the nine-time Grammy Award winner. It celebrates her illustrious career which spans nearly three decades in the music industry, but also includes a few carefully selected cover versions of some of her favourite tracks.
The eminent singer spoke to Clash writer Emma Harrison to talk about her new record, working with Johnny Cash, the importance of story-telling, and why you just have to ‘remember the moment’.
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Clash: Congratulations on the new album ‘Live From The Ryman & More’. This was recorded over a period of five nights at the Ryman, at the Newport Jazz Festival and the ACE Theatre in LA - do you have any standout memories from these performances that you'd like to share?
Sheryl Crow: It’s so hard - I wouldn't be able to pick one. I will say the Newport Jazz Festival was kind of amazing and that you had all these incredible women on stage.
But then, I think about the Ryman and the history of that place, and how it really is one of my favourite rooms to play. And how many beautiful people I had sitting in there - it's impossible! And then of course, the ACE Theatre of having Stevie Nicks as a mentor and an incredible friend all those years. It would be hard to choose!
Clash: It’s a fantastic group of people that you've collaborated with. You mentioned Stevie Nicks and Emmylou Harris (amongst others), when you're choosing somebody to collaborate with, how do you pick who you want to work with or it just purely because you love their voice?
Sheryl Crow: With the people that are involved, they are not only collaborating on this record, but they are also people that I have a history with - many of the people on this record are the reason I'm doing what I'm doing.
You know, some of my earliest memories is singing along with James Taylor, with Fleetwood Mac and Emmylou Harris, and certainly the Rolling Stones. I mean, all of these people inspired me to do what I'm doing. But then later on, they were the very people that championed me and who mentored me, if you will.
So, when I was making the record, I just wanted to have experiences with the people that I love personally, and that I love what they do, and who inspire me to keep going.
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Clash: I think that comes across in all your music, but in particular with this album. Do you have a favourite track that you'd like to perform live?
Sheryl Crow: I guess it varies from night to night, the times that we've done ‘Beware of Darkness’ because of what's going on. I'm a mom of two kids who have asked me really hard questions about the future. When I play that song, I find I experience all kinds of emotions, and it's difficult to keep them all in place whilst I am singing and not just completely lose it.
We do ‘Redemption Day ‘on occasion and that is very emotional for me as well. Largely because of what's going on, but also because of the history of the song with Johnny Cash and who he was. So, there are songs that I love doing because of how they make me feel, but there are other songs that are just fun to play. You know ‘Everything is Broken’ with Jason Isbell is everything I love in a song - it's got all this incredible meaning, but it's also just a kick ass rock song!
Clash: It really is! I was going to mention ‘Beware of Darkness’ and ‘Redemption Day’. Why did you pick ‘Beware Of Darkness? I know you've obviously touched on its meaning, but why did you pick that particular song?
Sheryl Crow: Well, I think if George Harrison were still alive, he would definitely be someone that I would have reached out to because of not only who he was as a person, but also as a peace seeker. ‘All Things Must Pass’ is probably my favourite record of all time and it continues to even have more importance for me. Being able to reach out to have Eric Clapton to play on that was a gift - what he sent me back, just blew me away! It has a lot of threads for me and my life!
Clash: Congratulations on your recent livestream event which was recorded in a church on your estate. How much did you enjoy the show? I know how much you love performing live, but this was a very different type of performance. It was very much a more intimate affair with lots of stories and anecdotes.
Sheryl Crow: Yeah, it was really challenging to do. I've been doing what I'm doing for 30 years, and I've never sat down by myself, and really just thought about why I wrote some of these songs and what the meaning behind them was. You know, it's odd to speak to a camera, as opposed to being able to speak face to face with someone and have more of a dialogue. So, that was challenging for me to let go of how much of it was just me telling my story, without having any kind of feedback.
That was one of the challenges, but the other challenge was to sit and just play this stuff by myself. I've never done it and I really enjoyed it, I felt like I got a lot out of it and had a really strong sense of accomplishment. It also has lit a fire in me to do more of that kind of thing. In fact, I'd love to just do a tour of just that - where I am sitting on a stage telling stories, and playing these songs. I think storytelling is such a beautiful art form and we've gotten so far away from it.
You know, everything is so much about the 140 characters or snapping a beautiful picture of ourselves which is going to airbrushed. The art form of real-life storytelling goes so far back in time to who we are historically and it's such a beautiful art form. So, I do want to continue to do that!
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Clash: That sounds very exciting! During the live stream, you shared that two of your most-loved tracks ‘If It Makes You Happy’ and ‘Everyday Is A Winding Road’ might not have actually made your eponymous 1996 album. What were your thoughts behind that as they are two incredible tracks?
Sheryl Crow: Well, ‘If It Makes You Happy’ was always gonna be on the record. But ‘Everyday Is A Winding Road’ I had not really considered putting on the record. I felt like the songwriting wasn’t as strong as what I could do. I think that's the nature of the beast - when you are producing yourself, it's really hard to have an overview. You only have this critical ear in relation to whether you think it's good enough.
It was my engineer who had lost his wife, who said to me ‘You have to put that on the record’ because of the one line (in the song) ‘Why I'm a stranger in my own life’ And then it wound up really resonating. I find that that song has as much meaning as it did 25 years ago when we wrote it.
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Clash: When you're looking back at your career, do you have standout moments that you love?
Sheryl Crow: It's difficult to be objective when you're so inside of it. But in reflecting on some of this stuff, particularly because Showtime are doing a documentary on me right now, which is so odd! When I think about all the extremely rarefied experiences I've had, from singing with Luciano Pavarotti and having Eric Clapton backing me, to being on stage in front of thousands of people in Central Park and just inviting a few quote, ‘friends’ unquote from Keith Richards to Eric, Stevie Nicks, Sarah McLachlan Chrissie Hynde, the Dixie Chicks for TV and more.
I can only reflect on those in the context of having been a girl from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, who could only dream about that kind of stuff. I could only really envision it through black and white pictures in Rolling Stone and Creem magazine. So, it's pretty humbling and pretty awe-inspiring to be able to look back on the last 30 years and some of the experiences that I've had.
Clash: You have had such an impressive back catalogue - 50 million albums sold worldwide!
Sheryl Crow: Yeah! You know, that's another thing - I'm so grateful that I got to be around when albums still existed, and when an actual physical album existed. People actually paid physical money to own your art! Kids these days will never know what that feels like to be able to know how many people own your music and how many people wanted to own your stuff enough to pay for it. To have people value it as a means of supporting people in in the world of creativity. It’s wonderful to have been around and to have come up in that. Also, to have come up at a time when you could develop who you were without the eyes of social media documenting your best, but also your worst and your most embarrassing!
Clash: In 2019, you said that you probably wouldn't make another album of new music based on your thoughts on streaming and how the music industry has changed. Are you still in that frame of mind or could we expect an album of new material from you?
Sheryl Crow: I think there was a personal moment I had with making ‘Redemption Day’ and singing that and feeling Johnny Cash - the weight of who he was and what he stood for loomed over me. When I finished that song - I felt like I was done and not done in the context of ‘I'm never going to write another song’ or ‘I'm never going to make another record’, but I felt like that was such a beautiful statement in the tradition that I have loved and that has built who I am, which is making albums. I also feel a sense of liberation and being able to write a song and put it out.
As much as I love the technology and how it separated us, it's also given us the ability to write a song and to put it out in the immediate without waiting to complete a full artistic statement. Without spending the money and the time that it takes to build a story on an album. When really writing a song that has meaning in that moment and being able to put it out is a real luxury. So, I’m sort of redirecting my energy towards putting out songs and not putting out full statements. You know, and the nice thing about that too, is that while people don't listen to albums anymore, they listen to playlists! You know, they can make their own Sheryl Crow playlist!
Clash: That's very true! You have had such an amazing career. You've won Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, BRIT Awards, how important are awards to you or is it just all about the music?
Sheryl Crow: Oh, gosh, you know, awards are nice. I mean, I'm not gonna lie and say it's all pomp and circumstance, it's nice to be acknowledged. Whilst you might have made something very popular, you have years and years of work that went into this - equipping you to even know how to record a song or how to play it. It's nice!
Accolades are not something that I put around my house to remind myself how great I am. But it does hold a certain amount of significance when you're announced on something, or when you're being written about that, that it says ‘Grammy Award winner’ That's why I longed for the Grammys to take themselves more seriously - to spread the love, to younger and older people who are making records and not just the most popular kids with the most followers, and who will create the most titillating TV moments, you know? Because it does matter. Does it matter to me in the context of I want to write songs that I know are going to win awards? No!
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Clash: It doesn't! If you could give your younger self who is just starting out in the business some advice based on what you know now, what would it be?
Sheryl Crow: Oh, I think I would say try to stop in the midst of all of your greatest moments and try to remember and try to index it in your mind. You know, I do this with my kids now a lot. Whenever we're doing this just worth remembering us. I say, 'Hey, okay, stop. Look around. Remember this moment?' I mean, even last night, we were playing Monopoly. If they take that moment, and they stick it in their brain as a memory, they will pull from that and they'll remember playing with their mom and their brother at 9.30pm at night arguing over hotels! It's the little things that build your life. It's the little memories that build your life.
Clash: I agree. How do you do at Monopoly? Did you win?
Sheryl Crow: I did not win! I wound up going bankrupt! My 11-year-old is shrewd.
Clash: He is clearly a future investor in property!
Sheryl Crow: Yeah! If my 11-year-old doesn't want to be either a sports caster or an accountant, I will have failed as a mom!
Clash: So, you're going back on tour in America. What are you most looking forward to getting back on the road?
Sheryl Crow: Oh, I just missed the exchange of energy between the audience and the stage. I miss being on stage with my buddies and I have missed the lifestyle. I feel like the last three years that I had a really large portion of my life sleeping in a bunk and waking up in a new city and sharing that with my kids. There are a lot of things I miss about it. But I mostly miss looking out at an audience and seeing faces who are singing along to my songs and having an experience and being able to give them that – yeah, that's what I miss!
Clash: Definitely! What's their favourite ever gig you've ever been to?
Sheryl Crow: Oh, gosh. Well, you know, it's years ago, I was at the Irving Plaza when Radiohead played, and they hadn't put their record out yet and everyone knew every word of the new material. It was really quite a spiritual experience, to hear all these people lifting their voices. I mean, to the point where you could almost not hear Radiohead and it just felt spiritual. You didn't see any cell phones or anything, people were just there together in a room full of strangers, who were having a common experience and that to me, left an indelible mark - that's what it's all about.
When we go on tour in the Fall, I think it will be more like that. It will be more celebratory and more personal for people. One of the things that has come out of all this is that people have missed the experience of having music transport them out of the challenges of the humdrum of everyday life. So, hopefully it's going to feel more like that.
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Clash: You mentioned that you have got a documentary being filmed about you? Can you tell me anything more about that please?
Sheryl Crow: Well, Showtime are doing it. There's a wonderful director that has spent quite a lot of time interviewing not just me but interviewing a lot of other people and digging through archives.
I can't lie - it is an odd feeling as it feels like something that shouldn't be done until after you're dead and gone. But I do have a story to tell and there are some inspiring moments and some moments I think people relate to as far as challenges are concerned. Although it feels kind of weird, I think it would be a worthwhile story to tell. I think the likelihood of my watching it is pretty slim - because I lived it, but I feel like for some people, I think it will be inspiring.
Clash: So what else can we expect from you?
Sheryl Crow: Well, there’s rumours that we may be over there (in the UK) next spring. So hopefully we will!
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‘Live From The Ryman & More’ will be released on August 13th.
Words: Emma Harrison
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