Sheryl Crow talks love & war
Sheryl Crow’s new album Wildflower, due in stores Tuesday, is a return to form for the 43-year-old singer-songwriter, says The Toronto Sun.
Following 2002’s overly commercial C’mon, C’mon and 2003’s greatest hits collection, Crow has delivered one of her best records yet: Intimate, stripped-down, melodic songs with upfront vocals and string accompaniment.
“I definitely featured my voice more,” said Crow, down the line from London, England, recently in a Canadian newspaper exclusive with the Sun.
“I think the thing that’s always gotten my attention is that people will come up to me after seeing me play live and say, ‘Wow, you are so much better of a singer than you are on your records.’ Part of that is just, as producer, I haven’t really been that concerned with my own vocals because for me I’ve always more gotten off on the musicianship and the arrangements and the songwriting. And this record, although it sounds big because of the string arrangements, it’s pretty based on sparse production. My original intent was to do a very acoustic-feeling record like (Neil Young’s) Harvest, but put strings on it.”
Crow, who has spent most of the last year and a half living in Europe, co-produced Wildflower with longtime collaborators John Shanks and Jeff Trott.
The new songs detail both her great love affair with 34-year-old cyclist Lance Armstrong — the two got engaged earlier this month and a spring wedding is expected — and her relationship with the increasingly troubled world at large.
But the so-called “Lance Factor” is obvious.
“I’ve never had anybody be so completely positive that I’m the person they want to be with,” Crow told the television news program 20/20 in an interview with Armstrong that aired last week. “That’s helped me to express who I am, and who I can be.”
More universal themes explored on Wildflower can be heard on new songs like Sending A Letter To God or Where Has All The Love Gone.
“Sending A Letter To God speaks to the move toward the religious right in our country,” Crow said, “and how, in my mind, even though I consider myself a Christian, the radical religious conservatism … has started to inform how our government makes its decisions, which was not what the country was based on. And also that there’s a judgmental attitude, a very moralistic attitude in our country that’s based in that sort of fanaticism. And on the flipside of that, with regard to Where Has All The Love Gone, you have such a strong belief in God all over the world that we’re in a war now where we’re sort of fighting over whose God is the right God. And you know you have the jihad and the religious right movement in America and to me if you define God as love, then it’s kind of difficult to figure out what we’re all fighting about.”
In recent years, Crow wore a T-shirt that said “War Is Not The Answer” at the American Music Awards and a guitar strap with the word “Peace” on it at the Grammys.
Both moves were considered risky given the backlash that the Dixie Chicks had to endure when they spoke out against U.S. President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But Crow says she was well ahead of the Chicks on that curve.
“I had worn a T-shirt, before we went to war, well before the Dixie Chicks, on Good Morning America, that said, ‘I don’t believe in your war, Mr. Bush’ and that really got me in trouble — big time,” Crow said. “Just people expressing their disagreement with that, and death threats and stuff like that. It’s funny because after the Dixie Chicks thing our whole country really suffered a campaign that said if you spoke out, you were considered anti-American. It was kind of a dark time in our history. I think more people are coming around to the viewpoint that this war is not completely definable and we’re not really sure how we got into it. People (are) trying to figure out, do we really have a plan … and when are our kids coming home?”
In fact, Crow was so prolific as a songwriter recently there had been reports of her releasing two albums this year.
“I had decided, originally, it would be really cool to release a double record,” she said. “And have one record be what we were calling ‘the art’ record, or record that was more stripped down and more genuine and more introspective. And then have a record that was based on the 31/2-minute pop song. But it didn’t make sense in the end to release both at the same time because it kind of undermined the power of both records. So I think toward the end of next summer or fall, we’ll have the other record come out.”
At the time of this interview, Crow was about to rejoin Armstrong just before he would go on to win his seventh straight Tour de France.
“It’s very nervewracking,” said Crow of her experience last year on the road with Armstrong. “And clearly for him, it starts well before the tour. He does a lot of races up to that point to sort of assess where he is in his conditioning. So I’ve definitely been involved in the lifestyle of the training and eating right and getting good sleep and, also, for me the tour is a great outlet. It’s likely finally getting to do the gig after you’ve rehearsed for weeks and weeks and weeks.”
Some fans questioned Crow putting her own career aside for the past couple of years to follow Armstrong around.
“There are people who still think I’m nuts,” Crow told 20/20. “I mean, I have a massive feminist following and a lot of those people are mad. They’re like, ‘Why would you quit everything for a man?’ I really gave myself the gift of just saying, ‘I can follow this person around and just wash his bike shorts if I want.’ ”
But she told the Sun: “It’s very exciting, particularly when he’s in the yellow jersey. For the most part, it’s been really a good experience getting to support somebody else and getting to sort of sit back and decide what kind of record I wanted to make and to really just embrace writing about what was going on around me. Not just about our lifestyle but what’s happening in the world — and I think … I’ve gone through that period of trying to figure out how to maintain a modicum of peace in the middle of just total, total chaos out there, particularly as an American.”
The tables will be turned next month when Armstrong travels with Crow as she begins her Wildflower tour with eight dates in the U.S followed by two dates in London in November.
“He likes to sing!” Crow said.
In addition to her four-piece band, Crow is touring with a 12-person string section conducted by David Campbell, but she doesn’t expect to play any Canadian dates until next year.
Will the bride wear yellow?
Lance Armstrong told talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he popped the question to Sheryl Crow by taking her out on a fishing boat on a lake in Sun Valley, Idaho. Then the motor ran out of gas.
“And so, I thought, ‘We’re stuck here, I might as well ask her now,’ Armstrong told Winfrey on her TV show this week. “I felt bad, I didn’t have the ring with me. But it was too perfect, too beautiful.”
Until her engagement to Armstrong, Crow has had her share of romances, including one with actor Owen Wilson and a rumoured affair with Eric Clapton, who may or may not be the subject of her song My Favourite Mistake.
Crow, who was on tape in New York City during Armstrong’s Oprah appearance, showed off her six-carat diamond ring, and described the proposal.
“He definitely pulled out all the stops,” Crow said. “He was being really romantic. And then he said, ‘I have something to ask you. I’m really nervous.’ He asked me if I would get married to him and I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ And then I said, ‘I can’t believe you were nervous. You knew I would say yes.’ ”
Crow met Armstrong — the father of three kids with ex-wife Kristin — at a charity event in Las Vegas in 2003.
“There are too many things to name that I love about him,” she told Oprah. “He’s gorgeous and he’s funny and he’s smart and he’s a fantastic dad. Gosh, I just love him.”
And his three kids.
“It’s been fun for me and a new thing, to not be in my little selfish ‘me’ world,” Crow told 20/20.
As for having her own children, she told 20/20,
“I would love to have my own kids and I think that I will.”
Sheryl Crow talks love & war