SOUND CHECK

THE SONG ALL I WANNA DO PRO­PELLED SH­ERYL CROW INTO THE POP-CHART STRATO­SPHERE. NOW A MOTHER OF TWO, SHE’S GONE BACK TO THE FU­TURE FOR HER NEW AL­BUM

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - By KATHY MC­CABE Be My­self (Warner) is out April 21.

She dom­i­nated the charts in the ’90s and now Sh­eryl Crow is back with a new al­bum – and a new at­ti­tude.

Fans still hung up on Sh­eryl Crow’s great­est-hits back cat­a­logue aren’t alone, given the woman her­self had to lis­ten to her old stuff to make her new stuff.

After drop­ping off her sons, Wy­att, nine, and Levi, six, at school, Crow tells Stel­lar she would go home and lis­ten to the early records that landed her at the top of the in­ter­na­tional pop charts more than two decades ago.

There’s no es­cap­ing retro Crow on her ninth al­bum, Be My­self, yet lyri­cally it’s all about now. Her sons, who she adopted, ex­erted a par­tic­u­lar in­flu­ence on new track “Roller Skate”, cour­tesy of their protests about her screen time. She laughs when asked if their ad­mon­ish­ments in­formed the song’s com­men­tary on so­ci­ety’s so­cial me­dia ob­ses­sion.

“Yeah, well, it goes both ways, I have to say,” she says. “I have a nine-year-old, who may as well be a teenager, and I’m try­ing to make sure both of the boys don’t wind up with their faces in a screen, and get out­side,” she says.

“Oh my God, I to­tally sound like my mum. They al­ways come back at me with ‘Oh, you’re so mean.’ Yeah, that’s my job… but they’re very good-na­tured about it be­cause luck­ily they love be­ing out­side.”

The record was mostly writ­ten and recorded in the con­verted barn stu­dio at her Nashville home. It marks yet an­other ca­reer re­birth for an artist who’s been well versed in the fick­le­ness of pop fame since she emerged from the back­ing singer line-up in Michael Jack­son’s band, and stu­dio ses­sions for Don Hen­ley and Ste­vie Won­der.

It took a cou­ple of at­tempts and a shelved de­but al­bum be­fore she suc­cess­fully launched her solo ca­reer with Tues­day Night Mu­sic Club in 1993, the songs writ­ten dur­ing a weekly jam ses­sion with a crew of LA mu­sos and pro­duc­ers. The break­out sin­gle “All I Wanna Do” – a No.1 hit in Australia – pro­pelled Crow into the pop-chart strato­sphere at the age of 31 and won her three Gram­mys, with the al­bum sell­ing around 10 mil­lion copies world­wide.

Her next two records, Sh­eryl Crow and The Globe Ses­sions, added to her im­pres­sive cat­a­logue of sin­ga­long pop gems, in­clud­ing “If It Makes You

Happy”, “Ev­ery­day Is A Wind­ing Road”, “A Change Would Do You Good” and “My Favourite Mis­take”, and paired the singer-song­writer with two men who would prove piv­otal in bring­ing her full cir­cle to Be My­self.

After an un­re­mark­able de­tour into the country mu­sic scene in 2013 with the Feels Like Home al­bum, Crow de­cided to re­turn to the roots of the sound which made her in­escapable on pop radio through­out the 1990s. She called Nashville-based song­writer and pro­ducer Jeff Trott and sonic ar­chi­tect Tchad Blake, who had both been on board for her early records, to help her get back to be­ing her­self.

The com­fort of the old crew did fos­ter new dis­cov­er­ies, as the trio en­joyed a re­laxed ap­proach to craft­ing the record, work­ing dur­ing the day while her chil­dren were at school and knock­ing off in the late af­ter­noon for a pint of Guin­ness.

“I didn’t even know how good it was and it’s so good for you, I’m told. I felt com­pletely guilt-free hav­ing a few Guin­nesses,” she says. “It was our treat each day at 4.30pm at the stu­dio. My friend Tchad Blake had come over from Wales to work with me and Jeff Trott on the record at my home in Nashville. Tchad had beaten can­cer a year be­fore – he had a head and neck can­cer – and his taste­buds were pretty much fried after the treat­ment, and the only thing that tasted good to him was Guin­ness.”

The down­side of so­cial me­dia and its ef­fects on our re­la­tion­ships would loom large as the theme on Be My­self. The ti­tle track clev­erly dis­tils the dif­fer­ence be­tween a 1990s pop star and the post-mil­len­nial wannabes as she sings about tak­ing an Uber to a juice bar en route “to hear a new in­die band play/ They got 99 mil­lion fol­low­ers/in only one day”. While her on-point com­men­tary will pro­voke know­ing nods and eye rolls from her older fans, it’s Crow’s view on re­la­tion­ships from the per­spec­tive of a 55-year-old woman that says some­thing de­cid­edly new about pop mu­sic’s time-hon­oured top­ics of love won and lost.

“Ob­vi­ously I’m not writ­ing for 20-year-olds, and what’s getting played on the radio is very sexy or very sex­ual,” Crow says. “Writ­ing a record be­ing my age is lib­er­at­ing be­cause you can write what­ever you want and you know that there will be a fair amount of the pop­u­la­tion on the same page as you.”

Un­like much of the gen­eral pub­lic, how­ever, Crow has been linked to sev­eral fa­mous men, in­clud­ing Eric Clap­ton and Owen Wil­son – and, most fa­mously, was en­gaged to dis­graced cy­clist Lance Arm­strong in 2005 be­fore the re­la­tion­ship ended in early 2006.

“I’ll still care about re­la­tion­ships and be­ing in love un­til I’m dead,” she tells Stel­lar. “You take a song like “Strangers Again” [from the new al­bum]; it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to me that you can spend so much of your life with some­one, and when it’s over, you go back to be­ing strangers. It’s weird, but it’s al­ways the way it is.”

Crow ad­mits she finds her­self in a quandary writ­ing songs about re­la­tion­ships, past or present, while pro­tect­ing her pri­vacy. She isn’t a Tay­lor Swift kind of artist. Even now she re­fuses to lift the veil on the iden­tity of the lover who in­spired her 1999 hit “My Favourite Mis­take”. It’s her “You’re So Vain”, a song that’s in­spired end­less spec­u­la­tion as to the track’s pro­tag­o­nist, with most crit­ics and fans point­ing at Eric Clap­ton, whom she was ru­moured to have en­joyed a brief af­fair with in the late 1990s. When jok­ingly asked by Stel­lar to fi­nally spill the beans, she in­sists “never!” – but she does re­veal some­thing for the trainspot­ters.

“You know what’s funny is that the song has a part 2, a part 3 and a part 4, it keeps rolling through my al­bums, telling a dif­fer­ent chap­ter each time. There’s a lot of hints along the way if you wanted to try to fig­ure it out.”

Lis­ten to the al­bum’s ir­re­sistible funki­fied pop-hit-in-wait­ing “Grow Up” and you can hear the in­flu­ence of an­other man whom she’s al­ways adored. Prince and Crow worked to­gether in the late 1990s, with the late pop idol join­ing her on­stage in 1999 dur­ing the famed Lilith Fair in Toronto, which fea­tured fe­male artists. He also cov­ered “Ev­ery­day Is A Wind­ing Road”.

“I’m frus­trated with my­self I didn’t reach out to him when he was alive. I didn’t know he was where he was at… but then what could I have done? That song “Grow Up” – I think I had a lot of resid­ual stuff go­ing on after he passed away and that com­pounded with the elec­tion cy­cle and the vit­riol ev­ery­one was treat­ing each other with. I kept think­ing that if this is what adult­hood looks like… I don’t want to grow up.”

“I kept think­ing if this is what adult­hood looks like then I don’t want to grow up”

BE­ING HER­SELF (from top) Sh­eryl Crow with sons Wy­att (left) and Levi; Lance Arm­strong in 2005; on­stage in Or­lando in 2014; (opposite) the singer is back with her ninth stu­dio al­bum.

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