'Rock is not dead!' Sheryl Crow bids goodbye to full-length albums, says she feels liberated
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP): Sheryl Crow has a lifetime of stories of hanging out with rock stars, pop stars, athletes, icons and music royalty, some even featured on her new collaborative record, but don't expect her to start revealing any secrets in an autobiography.
"I mean, there are certain people that would have to die first in order for me to tell the real story," Crow said in a one-room church she had built on her property in Nashville, Tennessee, that houses a strange and eclectic collection of religious-themed statues, crosses, antique dolls, mirrors and stained glass.
Her laughter echoed in the tall ceiling and then she felt bad about saying that aloud. "That is terrible. I did not say that," Crow said.
The Grammy-winning Crow does have rock 'n' roll secrets, but she's happy to keep some of them squirrelled away like the antiques in that building.
"I've lived them and I love being able to reflect on them, but I don't know that I feel the need to share them with the world," Crow said.
If Crow is feeling a bit reflective about her lengthy career, it's because she's at a turning point, both looking backwards at all those musical icons that inspired her and trying to uplift a new generation especially female rockers.
Threads, out last Friday, features more than 20 other artists, including Keith Richards, Neil Young, Maren Morris, Stevie Nicks, St Vincent, Sting and Eric Clapton.
Crow said it is her last full-length album and she feels "liberated."
"I feel pretty good about this being my farewell to making full-length albums," Crow said.
Crow broke out in the heyday of CDs and rock radio, but over the course of her career digital downloads and then streaming has tanked both formats.
She's accepting of that inevitability, even if she thinks it has hurt artists like herself who have been making music for generations.
"You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube," Crow said.
Crow's album feels like a star-studded farewell tour, where she reunites with some of the best guitarists still living. Clapton tributes his late friend George Harrison on Beware of Darkness, with Crow, Sting and Brandi Carlile trading verses.
She reunited with Richards, who she met when the Rolling Stones asked her to play with them in the 1990s, on a cover of The Worst, and Bonnie Raitt's slide guitar matches up with Mavis Staples' soulful vocals on Live Wire.
"Rock is not dead. Guitar playing is still cool," Crow said. "I was a rock kid. I wanted to be in the Rolling Stones but I wanted to be Keith."
Producer and drummer Steve Jordan, who plays in Richards' solo band as well as the John Mayer Trio and won a Grammy for producing Continuum, said that he and Crow tried as much as possible to be in the studio with the guest artistes during recording, including with Chris Stapleton on Tell Me When It's Over, with Jason Isbell on Bob Dylan's Everything is Broken, and with Joe Walsh on Still the Good Ole Days.
"It made for a more personal approach," said Jordan.
He said that while Crow does have a lot of famous friends, the album not a reflection of her Rolodex, but of her impressive career and the friendships she's made.
"The whole concept was people that she loves," Jordan said.
And it wouldn't be a Sheryl Crow record if she didn't use the opportunity to speak her mind about the state of the world. Jordan suggested bringing Chuck D, one of rap's politically and socially conscious pioneers, on a song called Story of Everything, also featuring Andra Day and Gary Clark Jr, that touches on everything from the Charleston church shooting, Congress and economic inequality across the country.
"This is the story of a lot of small towns in America," Crow said. "It's definitely happening in my small town where a lot of the large corporations, the factories, have all moved out."
Crow will still be recording and putting out music and touring, but not be tied to the structure and time demands of an album. But she also wants to explore her non-musical interests as well.
"The environment to me has always been my main passion," said Crow. "I want to be more involved with philanthropic work. So we'll see. I'm at a point where I am OK with not knowing."