Sheryl Crow set to drop new EP ahead of Australian tour
By Hannah Francis
Much has been said about the endless goldmine the Trump era provides for comedians. Less has been said about its impact on more "serious" artistic professions, such as music.
"It's an interesting time to be a songwriter, for sure," says Sheryl Crow by phone from her homestead in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her two sons and a menagerie of horses, dogs and other pets.
"How can someone work every single day to make sure the country is divided? It breaks my heart," she says of the US President.
"I think most of the things he stands for are completely antithetical to what the US is based on and founded on, the dreams of the people that founded this country and the backs that this community was built on.
"He undermines it with his ... I want to say ineptitude but unfortunately it's deeper than that."
Not that Crow ever stopped being a songwriter. Now 56 (and looking mighty fit, if I may say), the multi-Grammy Award-winning artist has kept a steady stream of albums coming since 1993's breakthrough release, Tuesday Night Music Club.
"The last record in some ways really reinvigorated my career," she says of 2017's Be Myself.
"We've really expanded our fan base. I have an unbelievable band – they're fantastic – and I just feel like new life has been breathed into our [live] show, into how I feel about making music."
Although it was four years between this album and the previous one, the recording process was swift, capturing some of the energy of that cracking debut.
"We didn't really waste any time trying to make things perfect," she says.
"Part of the charm of this record is that it sounds like my old stuff, and that's a product of wanting to get back into what that vibe was when making those early records – which was going in and having fun, having it be loose.
"The record is really all about that in-your-face joy."
Crow's prowess both on stage and in the studio is evident from the company she keeps. She is due to drop an EP any day now ahead of her Australian tour, and will release a new album early next year, Snap, featuring the likes of Stevie Nicks, Neil Young and Willie Nelson.
It's been nearly a decade since she last toured Australia, with John Mellencamp in late 2008. Her first son, Wyatt, whom she adopted as a baby, was still a toddler.
Now he's 10 and has a seven-year-old brother, Levi. They're both coming on tour with Crow in April, and Wyatt is looking forward to seeing the Great Barrier Reef.
"He was able to swim before he could talk," says Crow. "By the time he was three he was swimming to the bottom of the pool. He's obsessed with sea creatures … his whole thing is about the ocean.
"It's really a blessing," she says of being able to bring them with her. "I don't forsake it at all – my boys are really growing up with a worldly attitude and a strong sense of compassion."
There are some things though, closer to home, she'd rather they didn't see, such as the brutal reality of gun violence.
Even before the young survivors of the recent Florida school tragedy marched on politicians, Crow was having to have difficult conversations with her children, and was moved to write an op-ed about it.
"I had really sheltered them from the news, I try to keep the TV news off when they're around," she says.
"I don't think they ever realised that somebody could actually walk into a school with a weapon and kill kids.
"[Wyatt] asked me if we locked the doors on the house … I can feel he's starting to understand that we don't live in a safe world."
Harsh truths like this ripple through Crow's music, where her upbeat, country-tinged songs often carry themes of sadness and heartbreak.
"I feel like when I write I have no need to mask anything," she says.
"Also, not having to compete in the pop world gives me a certain amount of liberation to be writing about what I want to, and also having kids makes me feel like everything is extremely immediate and important."
Sheryl Crow performs a double bill with Melissa Etheridge at Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, April 6 and ICC Sydney Theatre at Darling Harbour, April 7.
SOURCE: Brisbane Times