[ARTICLE] Sun Herald (Australia) - 3 March 2018

Sheryl Crow on the death of rock and why the Grammys should bring back female artist categories

Kathy McCabe, National Music Writer, News Corp Australia Network
Sun Herald newspaper (Australia)

SHERYL Crow was being cheeky when she proposed the title of Make Rock Great Again for her joint tour of Australia with good friend Melissa Etheridge.

“You know what, it’s almost a cringe-worthy title considering it was inspired dare I say, by our president,” the acclaimed rocker says.

The title may be a mischievous appropriation of President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan by an artist who has never shied away from political engagement.

Yet there is a modicum of despair underscoring its rallying cry. Can rock ever hope to match the pop culture power of hip hop and dance music? Even the true believers doubt it.

“I feel like with the dwindling of attention spans, you end up with hooks that have to change every six seconds instead of traditional songwriting,” Crow says.

“I also think it’s unfortunate we don’t get to hear too much rock any more, particularly from women. It’s much more fashionable to look great in a costume and be able to dance and there’s definitely a place for that.

“I love Haim, they are out doing great work. But I’m not going to be all doom and gloom about it, I’ll just keep doing what I am doing.”

After years trying to catch a break in Los Angeles, Crow worked as a backing singer for Michael Jackson on his Bad tour.

She won a record deal with a major label but her first attempt at her debut album was shelved for being too soft-rock.

By the time her official debut album Tuesday Night Music Club in 1993, another woman armed with a guitar and a bluesy growl was poised for her breakthrough with her fourth album.

Melissa Etheridge had been building a fanbase since the release of her self-titled debut in 1988 but Yes I Am would become her biggest selling release.

As well as performing at Bluesfest in Byron Bay, these two women of rock will join forces for an arena tour which marks Crow’s first performances in Australia for a decade.

Ask her how long they have known each other and she jokes it’s “90 years”.

“We do go a long way back, we kinda came up together, she started right before I did,” she says.

“There’s a lot we have in common. We both have had breast cancer. And both have had to claw our way up in a very male dominated industry and both have had longevity.

“There haven’t been many women who have been able to do that. For me, and dare I say, for her as well, these gigs are going to be a celebration of that ... and super fun.”

While album sales aren’t what they used to be — Crow is estimated to have sold 50 million records during her career with Etheridge not far behind her — both women have continued to find new fans.

Although the discovery that a younger generation has embraced their music is usually delivered with that classic line: “My mum is a really big fan of yours.”

“Listen, I am down with that,” Crow says, laughing.

“I don’t care if you are getting the music by osmosis as long as you are getting it. That’s how I got my music; my parents were the first people to play me Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples, James Brown.

“I love that music can be a family thing.”

Yet music doesn’t dominate her own home in Nashville. While her sons Wyatt, 10 and Levi, 7, enjoy it, Crow says their presence in her life means “I don’t feel it the same way I used to”.

“I love watching my kids and playing with my kids ... Music can be a part of that I am able to turn on and off,” she says.

“My kids are enjoying music, having it on the background but they don’t love it all the time. And they don’t love that part of mommy’s life when I am gone.”

They have more recently had to share their mum — ahead of the family coming to Australia next month — with Keith Richards, Chuck D, Don Henley, Willie Nelson and Stevie Nicks.

Crow has been working on an “all star” record for the past couple of years which is expected to be released in late 2018.

“It’s very humbling when they say yes,” she says.

“Chuck D did his recording just last night. There’s these moments when everything comes full circle and working with an artist like Chuck D reminds you of that.”

The musician has been a vocal campaigner and activist both politically and socially for most of her career and recently weighed into the #GrammysTooMale debate suggesting the academy should consider reintroducing female categories to redress the imbalance of winners.

Women won only 17 of the 86 awards on offer at the 2018 Grammys, with academy president Neil Portnow sparking outrage with his clumsily worded response suggesting females in the industry needed to “step up” to improve gender representation.

“The Grammys are a lot more than the awards that get seen on television and a lot of women get overlooked by virtue of them taking away the female categories,” she says.

“This is a conversation that is going to be had whether the people in charge like it or not. It is not just a TV show and what’s show on TV is dictated by viewership and that’s dictated by what’s popular and will keep people’s attention.

“There’s got to be some way to draw that line.”

Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge perform at Bluesfest, Byron Bay on April 1 and then Riverside Theatre, Perth, April 3, Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, April 4, Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, April 6 and ICC Theatre, Sydney, April 7.

SOURCE: Herald Sun

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