How Sheryl Crow flies
The pop star crosses the continent - and generations
Sheryl Crow is straddling two generations. She has toured with the Rolling Stones and recorded a Bob Dylan song at the artist's request, so she has earned classic-rock credibility. She's also been accepted as a modern rocker whose last two albums sold a combined 15 million copies - way more than the Stones and Dylan in recent years, meaning that she's definitely reached the young generation.
''When I do interviews, people always ask me how I feel about being lumped into the older generation,'' Crow says, referring to her allegiance with the Stones and Dylan. ''But I think of myself as this up-and-comer who never really fit into that. I've been really lucky to get my own audience.''
A restless artist who switched from being a Missouri school teacher to a West Coast rocker back in the '80s, Crow is now living in New York City and is putting together a new band. ''It was just time for a change,'' she says of both moves.
''I absolutely love New York,'' adds Crow. ''I'm the kind of person who has real problems making plans and I also don't like to drive, so LA is always problematic. ... And LA is also distracting. I find that most people I'm around there are always talking about business. It creates this strange sort of panic that the phones should be ringing and you should be out doing something.''
The phones are still ringing for Crow, despite her change of address. She released a new album, ''The Globe Sessions,'' with some inspired songs drawn from romantic breakups that have occurred during her tour-heavy schedule of the past five years. (The Globe also refers to the studio where she made the album in a ''seedy part of Manhattan, which I love,'' she says.)
She's making further moves to expand her career. She'll soon make her film debut as a junkie in Dwight Yoakam's ''Minus Man,'' which has just been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. She also hopes to write a film score in the future. She also is producing a new album for Fleetwood Mac's queen bee, Stevie Nicks, for whom she produced two songs on the recent ''Practical Magic'' soundtrack.
In addition, Crow is preparing a tour to start in March in New York, featuring new guitarist Peter Stroud from Pete Droge's band. ''Now that I've had a year off from touring, I'm starting to get really antsy about it,'' she says. ''I love playing live.''
More immediately, she's playing a White House Christmas concert, ''A Very Special Christmas From Washington, D.C.,'' with Eric Clapton, Tracy Chapman, Vanessa Williams, and others, airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on TNT. Crow and Mary J. Blige perform a duet on ''Blue Christmas,'' which may have a double meaning at the Clinton White House.
''I think it's terrible what he did,'' Crow says of President Clinton's frolic with Monica Lewinsky, ''but now it's turning into a three-ring circus and we can't get away from it. Obviously, he's not very scrupulous, but he's been a good president.
''If you look at the bare bones of it, it's really about an affair and people's moral fibers were so challenged by that. That's the bottom line,'' she adds. ''I've met Clinton and I know Mrs. Clinton fairly well and I think she's really the one who is lost in this whole thing. All the work she does, she doesn't just do for her husband, but for the Democratic Party. The whole thing's been a violation of her. But in the end, I think she's going to turn around and be a very important political leader when this is said and done.''
Crow has become a leader in her own right in recent years, after the success of her albums, ''Tuesday Night Music Club'' (in 1993) and ''Sheryl Crow'' (in 1996). Though she is grateful to have been embraced by the Stones, Dylan, et al., nothing has been more satisfying than her recent alliance with Fleetwood Mac's Nicks.
''She and I have had such a similar path,'' says Crow. ''She became well-known at 29 and I got my first record deal when I was 29. ... We're also similar in that we're both matriarchal. When we go out on the road, we take care of everybody. We're not just the captain of the ship, we are the mother - and the person who is challenging everyone musically. But when you come home, it's a different thing. That was my experience when I came off the road this last time. All of a sudden, the family that I built around me wasn't my family. They all went home to their families. And that's what motivates you to continue to go out on the road.''
Like Nicks, Crow is a rock 'n' roll lifer (''it's my calling''), but ''the one difference is that I'd like to have children pretty soon.'' (Nicks, who just turned 50, has voiced regret that she never had children.)
Crow will spend next month co-writing songs with Nicks for the latter's album. ''Right now, we're doing five songs for the album that she had already. And two of them are Buckingham/Nicks songs,'' Crows says, referring to Nicks's pre-Fleetwood Mac collaboration with Lindsey Buckingham.
Crow also has kept intact her friendship with the Rolling Stones, who have been an endless inspiration to her, not just for the guitar licks that she has so obviously memorized, but for their enthusiasm to keep going decade after decade.
''The biggest thing with the Rolling Stones is that they're so obviously into the music and they get such a kick out of each other,'' Crow says. ''For me, that's the most telling experience. Just watching the interaction between them when they were getting their new live album together. Keith [Richards] was acting as bartender and listening to the record at full volume, while they were all pointing at each other and posing during their solos. They're still just so into music. ... I don't know what kind of lesson that is, but it certainly gives somebody like me a great deal of encouragement.''
Crow listens to other elders as well, among them legendary punk priestess Patti Smith. ''I played after her on a radio gig once and she smoked me. When she came offstage, I said, `I'm supposed to go on after that? ' And she said, `Just go out there and give 'em love.' I thought that was such a cool comment. What a great attitude.''