An independent spirit who isn't afraid to speak her mind, whether it's on the issue of gun control or recording artists' rights, Sheryl Crow is rock's rebel cowgirl. As quick with a one-liner as she is to pick up a book, she's also one of music's sharpest entertainers. On a break from sharing the feel-good sound of her latest record, C'mon, C'mon (A&M/Interscope), with fans as she crisscrosses the globe on a series of tours that will keep her on the road till Christmas, the 40-year-old singer/songwriter shares a bit of that spirit and wit with Griffin Dunne. The two friends talk about NASCAR, all-American heroes, groupies, Crow's acting career and what happened the last time she threw a party at her home in Los Angeles, a hillside compound with two houses (one turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts, the other a Hollywood classic), a pool that looks like it touches the sky, and more cactus and palm than the Sahara.
SHERYL CROW: Griffin!
GRIFFIN DUNNE: Hi, Sheryl. So where are you?
SC: I'm in indianapolis.
GD: Doing a show?
GD: Are you playing in the Indianapolis 500 arena?
SC: No. But, oh God, I wish I was. But you know, I'm all about NASCAR, baby.
GD: You seem like you would be.
SC: I do? I don't know how to take that.
GD: Have you ever driven one of the cars?
SC: No. Although I've been to a couple of races, and Dale [Earnhardt] Jr., is in my video.
GD: The "Steve McQueen" video?
SC: Yeah. To me, he is sort of the new Steve McQueen. Think about it: Steve McQueen was this archetypal rebellious American free-spirited dude, like Dale Jr.
GD: I met Steve McQueen once. Well, met isn't really the right word. I'd just gotten my driver's license. I was 16, and I was at a stoplight at Sunset and Beverly Glen in L.A. I look in the rear view mirror, and there's Steve McQueen behind me. I zone out looking at him, and he knew. He's looking in my eyes--
SC: --He had some intense eyes.
GD: Very intense.
SC: Was he with a chick?
GD: No. He was by himself, in a convertible. A Shelby or something.
SC: That silver thing he had?
GD: Yeah. So the light had been green for about 10 seconds, and he let me zone on him for a while, then he tapped his horn and pointed to the light, real calmly, like, "Hello?" I went, "Ooh! Sorry!" and drove off.
SC: And he was saying to himself, "Dork."
GD: What a dork! How could I have done that? Now, when you're out touring are there guy groupies?
SC: [laughs] No. We were laughing about that last night. I was like, "What the hell's going on? How come I don't have a tour manager who goes out and hands out backstage passes?"
GD: Someone who gets the Polaroids going, then brings them back to you so you can go through them and say, "Bring me that guy."
SC: Just like David Lee Roth from Van Halen. He reportedly had some kind of monetary reward system with his tour guys: Any girl that got snagged, that he made it with, they'd get a bonus. But it's not really like that these days. We're a kinder, gentler version of a rock band.
GD: I remember seeing you in one of your first shows ever, at the Beacon [Theater, in New York].
SC: Wow. [sings] "Memories..."
GD: You were really nervous. There were these guys in the audience that made me think of guy groupies. They were big, thick, jock guys, and when you were singing, "Are you strong enough to be my man?" they all rushed the stage like they were at a heavy metal concert, going, "I'm strong enough, Sheryl! I'm strong enough!" I think they took the song a little too literally.
SC: Typically it's women who rush the stage on that song. It has a pretty big lesbian following. It's funny--you never know who is going to rush the stage. There is one particular man who's been following me around on this tour who's like 65 or 70. He stands right in front and keeps his hand up like he's at an evangelical revival.
GD: Do you ever look him in the eye?
SC: All the time. He's totally harmless. But at first it kind of freaked me out. You know, I can remember as a kid waiting outside the Mid-South Coliseum [in Memphis] for Peter Frampton to come out. I told him that about 10 years ago in an elevator in Sydney, Australia. "Dude, man, you were my first concert; I was 13!" [laughs] But the only person I ever got to meet growing up was Ted Nugent. And he was cool.
GD: Did he know your position on gun control?
SC: [laughs] He didn't. But he handed me a crossbow out of his limo, and I've had it ever since.
GD: He gave it to you?
SC: And his coon cap. No, I'm kidding.
GD: [laughs] I remember when you took on Wal-Mart in the lyrics to your song "Love is A Good Thing" ("Watch our children while they kill each other I With a gun they bought at Wal-Mart discount stores") a couple of years ago. That was really cool.
SC: You know what's weird about that? read recently in the L.A. Times where Wal-Mart has kind of readdressed their position on it [gun sales]. They're being tighter than the laws actually require, and [Attorney General John] Ashcroft is up in arms. What used to happen is that if your approval, or whatever it is, didn't come up in the allotted time, they'd just give you a gun anyway. They'd assume you were going to clear, or that the delay meant it was clearing. Now Wal-Mart's saying that if the approval doesn't come through, they're not going to give you a gun at all, and Ashcroft is having a hissy fit about it. It's a really responsible position for Wal-Mart to take. And in a weird way, it's kind of validating that song.
GD: It really put a focus on them.
SC: It did. But unfortunately, a huge amount of record sales were lost, because in towns like my hometown, only Wal-Mart sells music.
GD: How often do you go back home to Kennett, Missouri?
SC: I go back a lot. In fact, my old grade school won this competition called 9/12, where kids across America put books together about the day after September 11--Scholastic is publishing it--and I'm going back for a presentation on September 12. They were trying to get the president of the United States and a lot of high-powered figures to come; I don't know who all's coming, but it should be a pretty big deal. But, yeah, I'm back there often. I do a lot of work for the educational foundation and for the orphanage.
GD: Do you stay with your folks when you go back there?
SC: Oh, yeah.
GD: Do you stay in your old room?
SC: Actually, my folks moved, so my old room doesn't exist any more. Well, someone else has my old room.
GD: So what do they have for you now? A little pullout couch?
SC: [laughs] It's weird. They were planning on moving out of our old house so they could scale down, and the next thing I know, they've got more bedrooms and more bathrooms than the old house. But anyway, I do get back, and it's kind of cool. I fly into Memphis, get in the car, drive down the country roads, with all the crop dusters buzzing overhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers on the radio, and it's like time has not moved on at all. It's so comforting.
GD: Did you ever read that book I told you about. Confederate Women [Barnes & Noble Books]?
SC: No! I'm going to write that down. I just finished The Optimist's Daughter [Vintage Books]. I don't know how I graduated from college not having read so many of the books that won Pulitzer Prizes. Have you read Woody Guthrie: A Life [Dell Publishing] by Joe Klein?
GD: I know it, but no, I didn't read it.
SC: Oh, you have to. It totally slayed me. He's a great writer, and the history that's sort of woven into the whole Woody Guthrie story, how it kind of overlapped into Bob Dylan and the '60s period--
GD: --Dylan just played Newport.
SC: I know! And how about his hair? He looked fine! I was like, "Go, Bob!" He's the king, man.
GD: He's totally the king. Now you live in Los Angeles, right?
SC: Yes. I've had a place out there for about six years now.
GD: And is it empty all the time? I guess what I'm asking, Sheryl, is, "Can I stay in your place?"
SC: [laughs] Any time you want! But you have to feed the dogs.
GD: How many dogs have you got?
SC: Three. Actually, one of them is here on the tour bus. He's gone on every tour I've done.
GD: Anybody else on the bus? Or you've got your own bus?
SC: I have my own bus.
GD: And do you have a bedroom in back?
SC: Yup. And a darkroom and a pool room. And a landing strip. I'm kidding. It's a typical bus, with six or eight bunks and a bedroom in the back.
GD: Now, this is the Los Angeles issue, so I'm going to ask you an L.A./Hollywood-type question.
SC: Tread very carefully, Griffin.
GD: Has acting ever come up on your radar?
SC: I had a small part in a movie called The Minus Man . I felt I was sorely overlooked for Best Supporting Actress, so I got out.
GD: You know, I quit the Academy over this.
SC: [laughs] You did? I can always count on you for the big issues.
GD: Absolutely. Was it a good experience?
SC: It was. Acting was something I hadn't really thought about, but Hampton [Fancher] is a great director. He wanted the film to be extremely dark and slow, so there were lots of beats in between responses, and that's not what would happen in real life, obviously. It was challenging. I've always been reticent to get into acting because music is very sacred to me--it's something I've always worked at-and why should I get to be an actress just because I'm a famous musician? Why should I get to take a job away from somebody who takes acting as seriously as I take music? For my own ego? But I guess if it were something that really spoke to me, I would be curious enough to want to know if I could do it, and do it well. I kind of think that every actor wants to be a musician and every musician wants to be an actor.
GD: It's completely true. I can't tell you how many actors play air guitar when the doors are closed.
SC: Not only that--how many of them are actually making records? But I guess if William Shatner can do it and Leonard Nimoy can do it...
GD: So when do you finish this tour?
SC: Particular tour is the Jeep World Outside Festival and we only have another week with that. Then in two weeks, we'll start our own tour which will last for five weeks. Then we're going to Japan and Europe, and then we're doing some dates with the Rolling Stones, which will be a lot of fun. They're always fun. They are kick-ass entertainment backstage and onstage. And then it's Christmas. After that, I don't know what I'm doing.
GD: So you're not going to be in L.A. for a long time.
SC: Actually, I've got a little break coming up in a week, and I'm going to be there. You have to call me and come up. I won't accept no for an answer.
GD: I'll do that. I want in.
SC: You missed my last party. Before I left town I threw a little going-away party for myself. I had to leave the next morning at 7 A.M. to get on a flight, and I was kicking people out of my house at 6:30 in the morning. This was one of those parties. We projected Mean Streets  and Urban Cowboy  on the side of my house, and we had a DJ and a martini bar. Next thing I know, people are swimming, and they're fixing scrambled eggs and bacon in the kitchen.
GD: That's the way it used to be. They used to give parties in Hollywood, and the butlers would be serving scrambled eggs in the morning.
SC: Well, that's pretty much what was happening. And I got on my plane, flew off and went to work.
GD: What was the next city?
SC: Charlotte, North Carolina. Home of NASCAR.
GD: Of course it was. And then we make a full circle.
Griffin Dunne is a director/actor currently in pre-production for a romantic comedy at Disney Studios. He divides his time between New York and Los Angeles. Styling: L'WREN SCOTT. Hair: PETER BUTLER/Artists by Timothy Priano. Makeup: STEPHANE MARAIS/Studio 57. Special thanks: SMASHBOX, L.A. For fashion and photo details see page 195.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group