By Gary Graff
DETROIT (Reuters) - Coming off the road from promoting her self-titled sophomore album, Sheryl Crow realized that while she had a great career -- complete with platinum albums and a batch of Grammy Awards -- she didn't have much of a life.
The recognition led to her shutting down for a time to discover what she was missing and to do something about it, which in turn sparked the creative process that resulted in her latest Grammy-winning album, "The Globe Sessions.''
"I think going into the studio to work on this album was what opened my mind to the breakdown of my own life,'' explains Crow, 37, the Missouri-born singer-songwriter who made her name as a backup singer for Michael Jackson and Don Henley before launching her own career with 1993's "Tuesday Night Music Club.''
"I really enjoy working ... but I was on the road for six years straight, and I realized that I didn't have anything besides what I'd been doing this whole time. I really let my relationships go; I was in a relationship for four years, I was engaged and that whole thing, and it didn't work out.
"But it wasn't until I started writing songs that the epiphany occurred. I moved to New York, and I put together my studio, and I wound up spending a lot of time there. And before I knew it, I had a collection of songs that were really introspective, and at that point I realized my personal life had really suffered because of my absence from it.''
So Crow took steps to make a life for herself as well as to protect her creative time. She made "a practice'' of hanging out with friends and "getting back in touch with people that I care about.'' She also sculpted out time to "just be quiet, hang around at home and read.''
Besides her apartment in New York, which she's been renovating, Crow bought a Spanish-styled house in Los Angeles -- ironically one she tried to purchase previously but lost in a negotiation.
And Crow says that owning property, more than anything else, speaks to her efforts to pursue a permanent change in the way she lives. "Part of the thing of being on the road is that feeling of being nomadic and having very little responsibility,'' she says. ''I've never enjoyed owning a lot of stuff; in fact, I joked about every time I've had an apartment that I've always just walked away, locked the door behind me and let the next person worry about all the junk I left behind.
"And now I'm starting to sort of conduct my life more like an adult and have tried to adjust to having a real home and real responsibilities. And it's fun. It makes me feel like I'm encroaching on a different phase of my life.''
That doesn't mean her work has suffered. During her time away from touring, Crow scored an independent film called "Dill Scallion'' and had a small role as a junkie in "The Minus Man,'' which was shown at the last Sundance Film Festival.
And there's "The Globe Sessions,'' whose songs freely mine Crow's emotions and experiences for what she acknowledges is the most personal of her three releases.
"I have the wonderful privilege of creating a story around my own stories,'' she says, "so certainly there's no song that's strictly autobiographical. But they are loosely based on my own experiences.
"It was basically a matter of committing to putting out that album or trying to create another album, and it felt like it was timely and pretty honest -- well, it was very honest -- and pretty concise, and my decision to put it out, although it was a pretty daunting decision, felt like it was the right decision.''
During concerts on her latest tour, Crow has found she has little trouble tapping into the original emotion that inspired the songs. "There are a couple of songs where every night onstage I'll experience how I felt when I wrote it,'' she says. "Like, for instance, 'Don't Hurt' was a song I wrote out of real anger and disillusionment, and I still really associate that song with the experience. It does reach me emotionally. Then there are other songs I feel I'm a little more removed from, like 'My Favorite Mistake.'"
Crow plans to spend most of the rest of the year touring; she'll be on the entire run of this summer's Lilith Fair and will be playing some acoustic shows, probably on college campuses, in the fall.
She'd also like to put some dates together with Stevie Nicks, the once and future Fleetwood Mac singer and a personal hero with whom Crow collaborated on the soundtrack for ''Practical Magic,'' which led to the two working together on Nicks' next solo album.
"I guess my role in this is really to try and create what she feels is an accurate picture of who she is,'' Crow says. ''She's a really prolific writer. I think the thing she has suffered in the last few years is when she goes into the studio, there's always a male producer that wants to make her into something that is maybe not as intimate as what she sees her music as being. Trying to get that on tape is going to be the real trick.''