[The Nicks Fix]

New York Times

October 13, 1998
In New York's Hubbub, Moody Vibes for Sheryl Crow

The Pop Singer Settles In the City, But Still Years For Life on the Road

Sheryl Crow is, she said, "conducting an experiment." It's a simple one, she explained recently at the SoHo Grand Hotel, where she has been staying sporadically while her new loft in NoHo is renovated. "I'm staying home for the next two months," she said. "I'm going to see how that feels."

For Ms. Crow, who had been touring continuously for five years before she dropped out of the lineup of the Lilith Fair this summer, a pause in her touring is a radical change, and not the only one she has made.

She has also switched from the West Coast to the East, leaving behind the Los Angeles studio scene that had nurtured her career. Her music is steeped in country-tinged California rock, from Bonnie Raitt to Fleetwood Mac, with some Rolling Stones guitar licks for ballast.

Since she arrived in Los Angeles from her native Missouri in 1986, she had worked her way up through the West Coast music business: singing backup with Michael Jackson and Don Henley, writing songs that were recorded by Eric Clapton and Celine Dion and, eventually, in weekly late-night sessions at her producer's studio, completing her first album, "Tuesday Night Music Club."

Adjusted now to New York City, she walks over to hear bands at clubs like Acme Underground, Fez and Irving Plaza and has become what she called "a subwayholic." A song hidden at the end of her new album, "The Globe Sessions" (A&M), is a rumination from a rider on the E train. "I love thinking I'm getting somewhere even if I'm not," Ms. Crow said. "For me, it's really quiet and peaceful somehow. In the hubbub of it I can hear my own voice."

Ms. Crow, who is 36, had been in motion since the release in 1993 of "Tuesday Night Music Club." She worked her way from clubs to opening-act slots to headliner while the album sold 7.2 million copies worldwide and brought Ms. Crow her first three Grammy Awards, including record of the year (for its hit single "All I Wanna Do") and best new artist.

Between stretches of touring, she made the follow-up album, "Sheryl Crow," which has sold 4.8 million copies since its release in 1996; it won Grammys for best female rock vocal and best rock album.

With her newly released third album, "The Globe Sessions," Ms. Crow is staying in New York, where she has sung before television cameras: "Saturday Night Live," "Late Show With David Letterman" and an edition of "Storytellers" taped for the cable music channel VH-1. Her next full-scale tour is scheduled to begin in February.

"There is a part of me that wants to have a home that is an inspiring atmosphere, as inspiring to me as being on the road is," Ms. Crow said. "And I've put that off because I haven't wanted to make the time to do it or didn't really want to deal with doing it. It's just easier to be on a tour bus with my friends."

Most of "The Globe Sessions" was made at Globe Studios in the meatpacking district of the West Village. "I loved working there," she said. "My studio was across the street from Hogs and Heifers and the Hog Pit, where I could get mashed potatoes and fried chicken any night I wanted.

"And then you have transvestite hookers everywhere, and Hell's Angels, and it just was a cool, cool vibe. If you ever got really hung up in the frustration of trying to get something accomplished in the studio, you could walk out and just be amongst some bizarre energy. It clears your head and gives you some perspective when you walk out in such a strange, frenetic, unpredictable atmosphere." The album didn't come out the way Ms. Crow had expected. "I went into the studio with a bunch of songs ready to go, and I didn't actually wind up putting any of them on the record," she said. "I think once the door gets closed and the phone is turned off, weird things tend to surface."

The new songs that emerged were written in the first person _ not the observer's perspective Ms. Crow has often used _ and nearly all of them pondered romances that went wrong.

"I'm a person that has been hung up on writing literary songs," Ms. Crow said. "They're songs that are narrative, that are maybe cerebral, maybe not, but songs that are inspired by writers maybe more than songwriters. This album wasn't any of that, and I was kind of embarrassed about it. But I think it is a pretty clear album as far as my life goes."

It's not exactly autobiography, Ms. Crow insisted. "None of the songs are specific to one person," she said.

"But I did realize in making this record that I've had a pretty distinct role in most of the demises of most of my relationships.

"Part of it has been my love affair with my road life, my love affair with my non-responsible life. Relationships are hard enough when you're present, but it's really difficult when you're not present."

The songs suggest that Ms. Crow can draw on a reservoir of melancholy.

"That's a nice emotion to be able to tap into when you're writing songs," she said. "But when I'm really miserable, I can't accomplish anything. Part of being miserable for me is that I'm convinced everything I do is terrible. So then you start ripping it apart before you even finish it.

"My manager's always trying to get me to let myself off the hook. And sometimes you miss out on the joy of the great experiences.

I never celebrate great reviews, I never celebrate Grammys bcause I always feel like I can't put too much weight on them."

While Ms. Crow is at home in New York, she's not taking any vacation. Instead, she has a job as a producer for one of her idols. "Stevie Nicks called and said, 'Will you do my album?,' " Ms. Crow said. "So the two months I was going to take off are now booked."

Meanwhile, Ms. Crow is already missing her tour routine. "For about the last four months, around 8 o'clock every night, I start to sense this kind of nervous energy, this kind of angst, that I have to be out," she said. "That touring life style feels right to me, almost as if it's a genetic memory. It goes along with my Puritan work ethic, and it feels like home to me. I don't tour so that I can make more albums; I make albums so I can tour."

A few days after the interview, Ms. Crow was rehearsing for "Saturday Night Live." With a newly assembled band, she romped through two songs from "The Globe Sessions": "My Favorite Mistake" and Bob Dylan's "Mississippi," an unreleased song he offered Ms. Crow just as she was looking for a finishing touch on "The Globe Sessions." Fiddles sawed, guitars twanged and Ms. Crow whooped as she reached the last verses. She came offstage with a smile and a glint of determination in her blue eyes.

Thanks to Debbi Radford for sending this article to The Nicks Fix.
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