By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
"You know what? I can't get enough of them," says Crow, who took another trophy home earlier this year when her latest release, The Globe Sessions (A&M), was named Best Rock Album. "I used to be really cynical about that stuff, but I think it's really nice to be recognized for doing something well."
That's recognition Crow pursued for a long time, even though there's been no shortage of awards or platinum albums or sold-out concerts during the past six years.
Her story is a familiar one. Born to amateur big-band musicians in Kennett, Mo., Crow started playing piano when she was 6 and writing songs at 13, after attending a Peter Frampton concert. She studied at the University of Missouri-Columbia and taught elementary-school music here in St. Louis until 1986, when she left her fiance, packed up her car and moved to Los Angeles.
Crow made her initial mark as a backup singer, touring with Michael Jackson and Don Henley. After her songs were covered by Eric Clapton and Wynonna Judd, she secured her own recording contract, shelving her first attempt (which was deemed too slick) but coming up with the goods on 1993's Tuesday Night Music Club, named after a loose association of musicians she joined for writing and jamming sessions. Bolstered by appearances on the H.O.R.D.E. tour and at Woodstock '94, the album launched a series of hits ("Leaving Las Vegas," "All I Wanna Do," "Strong Enough"), as well as Crow's career.
Her self-titled sophomore effort was equally successful, but at the end of the tour supporting it, Crow came to a realization: She had a great job but no life.
"I really enjoy working," Crow, 37, says, "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, was engaged and that whole thing, and it didn't work out."
But it wasn't until Crow moved to New York and started working on the highly personal songs that make up The Globe Sessions that she really took stock of what was -- or wasn't -- going on in her life.
"I think going into the studio to work on this album was what opened my mind to the breakdown of my own life," she says, pointing to autobiographically inspired songs such as "My Favorite Mistake," "It Don't Hurt" and "Anything But Down." "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."
Not that admitting all that was easy -- especially on an album she and her record company knew would be heard by millions.
"It was basically a matter of committing to putting out that album or trying to create another album," she explains, "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."
Crow heeded what she was hearing, too, and took steps to protect her personal time alongside her creative endeavors. She made "a practice" of hanging out with friends and "getting back in touch with people that I care about"; that included going down to the headquarters of A&M Records, her label, in Hollywood, with her guitar, to visit with staffers who were laid off in the company's recent absorption into the Universal Music Group conglomerate.
She also carved out time to "just be quiet, hang around at home and read." Besides her apartment in New York, which she's renovating, Crow bought a Spanish-styled house in Los Angeles -- ironically, one she tried to purchase previously but lost in a negotiation. And she 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," says Crow. "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 will get short shrift, however. 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. She says she'll consider more film work in the future, though she notes, "My time is so limited, and I don't really care about being just another musician-turned-actress."
Meanwhile, Crow plans to spend most of the rest of the year on the road. After her current headlining tour ends, she'll be on the entire run of this summer's Lilith Fair and plans to follow that with a series of 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; after collaborating on the soundtrack for last year's Practical Magic, the two worked 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 of Nicks, who recorded her song "Somebody Stand by Me" for the 1995 soundtrack to Boys on the Side. "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."
Sheryl Crow performs at the Fox Theatre on Saturday, April 24. Semisonic opens.