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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
As told to Dave Simpson

Sheryl Crow: ‘AI is so real. It feels like an assault on my spirit’

Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow … ‘It’s ridiculous that America has never had a female president, but I’ve almost given up on our politicians.’ Photograph: Mark Seliger

What inspired you to make a new album, Evolution, after calling 2019’s Threads your “final” album? Jade99
I’m raising two teenage boys who ask a lot of hard questions, and after we started talking about AI I found myself writing a lot in the mornings after they go to school. I wound up with seven songs that were halfway between a diary and venting. I called my producer friend Mike Elizondo and said, “I have these songs. I don’t want to produce myself. Can I send them?” He was blown away and excited, so we wrote two more and then we had an album.

It’s my response to what’s happening in my country, in my little world, and I guess in humanity at large. In Mike’s studio this young songwriter said she couldn’t get any traction from male singers unless she had a guy singing on the demo, so she paid $5 to have John Mayer’s voice singing on it, using AI. When she played it for us I almost started crying. It was so real, it felt like an assault on my spirit. We have to protect ourselves. So the album’s full of all this light and fluffy stuff [laughter].

Sheryl Crow and Johnny Cash in LA
Sheryl Crow and Johnny Cash in Los Angeles, 1995. Photograph: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Your recent single Alarm Clock documents the moment a vivid dream is rudely interrupted. Do you typically remember dreams after waking up? VerulamiumParkRanger
It depends on the dream. I have stress dreams more than I used to. Alarm Clock is a metaphor for life, too. Once you get jerked into the reality of how disturbing things are, it sort of robs you of the joy of fantasy, although life can still be beautiful. My cellphone is my alarm clock, so I wake up with the fear that my brain is being deteriorated by radioactive material.

Was your mention of “Bud” beer in All I Wanna Do a paid product placement? redgreg
I wish! If it was, I’d have made a ton of money. But no, that shit was really frowned upon back then. It was in Wyn Cooper’s poem, Fun, which inspired the song, although funnily enough I’m from Missouri where Budweiser is made, so it was my beer of choice. “I like a good beer buzz early in the morning” wasn’t factually correct very often, although I can’t lie and say I’ve never done it.

Sheryl Crow with Bob Dylan backstage at the Grammys in 1998
Sheryl Crow with Bob Dylan backstage at the Grammys in 1998. Photograph: KMazur/WireImage

Is it true that for some time you didn’t enjoy playing All I Wanna Do on tour, and that it was initially a throwaway track that nearly didn’t make it on to your first album? NotDericeBannock
It was my least-favourite song on the record and I didn’t think it should go on there. It felt throwaway, but my little brother who was in college at the time said, “No, that’s the song all of us kids like. That’s going to be your biggest song.” I was like, “Dude, that’s never coming out,” but then of course after it was massive I said: “I should hire you as my A&R guy.” There was a time when I hated playing it, but I realised that that song took me all over the world, places a kid from a tiny town never dreamed of seeing.

How did you go from “All I wanna do is have some fun” to duetting with the man in black [Johnny Cash] on Redemption Day? atribecalledvest
Well, in response to those travels you end up writing songs that are deep and meaningful. I wrote that song in 1996 after going to Bosnia and thinking: “Why are we [the US] in Bosnia?” There was all this genocide going on but we weren’t doing anything about it in Rwanda. In my frustration the song spilled out. Many years later, Johnny was making a record; his brother-in-law gave him that song and he asked me if he could record it. After he passed we did another [duet] recording of it with his family’s blessing.

What was it like singing with Emmylou Harris at Johnny Cash’s funeral? tomcasagranda
Three months before Johnny passed he had asked me to sing at his wife June’s funeral, where I saw this larger-than-life man become diminished by the loss of this woman he loved so passionately. Then he called me to say: “I’m not done yet. I’m going to record your song.”

When he passed soon afterwards his family asked me to sing with Emmy. I’d known Johnny for maybe two years, but seeing her with all her years of history with him felt powerful and transformative. The funeral was very emotional. We sang Every Grain of Sand, Johnny’s favourite Bob Dylan song. The lyrics were perfect for that moment and I’m very grateful that Dylan walked the earth. Every time I made a record, I would read his lyrics to get myself into a higher place.

How did you come to hear Mississippi by Bob Dylan and did he ever express an opinion of your version on The Globe Sessions? Whovian79
I didn’t think my record was finished, and my manager was good friends with Dylan’s publisher and asked: “Uh, does Bob have any [unreleased] songs lying around?” So his manager came over. They won’t let you have a copy of the song: they play it for you, then they leave. So I had to learn it. Then I got the lyrics and recorded it. Years later he said: “Hey, I heard your version of Mississippi.” I asked him if he liked it and he went: “Did you like mine?!” He was not going to give it up. He’s a very witty, funny person. When I was running round with Eric Clapton, Bob asked me if Eric had shown me any licks. He’s such a trouble-causer!

Sheryl Crow with Courteney Cox in Cougar Town
Sheryl Crow with Courteney Cox in Cougar Town. Photograph: Mitch Haddad/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty Images

Your song Woman in the White House longs for the day the US elects its first female president. Do you believe “we could use a little female common sense down on Pennsylvania Avenue” more than ever? VerulamiumParkRanger
It depends on the person, female or male, but yes I do. I think of some of the predicaments we’ve been involved in in my lifetime – if we’d had a woman at the helm and a feminine energy to work things out, instead of sticks and guns. It’s ridiculous that the US has never had a female president, but I’ve almost given up on our politicians. They won’t do anything about getting the money out of government because that’s where they get rich. They don’t represent us. It’s a shitshow.

Would you do another Bond theme? writeronthestorm
In a second! I love the legacy and history of it, and you have carte blanche to be dramatic. Roger Moore is my favourite Bond, but my kids like Daniel Craig, because if anything was made before 2010 they won’t go near it [laughter].

I loved your role in Cougar Town. Are you considering more acting? UpperCasey
I was – or am – very good friends with Courteney Cox, so it was really fun to do. But I wouldn’t do it now. I don’t live in LA any more, so it’s not like driving round the corner to the studio, and my kids are in school, so I want to spend my time with them.

Sheryl Crow duets with Mick Jagger
Sheryl Crow duets with Mick Jagger at a Rolling Stones concert in Chicago, 2013. Photograph: Paul Natkin/WireImage

You’ve collaborated with Mick Jagger solo on Old Habits Die Hard from the Alfie soundtrack and on numerous guest appearances with the Rolling Stones. Is he different with the Stones and solo? tomcasagranda

With the Stones I’ve only ever done live collaborations, but I’ve had Keith come into the studio and I’ve collaborated with Mick, but never in the same room. On the telephone or hanging out he’s always the same. Mick is Mick and Keith is Keith, and when they’re together they’re Mick and Keith! They’re both very intelligent, wickedly funny, fantastic human beings and they’re out there in their 80s, which gives me great hope for another 20 years.

You’ve been releasing music for more than 30 years. How has your creative process evolved in that time? Joanna72Thomas
In the early days we’d say we’d start at two, end up starting at 10pm and still be writing and drinking at five in the morning. It’s not like that any more. You get to a certain age where you almost age-out of being able to have the success younger artists have, but in some ways there’s liberation in that. I get to sit down and write a song that might piss off the masses. I don’t give a crap, because who’s going to hear it, right? I also feel like I’ve earned the right to piss off whoever I want.

What female singers influenced you growing up? jfried
Linda Rondstadt and Stevie Nicks were huge influences. Then Emmylou in college and Joni Mitchell, but more for her lyric writing. Bonnie Raitt was the first woman I saw play guitar in front of a band. I thought: “Oh, so we can do that.”

What’s the best value you feel you can teach your boys? kjnpdx
I think empathy is a natural instinct that we’re born with; when we see something that’s hurting, we feel sad. At a certain point you learn how to desensitise yourself to that, so I guess teaching them or helping them to re-sensitise themselves is very valuable.

What makes you happy these days? Dreaminman
My weekends and mornings playing with my boys, just blasting music in the house and tinkering around. That’s a total joy.

• Sheryl Crow’s album Evolution is released on 29 March. She tours the UK in June. Details at

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