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Interview With Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow on her latest album, 'Detours,' and the importance of political song


Sheryl Crow - Detours CD Cover

Sheryl Crow - Detours CD Cover

© A&M/Interscope
On her seventh studio album, Sheryl Crow strikes chords that are, on the one hand, a seemingly natural musical progression and, on the other, a departure from her previous pop records. While some of the songs echo the personal themes of love and struggle we’ve come to expect, others, like "Shine Over Babylon," tackle larger, more community-centric issues.

She’s spoken rather publicly about her advocacy for environmental issues and peace. On Detours, she brings that together with her gift as an exceptional songwriter. I had the pleasure of speaking with Crow over the phone about what music fans can expect from the album:

Kim Ruehl: So, tell me a little about this record and where the title Detours came from.
Sheryl Crow: The theme that runs throughout the album [are] these detours that take us away from how we thought our life was going to be. How we ultimately come back and investigate how to get back to who we really are. [It came] from having some major relationships and having breast cancer, trying to refine my life—not define it, but actually refine it. Also, where we are as a nation and the fact that we've gotten so far away from what America was founded on. Our reputation has been very damaged, and all this in the last seven years. How do we get back to who we are, what we stand for? So that's the theme on the album. There are quite a few political songs and a lot of personal songs. It's a very personal record.

One of the press releases they sent me, the quote from you was that it's one of the most honest records you've ever done...
It is. I think I went in, with a little baby just looking to me for all the answers. It certainly creates a sense of urgency to write about the things that are going on around me. It was, for me, just an idea of needing to get these songs out. Just needing to get them on paper and get them recorded, and not to be distracted. Because I think we've really mastered this posture of going to sleep and not being awake to what’s around us. That's largely why we are where we are.

Do you think those topical songs are harder to write than the more personal songs?
No, I think they all kind of come from the same place. Because it is deeply personal to me what's happening in our country, what's happening on our planet. When you consider what kind of a parent you are [and providing for] your kid, I think it becomes personal. You have a kid, you don't really feel like okay, well I hate what's happening to our planet, but I'm not going to be here, anyway. It definitely becomes more personal.

Is there an element of this that's hoping that you can change some minds? Do you expect that at all? Do you think music is capable of that?
I'm not really concerned with changing anybody's mind. I don't know where people’s minds are. I think most people are distracted. I think for me, it's really about creating a dialogue and waking people up. These are the things that are going on and to not talk about them would be irresponsible. To not do something about it would be irresponsible.

Certainly "Gasoline" calls to mind early Dylan, and there are a lot of folk influences coming through on this record. Do you identify with folk music? Do you think this is more of a folk record?
I think it's largely steeped in folk tradition and it's lyric-driven. I think folk music is typically lyric-driven and intelligent. And I think there are a lot of words on this record, a lot of verses. A lot of these songs we had more verses than what we needed.

Where did "Gasoline" come from? I was just enjoying the narrative, reading the lyrics. What made you come up with that, aside from the obvious?
You know, part of what amazes me is that we're in a war based on, basically, oil ownership. We're very tied to oil, we're tied to coal. In the '60s and '70s when the Vietnam War was going on, every single day you saw people out on the streets rebelling, revolting. You don't see that now. You hear about people trying to change the way they live and not become oil-dependent, but the bottom line is that the government has made it so that we are dependent on oil. The kids are going over there and fighting for this idea of democracy, when really it's all about oil, about oil ownership. So the song was really inspired by that, acknowledging that things are not as they appear. And what if we do wake up and become enraged, and we did take it to the streets? It's kind of a sci-fi [story] looking back on a future when people actually demanded that our oil dependency come to an end.

Page 2: Sheryl Crow on the protest song movement (or lack thereof)

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