“To be honest, I thought Be Myself was a corny title” Sheryl Crow says, “ but Jeff Trott kept saying this has to be the title, it’s what the record is all about.”
Fans and many others have learned that, Sheryl, 55, is authentically herself and happily stands out amongst her peers when it comes to fully embracing the age of technology. “First and foremost, Be Myself is about our youth using gadgets to gage their self worth. So much of your identity somehow correlates with people messaging you and following you, or not following you” she says. “There’s just this idea that if I can’t be likable, I guess I’m stuck being myself. Be Myself exaggerates the absurdity of how much weight we put into a persona or brand. It magnifies the fact that no one wants to be themselves anymore.”
For Crow – nine-time Grammy winner and triple- platinum album selling singer, songwriter and musician – being present in the moment is incredibly important. She relates most with the song “Roller Skate” off her ninth-studio album, a track based on society’s need to connect with others via social media or text while spending quality time with friends or family. “I’m so sensitive to my kids telling me to put my phone down, or to stop checking my phone,” she says. “Because of that, I try not to have my phone on me when I’m around my kids. Which, for the most part, obviously makes me a terrible communicator.”
The vibe of Crow’s new album is reminiscent of her previous work, a sound she aimed to recapture with songwriter and producer Jeff Trott, who is a longtime collaborator. “Jeff and I have worked together for years, but this is the first fully collaborative album we’ve made, it’s probably the first we’ve worked together since ‘97/’98,“ she says. “Jeff had recently moved to town — we were just hanging out and thought why not put something together, maybe we could recapture what it was that went into making those records. Before we knew it, after getting together a few times, we had 16 or 17 songs. It just came together very fast and very effortlessly. Really, my desire was to feel the way we felt making those [previous] records; which was with a sense of abandon — close the door and the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The feel of being two kids in a laboratory mixing up concoctions. I think what we wound up with really does fill that void.”
Longtime fans of Sheryl, who have been with her since the beginning, will definitely love Be Myself for it’s old school, throwback melodies and its driving down the PCH vibe. As for capturing the attention of new listeners? Crow hopes to win some new ears over. “Hopefully it’ll turn new fans onto, not only my new stuff, but the old stuff as well. I hope the record will resonate with people and they will find it fun.”
It’s nearly lunchtime in Nashville, where Sheryl lives with her two sons Wyatt and Levi, when she begins to explore how differently she views inspiration now that she has children. “In the old days, I had the luxury of being out on the road a lot, writing late at night or staying up playing music with friends. That’s what I thought inspiration was — that it hit you out of nowhere. I realize now, I can make great records during school hours,” she says. Be Myself, which Crow believes to be her best album in years, was actually made after school drop off and before dinner. “It’s great to be able to enjoy my kids and still keep my day job.”
The rampant use of technology is a reoccurring theme on Be Myself, something that Crow didn’t grow up with, and has reluctantly dragged herself into. When it comes to music streaming platforms, like Spotify, Sheryl feels the concept, although great in theory, remains flawed. “There was a point where I was always on Capitol Hill, fighting for artists’ rights. Once people were able to download music, and streaming kicked in, it just become the wild, wild west. I guess there is something great about the fact that an artist, particularly artists that are not in the pop genre, can get their music heard. It’s not that far off from busking, going out and playing your music in the subway, kind of like the artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s. You can go make a song on your computer and upload it right away. Technology can really work in your favor. But at some point the question has to be asked, what is music worth, monetarily? With streaming, it’s like the old saying of, “Getting paid a penny is better than not getting paid anything,” she says. Crow remains hopeful that artists will find a positive middle ground with streaming in the near future, “I’m sure it’ll level itself out and the artist will start getting paid. I think streaming is here to stay and it can be a great thing.”
Purchase our spring issue to read Sheryl’s full interview: SPRING ISSUE.