SLOWLY BUT SURELY, SHERYL Crow is easing her way out of ”the athlete’s lifestyle” – up at seven and in bed by ten – that she adopted while her fiancé, Lance Armstrong, was kicking ass at the Tour de France. Now she’s rediscovering the rock-star lifestyle. ”I slept until eleven today for the first time in two years,” she says. ”I was like, ‘Yes! I can still do it!”’ Crow is gearing up for the release of her first studio album in three years, Wildflower, and a West Coast tour in October. (Both will feature string sections courtesy of arranger, and father of Beck, David Campbell.) Crow sees 2005 as the beginning of a new chapter, and she has lofty ambitions: ”I wanted this record to feel like a combination of Harvest and All Things Must Pass.”
Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
I do! I was in a rental car driving down Little Santa Monica, which is kind of funny. It was ”Leaving Las Vegas.” I remember rolling my windows down and playing it really loud, looking around to see if anybody was paying attention.
You were Jacko’s background singer on his Bad tour. What’s the freakiest thing you saw backstage?
The opening show in Europe was a complete and total circus, verging on freak show. You had Sophia Loren and her camp on one side and Liz Taylor’s camp on the other, and it was a real battle for Michael’s attention. For someone who’d just left Missouri and moved to California, to be suddenly rubbing elbows with Sophia Loren and Quincy Jones and Bubbles the traveling chimp was pretty surreal.
Did you ever bounce Bubbles on your knee?
Bubbles could have hurled me across the room with his pinkie. At that point he was verging on dangerous. Mike used to pop him on the chest with a ballpoint pen to get his attention, which I’m sure didn’t feel good. So I wasn’t doing any bouncing.
You recorded your second album in New Orleans. What are your fondest memories of the Big Easy?
That album was heavily influenced by New Orleans. In fact, there’s many lyrical references to haunts down there, like the Maiden Voyage strip club. My most wonderful memories come out of a studio that Daniel Lanois used to own, called Kingsway. It was basically in a mansion in the French Quarter. I remember having to fight through parades – voodoo parades, gay and lesbian parades – to get to the studio every day.
What session musician would you love to play with?
Well, my favorite session musician of all time is still alive, and that’s [drummer] Jim Keltner. Almost every time I pick up a record that I love, he’s played on it. He’s not necessarily a session musician, but I would’ve loved to play with Duane Allman. I love the Allman Brothers, and the stuff he did on ”Layla” is the most soulful playing I’ve ever heard.
What’s the last great show you saw?
I saw Cream in London. I love Eric [Clapton], but Jack Bruce totally blew me away – I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Emotionally, the last concert that really moved me was Radiohead at Irving Plaza [in New York]. It was right before OK Computer came out, but it had been leaked on the Internet, and everybody was singing every word. It was like being in a church service. Unbelievable.
Have you ever been drunk during a gig?
I can safely say that I’ve never been tanked onstage. I have a really bad memory, so to remember my lyrics I need to not have my brain obstructed.
The whole band and I did that years ago. It was the eight-hour gig from hell. It seemed to go on and on, to the point where even I was falling asleep.
What records have gotten you through hard times?
I’ve definitely relied on Joni Mitchell, and Elton John’s early works, like Tumbleweed Connection, and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and T.B. Sheets – two of my favorite records of all time.
What new albums do you dig?
Over the summer, when Lance was training, I was doing mondo shopping on i Tunes. I bought everything from the Kills to the Killers to the Arcade Fire. I like the new Ryan Adams record [Cold Roses]. Some things on the new Beck record are getting a lot of replay. I like a lot of the new Coldplay, and I really like the Kings of Leon.
Is it true that you call Dylan for advice?
Yeah. He’s been really generous, kind of mentoring me.
How did you first meet, and how did you get his number?
I sang backup at his thirtieth-anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992. He was in his hooded-sweat-shirt period where you could barely see his face. I was like, ”Whoa! This guy is completely unavailable.” Cut to two or three years later, and I’m opening for him at Roseland [Ballroom, New York]. He watched me play, and the next night his manager says, ”Bob would like to talk to you.” We talked at length, and he said, ”If you ever need an unbiased ear, I’m totally available.”
The fact that Bob Dylan even knows who I am is shocking to me. I sound calm talking about it, but in the quiet hours it makes me feel totally over-whelmed and giddy.
If you had to choose now, what would be your wedding song?
I should just sing ”strong enough to be my man” to Lance. But I really want Stevie [Nicks] to sing ”Landslide,” even though I know if she sings that, I’ll be in the fetal position bawling my eyeballs out.