Sheryl Crow: No more Detours

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Sheryl Crow has packed an entire lifetime's worth of drama into the few short years since her last studio album, 2005's Wildflowers.

In that time, the singer has ended a relationship with one of the most famous athletes on the planet, adopted a baby boy, been diagnosed with breast cancer, taken her environmental activism to the next level, and even gotten into a shouting match with Karl Rove.

All of those things made Crow realize she had been on a detour and that she needed to get back to who she was and what she stood for in her life. Crow's aptly named new album Detours is derived from all of those experiences.

Crow spoke to about her run-in with Rove at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the song she wrote for her 10-month-old adopted son Wyatt, her love for New Orleans, and the difficulties that come with being an activist.

Hey Sheryl. How are you doing? Good. How are you? Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I appreciate it. Sure. So I wanted to start with kind of a little "choose your own adventure" situation for you. You and Karl Rove are locked in a room for about an hour. What's the end result? Oh geez. [laugh] Bloodshed? Mayhem? No. Some sort of a common cause? Jim, I'm a lover, not a fighter. What's that? I'm a lover, not a fighter. [laugh] OK. I can just tell you that at the end of the hour he'll be in the corner weeping and wanting to change. How's that? [laugh] OK. Wanting to become a better man. OK. On several fronts, hopefully? Exactly. In your perception of kind of getting our country back on track, whether it is our standing in the world or global warming, are you optimistic that January 20, 2009 [inauguration day] will mark a major change? I think that the idea that we can change is something that I'm hearing more and more now in this campaign, obviously with Obama. And I haven't truly committed yet to a candidate. But I would say that it's so important to hear people finally in this country speaking about change and feeling a sense of hope. And he's the first candidate that I've really seen people rally around with the belief that there can be a change. Yes. I also believe that until we get special interests out of the White House and out of our campaigns, we're going to continue on the same course, where legislation is determined by special interests groups, and we're going to continue on a course where our representatives do not represent us. Right. Like Mr. Rove so happily informed you that he doesn't work for you, he works for the American people, right? [laugh] Right. Exactly. And I'm like, "Wait a second." Who are those people? [laugh] Have you met any of the American people? So "Shine Over Babylon," the lead track on the new album Detours, is kind of a battle cry of sorts; kind of a wake up America sort of song. Right. Was the initial origin of it a specific moment? Or was it more of a general feeling that you were kind of going with? Oh, definitely a general feeling. OK. It wasn't like something happened and you were like, all right! No. But I contend that, for me, the worse things become, the more dire they become, the more paralyzed we seem to become, the more compelled I feel to write about what's happening because there's a real sense, I think, of defeat. And with that people have really just only invested in entertainment, and reality, and tabloidism in an effort to not have to actually feel what's going on. And now is the time not to go to sleep but to wake up and really become empowered to feel our own power and to really demand change. And that can happen. Absolutely. Yeah, there's an old James Brown song about "Escapism." And I think that we certainly tend to do that more than we probably should. Escape and try to just focus on stuff that is trivial and might not make us so sad. [laugh] Yeah. I agree. It seems the title of the album Detours is kind of applicable to a number of different things, whether it's personal, political or otherwise. How did you arrive at that title? It just seemed to be a theme that was running throughout the entire album. And I think being diagnosed with breast cancer was a very epiphanal moment for me, in that it really jerked me back into my life in a sobering way. And really forced me to look at where my life had gone, what kind of tangent I've gone on, and where it was that I lost myself, where it was that I compromised myself.

And I think that's what these moments do. You get off your course, and you wind up having to pull back to get back to the center of who it is that you intended to be. And that was definitely my story. And then compound that with how I feel that has happened to us as a country overall.
Right. Yeah. Yeah. It's a theme that I seem to need to understand. It makes sense. I wanted to ask you about activism in the entertainment industry. For as many people in Hollywood or the music business or otherwise that speak out, there are plenty of other people who ridicule them for doing so. What do you say about the critics of entertainers who speak out on certain causes, whether it's economic, social, or whatever? I think it's really easy to do that. You know it's looking at, for instance, Al Gore, who is kind of the quintessential spokesperson on the environment. Our knee-jerk reaction is to investigate his house, and to try to demean or discredit how he lives. I think that it's a really easy and wasteful way of looking at anything good that's being done by having a knee-jerk reaction to undermine it, to discredit it. Tear down the messenger kind of thing. I think we get off of our course when we do that. But also I think it's lazy. And it's us saying that well, I'm not going to celebrate what he's doing because then that will reflect on me and what I'm not doing. Right. Exactly. But I'm also curious, I don't know if it's always been the case, but it seems like it's increasingly more complicated these days to take a stand on something without veering into murky waters on another issue. Your alliance with Revlon has done so much to raise money for cancer research, but Revlon also makes products that some people say produce chemicals that are potentially harmful for the environment. Do you ever have a struggle with wanting to take a stand on one issue but sometimes finding that things are very complicated? I think if you get bogged down on that kind of thing you'll never do anything. That's true. I think you can be an environmentalist, and if you eat a hamburger--if you eat meat of any sort--you're going against what it is that you say you believe in. Right. I think you just do the best that you can. Right. And not worry about... And do the most that you can. But you can't do everything, and you cannot be perfect. So that's the message. You do the best you can, and you have to start there. You have to start somewhere. Got you. That makes sense. I also wanted to ask you about New Orleans. OK. Obviously, the "Love Is Free" track is very much about the spirit of the city, and I know you're going back to [New Orleans] Jazz Fest this year, right? I have never been to Jazz Fest. Oh this is your first time? Yeah, first time. OK. So I talk to me about maybe your first discoveries of the city, and what that spirit has meant to you. Well, hang on one second. I'm picking my baby [Wyatt] up. He's just gotten up from his nappy. Big boy! And you look so sharp today. [laugh] That's nice. I made my second record down there, so I spent quite a lot of time--maybe three months--down there. The thing that really struck me, aside from the beauty of the city, was this incredible soul these people have and the history of it.

And they have a history of an immense amount of stoicism, where even through the hardest of times they have maintained a strength that I think is born to them. And to see what's happened to them, I think it really reflects on, obviously our Administration and who they are, but also who we are as a people. That we've kind of gone to sleep and we've let some of our own fall through the cracks.
I commend you for continuing to kind of keep the spotlight on it. My wife and I were just down there. And if you stay in the French Quarter or downtown you would really have no idea that it happened. And if you leave the French Quarter it's as though it happened yesterday. And I think also knowing who the people are that really were abandoned also speaks volumes about this Administration. And also us as a people, you know. We've really got to stick up for those who are weak or who have less than. And there were a lot of not-as-fortunate people living in those areas that were wiped out. And aside from Brad Pitt, you know, who's down there working on their behalf after all the money went missing? Yes, exactly. Well now that Wyatt is up from his nap, I wanted to ask you about "Lullaby for Wyatt." When did you kind of first think about writing a song for your son? I think you just don't even think about writing something like that. You just do it. It just kind of happened. It just comes out. Yeah. And it wasn't my intention to sit down to write to him. I guess my intention would be to sit down and write him a whole album of lullabies. But that one just came out and it meant something to me. And he was in the booth when I was recording the vocals, so he is on it too. And he really informed the whole record, so it just seemed appropriate. Well I'm curious, there's a band called Medeski Martin & Wood. Right. Yeah, of course. They just put out their first children's record. OK. It's getting all sorts of praise because, you know, they're not the most obvious fit for that sort of music. And I'm curious if that's something that's ever intrigued you in terms of making a children's record or something for kids? I hadn't thought about it. But I would never say never. OK [laugh]. And lastly, I would presume that you're taking this record on tour? Yes, definitely. We'll go out and we're going to do a bunch of promos for the next couple of months. And then we'll go out, after the Jazz Festival probably, in late April, early May and tour through August. OK. Got you. Yes. Well, look forward to seeing it live. Thanks a lot for the time. I appreciate it. Thank you. Have a good one. Bye.

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