Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Sheryl Crow
In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them
1Which band of sisters covered your song ‘Strong Enough’ in 2013?
“Yay! One for one! That was the first time I heard of them, and I thought it was fantastic and got to do a little livestream with them. In 2018, Phoebe Bridgers did ‘If It Makes You Happy’ and I’m a huge fan of hers too, so that’s killer.”
2You appeared as part of an all-star spoof ‘We Are the World’-style song called ‘He Needs a Kidney’ on sitcom 30 Rock in 2009. But according to the show, what separated you from the rest of the artists?
“(Laughs) I completely remember that, but I don’t remember what separated me from the other artists!”
WRONG. The joke was you were the only act that got paid – while the rest did it for free.
“That’s hilarious! That was fun to do. There were so many great artist on it, but I was also a big fan of the show and Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. Acting does not come naturally to me, so getting to play myself made it easier. I remember early on receiving the Jerry Maguire script and the writer-director Cameron Crowe asked me to read for the part that Renée Zellweger ended up playing. But I was like: ‘I don’t wanna act! That’s not my thing!’. I don’t love having a camera on me, even when I’m singing, so that’s not my life’s calling.”
3You wrote/sang the theme tune for the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Name any of the artists who submitted a song for it that was rejected in favour of yours.
“That’s news to me! Tell me who else wrote a song for it.”
WRONG. Along others, you could have had: Saint Etienne (whose entry turned up on their 1999 fanclub compilation ‘Built on Sand’), Pulp (eventually released as a B-side called ‘Tomorrow Never Lies’), Marc Almond, Duran Duran, and Swan Lee.
“I did not know that. Interesting! With the legacy of the James Bond theme, that felt about as big as it gets when it comes to writing the music for movies. We were not only honoured but completely stoked to get to write for it because it gives you carte blanche to step out of your domain and take on this alter-ego. I loved every minute of getting to create this dramatic, loungey, anthemic opening to a movie.”
4Complete the following of your lyrics: ‘If Kid Rock runs for Senate, I wouldn’t be surprised’….
“That’s from my song about not being dead yet, but I don’t know the lyric. I only ever sang it once!” (Laughs)
WRONG. The rest of the lyric is: ‘But over my dead body / ’Cause dude I’m still alive!’ – from the 2017 track ‘Dude, I’m Still Alive’. When an unassuming fan tweeted that you would be “rolling in [your] grave’ if you heard that your former duet partner Kid Rock was running for Senate, you responded with the funny song over Twitter.
“Dude, I’m still alive! Of all the things I’ve posted, that’s gotten the most hits. A source of pride for me! I was already in the studio, so from finding out that somebody had said: ‘Sheryl Crow’s rolling in her grave’, it was a knee-jerk response to write a song and post it. It only took me 10-15 minutes, but it exploded.”
Ever had any other memorable fake news moments over the years?
“Well, my whole career started as a back-up singer for Michael Jackson and a US tabloid reported that he was paying me $2m to have his baby. So that’s where my career began and it was all downhill from there! At one point, an English tabloid said I had a heroin addiction and I immediately had to call my parents and say please don’t believe what you read.”
In the studio today & I saw I’d be “rolling in my grave” – inspired me to write a song “Dude, I’m Still Alive!” @JeffreyTrott @andrewpetroff pic.twitter.com/7dwaNuMENK
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) July 29, 2017
5Why was your 1995 single ‘What I Can Do for You’ initially refused a UK chart placing?
“I did not know that either! Tell me!”
WRONG. It was due to the free calendar in the packaging which broke a chart rule about gifts. The decision was eventually reversed.
“You’re kidding me! A free calendar is kind of cheap isn’t it? (Laughs) It should have been tickets to a [New York] Knicks or a football game.”
Talking of bans, famously your 1996 self-titled album wasn’t stocked at Walmart owing to the track ‘Love Is a Good Thing’, which contained the lyrics: ‘Watch out sister / Watch out brother / Watch our children as they kill each other / With a gun they bought at the Walmart discount stores’…
“It was sad because for someone like me who’s from a small town, Walmart was the only place you could buy records at that time. They gave me the option of changing it to Kmart – another discount centre – but to me that seemed even more unscrupulous. In the end, we lost a lot of record sales but we also gained press – it created a story and made people curious. It’s disheartening because I feel like every single day in America now, I turn my phone on and there’s a notice about more innocent people dying because of someone owning a gun that they shouldn’t. I don’t know what’s going to fix it if our Government doesn’t do something – and they’re not going to.”
6Name the song of yours that Prince covers and the track you sing vocals on on his 1999 album ‘Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic’.
“He recorded ‘Everyday Is a Winding Road’ and…I don’t know what I sang on?”
WRONG. You also feature on ‘Baby Knows’.
“Wow! I’m going to look that up. It’s possible. He invited me to Paisley Park to hang out and I played harmonica on something and did some singing but it wasn’t evident it was being used for anything in particular. Maybe that’s what it was. This is a most informative interview! (Laughs)”
“I can’t remember exactly how we first became friends but he came and sat in with me at Lilith Fair [in 1999] and he came out and did ‘Everyday Is a Winding Road’ and we hung out at Paisley Park and First Avenue and did some stuff with his band. That was maybe the last time I saw him in person, though I spoke to him a few times after that. He was fun to be around. He showed me where he played basketball in Paisley Park and we shot some hoops together. He was the most talented person I’ve ever been around. He was like a savant on every instrument. He didn’t seem like he sat around and practiced: it was just a part of who he was.”
7What is the hidden track on your 1998 album ‘The Globe Sessions’?
“Was it ‘Subway Ride’?”
CORRECT. That album also contains a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mississippi’, which he offered to you first…
“I first met Bob when we opened for him at the Roseland in New York City, where he stood at the side of the stage. The electricity went off and I continued to play. It was very intimidating. The next night, Bob wanted to talk to me so I was taken into a room with two chairs facing each other, and he came in wearing a hooded sweatshirt around his face, sat down, and proceeded to tell me that he really loved the way I handled his audiences – which are not easy. He said if I ever needed anything, I should consider him somebody to reach out to. Our paths have crossed many times and I consider him to be a friend. Like Prince, he’s another eccentric but brilliant person who can’t be defined.
“When I went through a spell of having a hard time finishing anything. I heard that Bob had suffered writer’s block, so I called him to ask for his advice and said: ‘I hear you’ve gone through that’. And he’s like: ‘Nope! Never have!’ (Laughs) But he did give me some advice that helped about getting some players together and jamming songs I liked and stepping off from that.”
8Which two acts did you perform between at Glastonbury 2019?
“I have absolutely no idea!”
WRONG. You were sandwiched between Tom Odell and Bastille.
“That was my most fun gig in 20 years. Being told you’re a legacy artist sometimes makes you feel like a dinosaur but in that instance, seeing people that were obviously younger than my songs – some of my songs are 25 years old – felt celebratory and my band and I were just filled with childlike joy.”
On the subject of legacy artists, in the ’90s, you were hanging out with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Eagles rather than your peers…
“Yeah, I felt unaccepted by my peer group and embraced by the people who inspired me. Every time I’d get to walk onstage with Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks or Eric Clapton, it was like playing tennis with John McEnroe. You have to step up your game and if you come out of the other side, you’re better for it. My peer group had none of the same references – all that Seattle music was like angry white-kid music to me, whereas I grew up listening to the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac, so to be embraced by those people was a dream.”
9In 2008, you performed a Get Out and Vote tour for Obama alongside which rap group?
“The Beasties. Fun tour!”
“I was friends with them and there’s a mutual admiration because of our convictions and wanting our country to be a better place.”
Apparently the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch stayed with you for a while, riding horses on your ranch…
“Right after Adam was diagnosed with cancer, he was at my house asking me a lot of questions.” [Crow is a cancer survivor.] “He spent time with the Dalai Lama and called me a year later to say his cancer had progressed, he was going to be treated in Nashville and could I suggest a place for him to stay. I said, “Yes: our farm.” He came and stayed with us while he was being treated, off and on, for the best part of a year. It solidified our friendship. Life isn’t always rock shows and political causes. It’s also the hard stuff.”
10What was the original name of your 2019 album ‘Threads’?
“’People I Love’.”
CORRECT. It’s your final full-form album and boasts an all-star list of collaborators including Willie Nelson, St Vincent and the late Johnny Cash…
“That track – ‘Redemption Day’ by Johnny Cash – changed everything for me because it had had three different lives, and I felt like the song chose its moment and that Johnny would be really proud of it. I definitely felt the weight of his presence on that song. After ‘Threads’, I felt it was a great stepping-stone to write more songs and put them on in the immediate as opposed to waiting for a full body for work.”
Keith Richards guests on the album and you’ve previously opened for the Rolling Stones…
“When I was a young school teacher, I went to see Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll and Steve Jordan was the drummer and Keith was in charge of the whole thing. Cut to 30 years later, I was in the studio with Steve producing me and Keith playing with me.”
Stevie Nicks is also on there…
“If there are past lives, I’m pretty sure we were in the same witches’ coven! She’s the only person I know who lives her life as an art form. She’s extremely generous and funny.”
Are your kids impressed with any of the people you’ve collaborated with?
“Apart from Maren Morris, no! They can’t understand why I just don’t call up Post Malone and say: ‘Can we do a recording together?’ (Laughs)”
You have a new album ‘Live From The Ryman & More’ coming in August…
“The album’s compiled of different live shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island and Los Angeles’ Ace Theatre in 2019, where we had lots of guests play with us, and captures the collaborative spirit of ‘Threads’ and the authentic excitement of playing with friends.”
The verdict: 4/10
“If the question is, ‘Has rock’n’roll killed brain cells?‘, then I feel like I wasn’t even there for half of those questions, so I guess the answer is yes! (Laughs)”
– ‘Sheryl Crow: The Songs And The Stories’ Global Livestream takes place on June 18th. Viewing times and tickets can be found here. Her album ‘‘Live From The Ryman And More’ is released August 13th.