Is Sheryl Crow becoming a country artist, or is country music moving towards Sheryl Crow’s longtime style? It’s a chicken and the egg kind of question with no real answer, but on her new album Crow officially moves into the world of country, after visiting with Kid Rock for their hit duet “Picture.”
Crow resides in Nashville, where the album was recorded in the studio above her barn. She says that horses, cows and chickens living under the recording equipment lent a certain authentic smell to the proceedings, and her label of record is now Warner Bros. Nashville. But Feels Like Home is more southern rock and an exploration of traditional country than it is a modern-day country album. And that’s how Crow, who comes across on the album as more of an outlaw than the average country lady, wants it.
In an interview with Radio.com, Crow explains that the album is “an extension of what she’s always done” but that she has learned some new tricks.
“Being now a Nashvillian for 8 years, I’m really learning a new trade,” Crow said of her experience writing the songs for Feels Like Home. “I’ve always typically written from my own mindset and I’ve had the luxury of writing some esoteric lyrics and having gotten them played. And they’re lyrics that mean something to me and to my life. For whatever reason people have gravitated to those songs, like ‘If It Makes You Happy’ or ‘Winding Road’ or whatever. But in Nashville, when you write with some of these amazing songwriters, they have such a great way of telling a story in a three minute format that is very succinct and graphic.”
While certain tracks on the album veer towards southern rock sounds and outlaw themes, others harken back to the golden era and showcase identifiable roots in classic country. Songs like “Waterproof Mascara” and “Crazy Ain’t Original” will sound familiar to fans of the ’60s country sound. Crow says the production and storytelling of Billy Sherrill was a huge influence. Sherrill is the man who is credited (along with his partner Glenn Sutton) with taking the “countrypolitan” sound to new heights through his work with George Jones and Tammy Wynette, as well as crafting tunes for Charlie Rich, Johnny Paycheck, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell and many, many more. But it contains a bit of the new, by way of Brad Paisley.
“I loved Billy Sherrill so much…I love the production. It’s so beautifully lush and emotional. [‘Waterproof Mascera’] was really the first song I wrote for this record and I have so much gratitude to Brad Paisley. He’s the one that came to me after the CMAs…when I performed with Loretta [Lynn] and Miranda [Lambert] and said, ‘When are you going to make a country record?’ And I said, ‘I would love to do that, but I want to do the kind of country record that I feel is an extension of the music that I’ve already made.’ He was so supportive and that was the first song that we wrote [and] probably, I think, the most important song on the album.”
And like many country music fans, Crow finds influence in rockers like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, who she name-checks as writers of stories for the people who are “one step away from the outlaws.”
“I love that [in] country music you have great songwriting,” Crow said. “You have songs and guitar solos — you don’t really hear that at other formats anymore. I love the song form just as a pure storytelling art form…And I love guitar solos. Country music now is really where you find rock ‘n roll.”
Crow makes something new out of something old: it’s her classic sound mixed with country’s storied sound mixed with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Towns Van Zandt and Guy Clark to create a new aspect of her own oeuvre — on her terms.
“I think that’s really the only rule: telling a story,” Crow said. “There’s always a little something for everybody in every country song.”
Feels Like Home is out on September 10.