Sheryl Crow is ready for move to country music

By Jon Bream

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Sheryl Crow’s datebook is overbooked: She’s making promotional appearances to launch her country-music career with an album in September, headlining concerts (including the Canfield Fair on Monday) and getting her two young boys ready for school.

But still, Crow, 51, managed to squeeze in a phone call recently to answer a few questions.

On her sense of fashion: “I dress like my music — Americana. A great pair of Levi’s and a cool vintage jacket.”

On going country after 20 years (and nine Grammys) in pop music: “My label [Interscope] and I went separate ways after 18 years. They didn’t know what to do with me.”

In 2003, she recorded a hit country duet, “Picture,” with Kid Rock. Having moved to Nashville nearly eight years ago, she was encouraged by many country artists, especially Brad Paisley, to make a country album.

“The country format has changed,” Crow said, “and I’m enjoying it. I’m the new kid at school.”

That means that she hit the road this spring and summer to visit country radio stations to perform her recent country single, “Easy.” The tour reminded her of a part in the 1980 Loretta Lynn biopic “Coal Miner’s Daughter” when Lynn and her husband drove to a series of small-town radio stations, hawking their new single.

“I don’t mind hard work,” Crow said. “I like the organicness” of visiting radio stations.

On the sound of her album, “Feels Like Home,” due Sept. 10: “The first single [‘Easy’] sounds like me. Songwriting-wise, this is the best record I’ve made. I’ve written about things as a single mom and time away from your kids. Some songs are very country, some are middle-of-the-road. There’s some fun songs, too.”

She wrote “Waterproof Mascara” with Paisley. Justin Niebank, known for his work with Vince Gill and Marty Stuart, produced for Warner Music Nashville.

On her country roots: “As a kid in Kennett, Missouri, I didn’t love country,” she admitted. “My parents were in a swing band. I listened to everything from James Taylor to The Beatles, and later the Stones, Linda Ronstadt and Gram Parsons.” Emmylou Harris is her most important country influence.

On whether she’s consulted Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker, another 1990s pop star who switched to country: “I haven’t,” Crow said. “We came up together. I just played with him in Buffalo [N.Y.] at a country fest. He is who he always was. Country fans will decide if I belong in that format.”

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