September 24, 2005

‘Wildflower’ a mixed bouquet from Crow

By Katie Hasty

NEW YORK (Billboard) - "Now that I'm in my 40s, it's much
easier to be an artist," Sheryl Crow says. "It's good knowing
that I'm not in the game to be competing with really young
groups of kids on the radio. Or to, you know, make 'beat'

With youthful, sunny singles like "Soak Up the Sun" and
mature, wistful melodies in such hits as "If It Makes You
Happy," 43-year-old Crow has proved she can successfully
compete with artists from across the popular-music spectrum.
Filling the three-year gap since her last studio effort, she
took time off and headed to Spain, to write and to determine
her next move.

The result: the introspective "Wildflower" (due September
27 on Interscope) and lead-off single "Good Is Good," which is
No. 11 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart.

Crow originally intended to release what she called an
"art" record and a "pop" record this year. After recording the
initial tracks, she decided to combine elements of both,
recruiting the talents of hot producer John Shanks and longtime
collaborator Jeff Trott to keep her gentle songs grounded with
string-filled orchestrations and upbeat production. Trott also
co-wrote a number of tracks, including "Good Is Good."

"I had good intentions to do both (albums), and I started
feeling like 'Wildflower' was that art album. But then I
thought that any pop songs I did after that would make it
overlooked," Crow says.

Between her last studio effort, "C'mon C'mon," and this
year's output, Interscope released "The Very Best of Sheryl
Crow" in 2003. That title, bolstered by her smash cover of "The
First Cut Is the Deepest," has sold more than 3.4 million
units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.


"I didn't let the fact that I was putting out a
greatest-hits record midcareer bog me down," Crow says, "but I
didn't think it would do so well. In a weird way, it gave me
the freedom to do this record, a real opportunity to make a
record that I really felt. Basically, your life informs your
art, and I'm at a different part of my life. I'm not interested
in making a bunch of 'Soak Up the Suns."'

Crow's recent engagement to superstar athlete Lance
Armstrong should also keep consumers interested, says Joe
Nardone Jr., VP of Pennsylvania-based music chain Gallery of
Sound. The public romance between the two has increased her
visibility and, according to Crow, has provided fodder for her
songwriting. Much of "Wildflower" addresses their romance with
happy tones and cautious detail, without flaunting matters they
wish to keep private.

"I try not to edit myself too much, but I don't want to
worry about what people will think of me if I leave everything
in," she says. "Some people rely on selling everything based on
celebrity. He and I are really careful about how we conduct our
lives and what we let people be privy to."

Intimacy and meditative lyricism dominate "Wildflower," and
Crow hopes to continue the tender nuance through a string of
concert events in October. Heading out with her band and a
12-piece string section conducted by David Campbell, Crow will
perform new material as well as older songs on an eight-date

She will continue to tour next spring with a smaller string
section for more extensive dates.

Meanwhile, Crow is surprised that a single has emerged from
her latest project. She had considered releasing "Wildflower"
as a quiet, raw affair, with only her and her guitar.

"I just feared a little how people would receive it," she
says. "When I write a record, I'm thinking in an arc. Right
now, this is where I am. I'd like to take the listener on some
kind of travel with me, and to me, I wasn't making a hit