Although her new album isn't due out until early 2002, Sheryl Crow has nonetheless been spending a good deal of time in the public eye lately, thanks to a variety of musical activities. Indeed, it's hard to imagine any other artist who could release collaborations with both Tony Bennett and Kid Rock in the same month, as Crow has with her contributions to Bennett's new duets collection, Playin' with My Friends, and Rock's just-released Cocky. She also recently co-produced five tracks for Stevie Nicks' Trouble In Shangri-La album, performs Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" on the new various-artists holiday collection A Very Special Christmas 5, appeared in a new commercial for the Gap, performed in Lifetime's Women Rock! telecast and at the City of Hope award dinner, and sang a duet with Willie Nelson on the Country Music Awards.
But the most timely of the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist's recent public appearances was her appearance at the post-September 11 Tribute to Heroes telethon, where she tapped into the mood of the time with a moving performance of her song "Safe and Sound" (also currently featured in the Jeff Bridges/Kevin Spacey flick K-Pax).
Crow has been defying expectations ever since she trekked from her native Missouri to California in 1986. It didn't take long for the former music teacher, who holds a degree in classical piano from the University of Missouri, to make connections at the highest rungs of the pop-music ladder, first as backup singer with Michael Jackson on his 1987 Bad tour and subsequently singing backup with Don Henley, Sting, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker and the late George Harrison. Celine Dion, Wynonna Judd and Bette Midler had covered her compositions by the time A&M released her breakthrough debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club - which yielded the hits "All I Wanna Do" and "Leaving Las Vegas" - in 1993.
The self-produced Sheryl Crow followed in 1996, producing the singles "If It Makes You Happy" and "Every Day Is a Winding Road," and establishing Crow as both a multi-platinum recording artist and a widely loved performer. 1998's The Globe Sessions produced "My Favorite Mistake" and "Anything But Down," while the live Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live in Central Park featured contributions from such famous friends as Eric Clapton, Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards and the Dixie Chicks.
Previewing her forthcoming album, Crow says, "There are more piano-based songs on this record. I've never really written songs on the piano because I wanted to rock a little harder."
It's apparent that the events of September 11 and Crow's participation in the Tribute to Heroes show moved the artist to consider reworking some of the lyrics on her forthcoming album. One of her new songs, for instance, bemoaned a lack of heroes in the world - an opinion she says she no longer holds. "I feel differently about all that now after what we've seen," Crow told the Los Angeles Times. "My home in New York City is right next to a fire station, and I had a lot of good friends and familiar faces in that department who are missing now."