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Sheryl Crow, 62, Exits Retirement With a Grownup Album, ‘Evolution’

The singer explains her new life and new music: ‘I knew I should never say never’

spinner image A collage of singer songwriter Sheryl Crow performing and playing the guitar
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Photo by Karjean Levine/Getty Images; Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images; Photo by Kayla Oaddams/Getty Images; Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ABA; Photo by Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images)

“Every day is a winding road,” Sheryl Crow, 62, sang in 1996, but her own road has been a superhighway. From her Missouri high school days as a majorette, track athlete and Paperdoll Queen beauty contest winner to her meteoric rise (nine Grammys, 50 million albums) to her life as a mom, home-studio musician and activist, the singer/songwriter has zipped to victories, with occasional crashes (cancer, sexism, depression).

She claimed to quit her recording career with 2019’s Threads, on which she collaborated with Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks, 75, Bonnie Raitt, 74, Mavis Staples, 84, Eric Clapton, 78, Keith Richards, 80, Willie Nelson, 90, Kris Kristofferson, 87, James Taylor, 76, Emmylou Harris, 76, and Sting, 72.

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Yet that evolution has brought Crow to Evolution, her 12th studio album (released March 29). It’s a contemplative soul dive balanced by joyful, rousing music, as Crow examines her pursuit of serenity and insight in a perilous, unstable world. Her funny pop firecracker “Alarm Clock” rails against an annoying wake-up buzzer for disrupting a wonderful dream with the glare of reality. The title track explores Crow’s anxieties about artificial intelligence. “Don’t Walk Away” dwells on the fragility of relationships.

From her 50-acre compound in Nashville, Tennessee, Crow told AARP about her new songwriting, why marriage is off the table, the thrills and frustrations of raising sons Wyatt, 16, and Levi, 13, and how to make aging a growth experience.

You announced that Threads would be your last album. So how did Evolution evolve?

I knew I should never say never. It was definitely not my intention to make a record. This was the first time I’ve written songs out of necessity and without thinking, This might go on the next album, because there was no next album. I just ended up with a bunch of little screenplays or pages of a journal.

What was your impulse?

I’m dumbfounded by how fast we’re speeding out of control in our own evolution. I did the only thing I know how to do: go to a notepad, grab a guitar, sit on the porch and download.

Several songs express zen-like messages about accepting yourself, letting go, living in the moment.

It is where my head is always striving to be. It’s a work in progress. As soon as I turn on the TV or look at my kids face down on their phones scrolling, my peace goes soaring out the window. I still meditate, twice a day. Hope for the future is going to come from this next generation realizing what technology is doing to us spiritually, to our relationships.

Evolution has a curious dichotomy: a cautionary intensity but an uplifting tone in songs like “Do It Again,” “Love Life” and “You Can’t Change the Weather.”

I feel like I’m anchored. My 13-year-old flippantly told me two years ago, “You know, you were born in the 1870s.” Even though it sounds doom and gloom, the album is upbeat and fun. I’ve had this incredible life filled with me traveling around the world, playing gigs, me this and me that. I came to a place, especially after being diagnosed with cancer [in 2018], that the work (on myself) really began.

And what did you learn?

It sounds very woo-woo, but the only hope for having peace is if we can turn off the noise. That’s the only weapon I have to infiltrate what I’m working against: cellphones, technology. I’m on the warpath of trying to function better. I’ve done all kinds of work to try to shed skin, to navigate and still have a modicum of joy. I did a guided mushroom journey.

spinner image Sheryl Crow playing the electric guitar onstage
Sheryl Crow performs at the Franklin Theatre on March 23, 2024 in Franklin, Tennessee.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

How does Evolution compare to your never-released 1992 album?

When I was a younger songwriter, I approached it like, “I’m going to follow the tradition of Mark Twain and John Steinbeck; I’m going to write third person and colorful characters.” Now every song is from my perspective, and I don’t masquerade it in literary trappings or traditions. I just write from a blank page and an open heart.

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What changed?

It is a strange thing to have aged out of not only being popular but relevant. It does give me liberty to write whatever I want, knowing that it’s a cosmic thing if anybody lands on a song and feels a communal experience, as if it was written about them, or for them.

There’s a tasty aggression in “Broken Record” against people you call “tools.” Who are you addressing?

Do you want a list? After the Nashville shooting, just around the corner from my kids’ school, I reached out to quite a few country artists. I thought it would be a beautiful illustration for all of us as parents — no matter what side we station ourselves at — to come together and talk about reasonable and effective compromises, for everyone to still own guns but to have some protections. There was a massive backlash.

But you kept your cool, right?

I remember my mom saying, “It’s just as easy to be nice as it is to be a jerk.” In some ways, it’s more powerful to be a jerk these days because you get the ego stroke of whipping up your fan base with sheer fear and ugliness. Social media is a fantastic place to get your ego stroked. So I wrote a song about that. Some people will be shocked by that, probably the ones who find me offensive.

Does songwriting scare you?

I went through a period where I didn’t think I would finish anything. At this point, writing is like a salve for me. It’s like, “I got to get this out, figure out how to put down what I’m experiencing into a song form.” There’s something divine and magical about that. On the odd occasion, you get a song and you think, That is better than I am.

Do your sons connect with your music?

When they heard “Alarm Clock,” they were so here for it. When they heard “Broken Record,” they were, “No, Mom, you just can’t.”

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What are the challenges of raising teen boys?

The worries they have are real, grownup stresses that we never thought about as kids. At 8, Wyatt asked me, “Would there be enough air for us to breathe if the forests went away?” We have hard conversations, and they know in our house there is nothing they cannot talk about.

How does tech complicate your job as a mom?

When I signed up to be a mom, as an older mom in particular, I vowed that I would do everything to protect my kids’ innocence and help them be children as long as possible. And it’s almost impossible as soon as they get a phone. As they want more freedoms, I become more of the police. They know I look at their phones. It’s not fun being in competition with a cellphone.

You’ve been engaged three times but never married. Is it still a possibility?

I would love to grow old with somebody I love that makes me laugh and that I make laugh — a great, healthy, loving relationship. But I don’t really care about marriage at this point. The greatest thing in my life has been raising those two boys. There is nothing I would not do or trade for their happiness.

spinner image Olivia Rodrigo and Sheryl Crow each playing the guitar together onstage in Nashville
Sheryl Crow, right, performs with Olivia Rodrigo at Bridgestone Arena on March 9, 2024 in Nashville.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ABA

Do you define success differently from when you started out?

When I moved to L.A., I literally used tips to pay my rent. I’m a successful businesswoman now — we don’t worry about food. But I quantify success so differently now. If you get through the day feeling like you get a do-over every single day, that feels more successful than owning anything. The blessing isn’t in giving, it’s in letting go. It’s almost foolproof. When you seek to bless someone else, you get blessed.

Do you have any nonmusic talents that impress your kids?

There was a time they were kind of impressed that I could twirl a baton. I’m pretty good at pool and Ping-Pong. They have friends whose moms may be younger, but they’re not boy moms. I will play tennis with them, get on the trampoline, ride horses or dirt bikes. They do think it’s impressive that I’m such a badass water-skier.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

“Look, just get through this period. It’s all going to make sense later on. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

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