For her latest album, Sheryl Crow decided to follow her own musical adage that "A Change Will Do You Good."
"Feels Like Home," which come out in September and debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, is Crow's first out-and-out country album, although she's hardly a stranger to that music having appeared on format hits by Kid Rock ("Picture"), Brooks & Dunn ("Building Bridges"), "Vince Gill ("What You Gave Away") and Loretta Lynn on a remake of "Coal Miner's Daughter" with Miranda Lambert. But it was a conversation with Brad Paisley that pushed Crow over the edge.
"I've been living in Nashville going on eight years, and there was some strong encouragement from people around me to make a record for the country format," says the 51-year-old Missouri native. "I was out of a record label (deal) and Brad Paisley came up to me and said, 'You need to come home to the format you belong to,' which was very humbling. He said, 'You already write country songs. If your albums were to come out today, you'd be formatted at country.'
"So that was good for me. It breathed new life into a 25-year career of songwriting to be able to work with other writers and to learn something, and I feel like some of my best writing is on this record."
But Crow -- who's released two singles, "Easy" and "Callin' Me When I'm Lonely" from "Feels Like Home" -- acknowledges the move was a bit daunting, too.
"This is a very sacred format," she notes. "Country music is one of the great American art forms. The fan base is very loyal. I never wanted to be perceived as another pop artist coming over and trying to capitalize on something that's existed for a long time. I wanted whatever I did to be authentic.
"So I definitely didn't take it lightly, and I think you can hear that on (the album)."
Crow's current Free and Easy Tour with established country hitmaker Gary Allan, meanwhile, is another credibility builder, although Allan, who's been performing "Picture" in Kid Rock's stead, isn't sure Crow needs his help.
"I never really looked at it that way, no," says Allan, 45, who's currently promoting his ninth studio album "Set You Free," which topped the Country Albums chart and was his first ever No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
"I always felt like she had a country flavor. A lot of times when rock artists come into our genre I'm usually offended, but with her it seemed like a real easy fit, like she's always kinda been there. She told me she was making a country album, and it made sense to me."
Sheryl Crow, Gary Allan and Maggie Rose perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $25-$45. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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