“Feels Like Home may be the most focused album I’ve ever made,” Sheryl Crow says of her debut album for Warner Nashville, the label based in Music City where Crow chose to settle and raise her children years ago. “All of my albums have had a few different styles going on in them, and this album definitely has a few different takes on what country music means to me, but not calculatedly so. First and foremost, I just wanted to make sure that for this album I wrote about were things that I really knew about – subject that hit close to home.
Full of great storytelling and featuring some of the most powerful and heartfelt vocals of Crow’s career, Feels Like Home is literally an album that this proud daughter of Kennett, Missouri was born to make. “Country music is rightly suspicious of carpetbaggers who jump on a bandwagon, but in my case, this world in Nashville really does feel like home. I grew up three and a half hours from Nashville, and my parent just moved out of that home that I grew up in recently. So I grew up in a community that was all farmland and churches and school and a town square. So country is where I come from, and that’s the kind of life I wanted to give my kids, and you can find that sort of life here in Nashville. Even though Nashville has so much more to offer, there is still a small town feel that I love.
As Crow recalls, “Back when I was growing up, the outside world wasn’t much of our experience, and that’s different now. But we grew up with two radio stations that played country, but now the world is much more connected wherever you are. Clearly, I’m also a girl who also loves to rock and fell hard for the Rolling Stones and Dylan too – but you’ll notice my favorite rockers also had close ties to country music too. And I’ve love being part of the community here in Nashville, and the fact that my kids are growing up inside of that community. For me, it’s been amazing to not only be around so many other artists and music people who go to church together, and support each other’s school fundraisers, and basically have a real sense of community here.”
Indeed, it was a friendly conversation with one Nashville neighbor by the name of Brad Paisley that set Crow on the course to start work on Feels Like Home. “I had a lot of trepidation about trying too hard to make an album within the country format. Because I do love it, and between my friends in Kansas City, and California and even New York, it is what anyone who wants to hear songs, and wants to hear guitar solos and storytelling basically listens to now. But over the years, I’ve seen lots of artists try to make this transition and it hasn’t to me gone well or felt natural or real to me, and the only way I wanted to do this was authentically. Brad instantly understood how to approach this. He said, `Let’s just do what you do. Bring your influences with you. Just turn your vocal up and make your stories a little more concise and you’re already there.’ That realization that I already was at home here is really the reason this album ended up being made.”
This is not Sheryl Crow’s first musical rodeo. She is, after all, a nine-time Grammy Award winner who has sold more than 50 million albums around the world. Still, Feels Like Home captures the sound of a great and established artist enjoying a kind of fresh start. Feels Like Home really got started with Crow, Paisley and Chris DuBois -- one his frequent collaborators – penning one of the albums’ standout tracks “Waterproof Mascara,” a stunning song that recalls classics by some of country’s greatest female vocalists like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, the latter of whom Crow sang with, along with friend Miranda Lambert on the CMA Awards in 2011. According to Crow, “It meant so much that a great country artist like Brad put his faith in me, there wasn’t a label at that point – Brad just believed we’d land in the right home here, and I do believe with Warner Nashville, I’m on the greatest label for me now. I feel spoiled to be around people who are on fire for music -- especially after being in another situation that did not feel like that.
Gradually, Crow began working with a series of collaborators that included her longtime guitar play and frequent co-writer Jeff Trott (with whom she co-wrote such past Crow classics as “If It Makes You Happy,” “Her Favorite Mistake” and “Every Day Is A Winding Road) as well as many of Nashville’s finest writers, including Chris DuBois, Luke Laird, Natalie Hamby and Chris Stapleton, among others.
“The thing about country music is the stories you tell usually get to the point quicker,” Crow explains. “So writing the songs for this album, after 20 years writing songs, felt so great because I am still doing what I love, but I’m learning and stretching at the same time. Because I have such a strong curiosity and the songwriting process that’s really at the heart of what goes on in Nashville, it’s been invigorating and satisfying to study what makes a country song work."
The writing process for Feel Like Home was a little different for Crow. “It took a while because I didn’t want to find people to write a Sheryl Crow song for me, but in the end I loved the experience One thing I found interesting is that in Nashville people often write in groups of threes – which I don’t think I’ve ever done,” she says. “In fact, other than my first album, I’ve rarely written with anyone else other than Jeff Trott -- let alone two other people. But it works -- I think there’s a sense that if there are three people there, then a song will actually get finished.”
Crow also credits her co-producer Justin Niebank as a key collaborator on Feels Like Home. “After a little false start, I was asking around for a great engineer, and Vince Gill told me Justin was the man for the job, and he was right. And after a few days, I realized that he was more than just a great engineer, but a real partner in producing this album.
For Crow, making her first album for a Nashville label is an experience she won’t forget. “It was amazing to be making an album in my community, and have my life still be my primary inspiration,” she says. “I was still driving my kids to school in the morning, and doing mommy things in-between sessions. Having a structured time to work, and being able to work at my house, everything about this just felt very loving and homey. Like the title says, it just felt like home.”