Wednesday 20 September 2017

Waking Hours with singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow (52) is a singer and songwriter. Born in Missouri, she was a music teacher and backing singer before she embarked on a solo career. After breast cancer, she decided to adopt. She lives in Nashville with her two sons, Wyatt (7) and Levi (4)

Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow

Ciara Dwyer

I get up at 6.30am, and then I wake my kids. We've just started school, so literally I have to stand them on their feet because they're so tired. I have a seven-year-old boy named Wyatt and a four-year-old named Levi. It's so much fun. I wish I could freeze my kids at this age. I am most definitely not a morning person. I tell my kids not to talk to me until I've had a cup of coffee. This summer, they've been on a tour bus for the most part, so they get up when they wake up, whenever that is. But when we're home, I try to be the first one up.

No matter how much time I allow to get ready, we're always pushing to get to school on time. I get the boys dressed. It's a 20-minute drive to school and that's really when I get to talk with them. Yesterday, my four-year-old said he'd been thinking about what he'd get me for my birthday - my birthday isn't until February. He said, 'I think you need a xylophone.' I have no idea what is in his mind. It's funny stuff like that. I always think, 'I've got to write this down because I won't remember it'.

Adopting the boys definitely changed my life for the better. I had been through a lot - I had breast cancer treatment and I really started looking at my life differently. I felt that I wanted to adopt, and maybe my family life wasn't going to be conventional. I decided I'd open the door to adopting and, within a year, I had this wonderful little boy. My family said, 'You're not alone in this. We're going to help you'. A few years later, I adopted a second boy.

I grew up always knowing that I wanted to be a mom, and it never occurred to me that I wouldn't have a family. But I think I had this habit of dating people who were very busy in their careers. But then, one day, I woke up and I had breast cancer, and I was 40 and I didn't have kids. I was just out of a relationship with Lance Armstrong. Cancer made me re-evaluate my life and it really simplified things. I feel more myself since then than I've ever felt in my entire life, but I certainly wouldn't recommend the experience.

We live in Nashville. I bought a house here two weeks after I was diagnosed. I just made a flip decision. I decided that I was going to rebuild my life and it wound up being the best decision. I knew Nashville pretty well. It's an old-fashioned town. It's great that my kids can grow up in this normal environment. Unlike in LA, nobody cares who you are. I serve lunch at the boys' school if I'm needed.

I grew up surrounded by musicians. My mom was a piano teacher and my dad was an old-fashioned, Atticus Finch sort of attorney, but at the weekend they were in a swing band and they would come home after gigs, just like I do, and play music on the stereo.

They would dance and smoke and sing, and my sisters and I used to sneak on to the stairs so we could hear what was going on. I took piano lessons and then I got a degree in it. I started out teaching music, but I had all these songs inside of me. I moved to LA with cassette tapes full of my jingles and I sent them to everybody. I started getting some commercial work and then I travelled the world as a backing singer for Michael Jackson's tour. But after I came back, I sat around for a couple of years because nobody could figure out what to do with me. I sang soul and rock 'n' roll and it wasn't until I was 29 that my first album came out.

When I'm on the road, my days are pretty consistent. The boys come with me. We get up in the morning and we eat breakfast on the bus. Then we hang out. We bring things for them to play with, like lots of Lego. Before we arrive in a town, we already know what's there - be it a water-park or a zoo. Then we get out and we do something in the town.

After that, we eat lunch, and then I go to do the soundcheck while my kids rest or do some school stuff. Then, at 5.30pm, we eat dinner. The kids run around a bit and then they are into their PJs and they brush their teeth. I usually read to them and tuck them in. When I put on make-up before I go on stage, they say, 'Ugh, what is that on your face? You look like an old lady. Take it off'. They are so used to being with Mommy on the trampoline or in the swimming pool or playing softball.

By the time I've got my kids down, I'm so relieved to be out on stage. This is because it's connected to me, and not just in the service of raising kids. I love it, but when you're raising kids you have to be emotionally available 24/7, and when you're with them, you have to be present. So, it's great for me to have that time-out to play for two-and-a-half hours. I love connecting with the audience and singing. It's a wonderful release. Then I get on the bus, hang out with the band for a while, drink a couple of beers and listen to music. Afterwards, I crawl into my bunk and then the day starts all over again in the next town.

I love performing now more than ever. I love the band that I have and I love the luxury of having 20 years of music to pick from.

But also I love the fact that it's not the only thing I have in my life. There were quite a few years in there where music was the be-all and end-all, and now it's not. It's something that I do and I enjoy it, but if I wound up not doing it anymore, I would also be a fulfilled human being. That's a very liberated feeling. I'm older and more philosophical, but I also have this great family life and I love where I live. My life is just much more complete.

Because I'm a single mom, I want to be present for my kids. I don't want them to look back and say, 'She was always on the phone'. My boys are my biggest passion and my hardest job and I want to do it well.

Sheryl Crow will play the Knocknarea Arena at IT Sligo on Bank Holiday Sunday, October 26, 2014 as part of Sligo Live Festival. This will be her only 2014 Irish performance. See sligolive.ie

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