NASHVILLE, TENN. — For a couple of months now, Sheryl Crow has been loading her two young boys aboard a bus and taking off on a tour of country music radio stations around the country.
She’s visiting with DJs and programming directors, playing a few songs live, then hopping back on the bus to do it again a few hours down the road. It reminds her, fittingly, of a scene from “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the life story of Loretta Lynn.
“It really is like the scene where Doo zips up Loretta’s dress and she runs in with her new acetate, her 45, and says, ‘Here’s my new record,’ and she plays something on air, shakes a few hands and leaves,” Crow said. “It really is a throwback to that and it’s the most organic thing I’ve done in years.”
The image is fitting. It was Lynn’s handwritten note asking Crow to appear with the honky-tonk queen on the 2010 Country Music Association Awards that started this journey toward the genre for the 51-year-old singer-songwriter. She has a single, “Easy.” and will release her first country-oriented album, “Feels Like Home,” on Sept. 10.
Crow recently spoke with The Associated Press about her new album, life in Nashville and continued questions about her former relationship with Lance Armstrong.
When Crow finished that performance with Lynn and Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley met her backstage and beseeched her to come home to the format she really belonged in. She’d had some success at country in the past, teaming with Kid Rock on “Picture” in 2002.
The song was a modest hit and even scored them a vocal event of the year nomination at the 2003 Country Music Association Awards.
Crow thought about it and Paisley’s message took hold. But it meant she would have to change things up and embrace Nashville’s country music culture.
Eventually, he helped kick start the new record, suggested producer Justin Niebank and introduced her to songwriter Chris Dubois, who served as a co-writer and informal song editor.
She changed her songwriting tack, looking to match the more visceral, story-telling style of the genre.
And no one succeeds in country music without courting radio — thus the bus. Most of country music’s biggest stars started that way and Crow — 20 years after releasing her first album, the five times platinum “Tuesday Night Music Club” — didn’t see herself as exempt, no matter how many millions of albums she’s already sold.
The first day of radio tour she hit larger markets like Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee, Atlanta, Orlando, Fla., and some privately owned stations in smaller towns, too. One day, three states. Welcome to country.