Sheryl Crow talks new music, Breast Cancer Awareness and Audible original, Words + Music

Sheryl Crow talks to Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Entertainment about her new music, Breast Cancer Awareness and why it's important to get a mammogram, as well as her Audible original, Words + Music.

Video Transcript

LYNDSEY PARKER: You've got all these projects going on-- new music, your breast cancer screening advocacy, and, of course, "Audible Original." There was a thing you said that stood out to me when you said this isn't the time to write a novel, meaning an analogy novel equals album. It's time that to do tweets meaning songs. And you have a couple, if you will, tweets that you've released that are very topical-- "In The End" and "Women in the White House."

SHERYL CROW: I grew up with albums. I'm not forsaking this beautiful art form by writing something that is of the moment because that's what we need to hear. And why write a song and wait a year when it doesn't matter anymore? So that's what I'm doing. And that definitely helps you [INAUDIBLE]. "In The End," this song that we just put out, because it's mainly about karma.

And I look at the president, and I see a complete and total lack of compassion and empathy. And to me, it's all about modeling. If you're modeling that to your country, if you're modeling it in your home to your children, what's the message? So that's-- that's basically what the song is about. And I had to write it and get it off my chest. So blah, keep it out.

Now, "Women in the White House" actually is an eight-year-old song. It was written around the Hillary Clinton run and or even before that. And it's just shocking to me. If we are such a developed country and we are one of the richest countries in the world, how it is that historically we've never had a woman leading this country? I mean, other countries have women tenfold, and we still haven't.

So what does that say not only about how men see women, but how women see women, whether they're going to-- whether they would vote for a woman? What does it say about how we perceive a strong woman? We generally think that she's a bitch or ambitious or whatever. And I think it's time for a reckoning and an awakening and time for those feminine energy in the White House, personally.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Misogyny is so entrenched in our country, unfortunately. And terms of reckoning, I definitely, like I said, there were a lot of stories in your "Audible Original" that resonated with me. And one of them was the Frank DiLeo story. Frank DiLeo being Michael Jackson's manager at the time. So what happened? Did Frank basically say if you play along with-- sleep with me, date with me, just do, you know, play along, like, I'll make you a-- I'll help your career?

SHERYL CROW: At the time that I went to him and said, I don't want-- I want nothing to do with this deal. And that's when he came into the tour and said you will never work again. I was definitely frightened, and I went home. And that was maybe the darkest moment of my life with the exception of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

That was a hard one, you know. And I came out the other side. And I'm a lucky person to be able to say I did work again. In fact, I wound up having my own life and my own career. But it's a terrible situation to be in. And women who come forward and they speak their truth need to be validated. They need to be heard. And when you aren't heard and when you're threatened, it is devastating.

And we had a song on this "Tuesday Night Music Club Record" that was called "The Na-Na Song." And it mentioned Frank DiLeo, but it also mentioned Clarence Thomas, because during that time of writing that song, we were all watching the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.

And we reflect on that now. And certainly she's spoken up about it how she wasn't taken seriously. And we have not just one person on the Supreme Court enjoying a lifetime appointment. We have two that have been accused of untoward conduct towards women. And I think at a certain point, this was going to have to be addressed that to me, you know, 25 years later and I'm talking about it, we still have a long way to go.

At the time when I spoke about it, yeah, I got myself into some trouble. And then I wouldn't say luckily, certainly not for him, but Frank passed away. So whatever legal ramifications died when he passed away. But, you know, the story is I went to a high-powered attorney. And I was told by that high-powered attorney to suck it up. And I don't know that that would happen anymore.

His direct quote was, "There are people all over Hollywood that would die to know that they were going to have number hits coming out." I left there feeling like I had absolutely no protection. I called my parents, which, I mean, what is your mom and dad in Missouri going to do? But I just didn't know what else to do.

And so I just-- I decided I will not do this. I will go public. I will not-- I don't want this deal. I'll go home, and I'll wait tables. And that's what I did. I went home, and I waited tables. I didn't quit. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I just kept feeling like, this is what I do. This is what I know how to do.

And everybody in the world can tell me we don't know what to do with you or whatever. I just knew there was going to always be a place to play music. And whether it was in a local bar at home or whether it was singing backup on a Johnny Mathis session or whatever, it's just what I knew how to do.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I'm curious since you were, you know, writing songs about and try-- at least trying to speak out about this at the time, do you think the music business-- it hasn't quite had its Me To reckoning yet. Do you think things are changing? You came from a healthy time for women in music, I think. The '90s were a very healthy time.

SHERYL CROW: Well, the '90s were really transformative time. I don't know about healthy, but you had Madonna who stepped into the fray and said sexuality is not to be controlled by the men in the office. If we're going to use my sexuality to as part of my music as far as my-- of my brand, I'm the one that's going to dictate that.

And that's healthy. But other things weren't changing. I think the reality of art and the reality of business is that where there is strong feminism, it is a threat to strong masculinity. And there's always going to be that power play there.

LYNDSEY PARKER: You touched on that a bit in your "Audible Original" actually when speaking sometimes about your personal relationships, as well, with Eric Clapton, with Lance Armstrong. I mean, there was a quote that really stuck out to me like about if you shine your light with some people, their light has to be brighter. You said it in your song. Are you strong enough to be my man back in the day.

SHERYL CROW: I think that will always be the push and pull, the yin and yang. It will always be that way. Women-- women come in giving birth to men and women. We nurture. We nurture with our bodies, and we take care of. We manage. I mean, we are self-fulfilling DNA is to take care of things, to fix things. And then a man steps into his masculinity.

And there is not-- there's no escaping that when a woman steps into her power, it's beautiful and attractive to a man. And that becomes part of the relationship. And then when it starts encroaching in the man's space of being big, it can be conflicting. And it can be extremely challenging to figure out how do we both shine our lights in our own constellations and, yet, still be who we are?

And generally with a woman, a woman winds up dimming her light in order to keep the man happy. And we just are constantly trying to figure out who we are and how we need to be to be who we are in the umbrella of relationship.

I have not been successful, obviously. I'm still single. I've had some amazing relationships. And I have loved, and I've been loved. And my life didn't wind up looking like the story I told myself about what it's supposed to look like.

You know, my parents are still married 65 years now, 66. And that's what it was suppose to look like. And I would get married now and have children. And at a certain point, I had to let go of the mythology of what I told myself about what life looks like.

LYNDSEY PARKER: As a woman, there were many stories in the "Audible Original" that resonated with me. It's kind of an overlying thing you said early on is you were talking about like your perfectionism and like, the people pleasing instinct, which I think a lot of women have. How did you, for lack of a better word, unlearn that?

SHERYL CROW: I certainly wouldn't recommend this to any one, just, you know. But breast cancer really changed the perception that I had of myself. When you grow up-- and I think women definitely suffer this. When you grow up being a doer and a fixer and a productive person and you define yourself by your productivity and not just your productivity but the quality of that and just doing everything right and never saying no and always being on the right side of everything, you wind up being at the bottom of the pile of the things that you take care of. I think part of that was lying on that radiation table and having to sort of meet myself.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I mentioned that you're doing this advocacy work for Hologic, which is to encourage people to get these early screenings.

SHERYL CROW: Well, right now, the message is that we are living through a pandemic. And the message has been that anything that is not vital as far as your health care is considered, to put it on the backburner. And I think where mammograms are concerned, in my situation, early detection is probably what kept me from having to have chemo or maybe even worse. And until we get a cure, early detection is our best solution.

So in my situation, I had a mammogram. I was 44 years old. No cancer in my history was there, was and still am but was very healthy, ate well, very athletic. And, you know, it's just a random mammogram. And I wound up being diagnosed with stage I breast cancer.

So I wind up being sort of a spokesperson for it because I think it really does matter, especially with the environment and what we're putting into our bodies. For women, even younger women, we're seeing more cases of breast cancer, 1 in 7 women. And we just had to be diligent about getting our mammograms so that we don't have to get through the really strident therapies.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Thank you so much for this wonderful chat. It's always lovely to speak with you. You take care of yourself.

SHERYL CROW: Thank you. You, too.