December 30, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

”Today somebody said, ‘God, a year ago you were absolutely nobody and now you’re playing with the biggest artists in the world,”’ says lippy hippie Sheryl Crow, 32. ”And I said, ‘Well, I’m really still nobody.”’ Such modesty is misplaced: After parlaying a Sisyphean touring schedule, an opening-night Woodstock II set, and metronomic MTV and VH1 exposure into platinum sales for her acclaimed debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, Crow has indeed landed at the top of 1994’s freshman class.

It didn’t come easily, or quickly. The small-town Missouri girl’s credentials include 18 months as a backup singer on Michael Jackson’s 1987 Bad world tour and another supporting gig on Don Henley’s 1989 The End of the Innocence album and tour. But it wasn’t until Woodstock that Crow emerged as a poster child for the adult-alternative demographic and her career shifted into crossover gear. ”I asked my manager, ‘Hey, can I just take off five months and go to Rwanda and work in a soup kitchen, so I feel like I’m doing something that’s not revolving around Sheryl Crow?”’ she says, laughing. ”He said no.”

But Crow, who’s working on a book of poetry and prose and will kick off her U.S. tour in February, is so far avoiding rookie mistakes. ”I’ve had tons of acting offers,” she says. ”But for me to blow my credibility as a musician by displaying how horrible an actress I can be would not be too intelligent.”

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