Mark Seliger
Madison Vain
April 21, 2017 AT 11:10 AM EDT

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A little bit closer to feeling fine: Singer-songwriter, Sheryl Crow, 55, opens up about the struggles and joys that led to her excellent return to form, Be Myself, out now.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your last album, 2013’s Feels Like Home, was a country record, but your latest sounds more like your mega-selling LPs from the ’90s. Why’d you circle back to that vibe?
SHERYL CROW: After the country record, I started a collaborative one. I did a song with Willie [Nelson] and some stuff with [Eagles guitarist] Joe Walsh. In the middle of that, I got with Jeff [Trott], my oldest songwriting buddy. We wrote three songs one day, and they were awesome! I’m tooting my own horn. [Laughs] But we were like, “We should make a record like [1996’s Sheryl Crow and 1998’s The Globe Sessions].” And we did! We called [producer] Tchad [Blake]. He flew in from Wales, and we did the whole thing in under a month.

The three of you had previously written hits such as “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” What was it like getting back to work with them?
It felt like a return to being kids. We’ve all come back together after nine lives. Tchad had cancer and cancer treatment, I had cancer and cancer treatment; we all have kids now — Jeff has teenagers and so does Tchad. I’ve got little ones.

For you and Blake, how did your perspective as cancer survivors affect the creative process?
There were a lot more laughs and joy and not sweating the small stuff. Also, there’s something liberating to not thinking about radio or about what you’re saying. We’re at an age where it’s like, “We can say whatever we want!”

One big theme on Be Myself is our relationship with social media. Are you a fan of sites like Facebook?
I’m in conflict with it. I have to utilize social media to promote my music, but it feels like an overwhelming commitment to sell everything to do with myself, with the exception of my art.

When you first broke out, iPhones weren’t around. Now every concert is a sea of screens. Has witnessing that transition been hard?
For a while, it ruined it for me. It made me depressed that we no longer experience the changing of molecules you used to get when you were in a room full of strangers sharing a musical experience. But we haven’t been out [performing] in a while. I’m looking forward to it.

You have two sons — Levi, 6, and Wyatt, 9 — and a recording studio in your Nashville barn. Do they join in for jam sessions?
They brought their buddies and hung around the studio one day. Tchad started showing them all the knobs and they got really into it, and then he was like, “Why don’t you guys sing?” So they sang on this song called “Roller Skate.” They called themselves the Five Bucks and I said, “Okay, I will pay each of you five bucks!” [Laughs] They made their first session free!

What’s up with the collaborative album you mentioned earlier?
I’ve recorded with a number of people over the years, but I’ve never done anything with them for me. So I decided to record stuff that’s already been written with people who have been influences. I called Keith [Richards] and said I wanted to record “The Worst.” I called Stevie Nicks and Don Henley, Willie, and Emmylou Harris. It will be out next year.

After winning nine Grammys and selling more than 50 million albums, do you think about your musical legacy at all?
When I started, I wanted to write music that mattered, music that had integrity and would move people. Then it became commercially successful, and suddenly you’re chasing the next single. But at the end of the day, I feel the same way. I want my music to be based in truth and authenticity. Outside of that, it’s out of my control.

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