The singer talks about her new album and about taking a break from touring

The Globe Sessions

They have ways of making her talk. They hope.

Sheryl Crow has just wrapped rehearsals for an episode of VH1’s chatty concert series, Storytellers, set to tape before a live audience the following night at Manhattan’s Sony Studios. But she hasn’t rehearsed the revelatory gab that’s the raison d’etre of the series. And it does happen occasionally that when the stars who are busting down VH1’s doors to get on the series show up, they happily sing their hits, and forget to actually tell stories. So producer Bill Flanagan, leaving as little as possible to chance and recalcitrance, is gently nudging her in the direction of candor. Or perhaps, he suggests, she has some anecdote to share about her pal Bob Dylan, since she’ll be using the occasion to premiere a new song of his, ”Mississippi.”

But Crow isn’t keen to spill beans about the bard. ”I’ll bet you anything he’ll see it,” she says. ”I sang with him last year, and he came up and goes” — she drops into the classic slurred impression — ”’Sooo, what’s this about you and Eric Clapton?”’ (Crow and Clapton, you may recall, were linked romantically back in the fall of ’96.) ”I said, ‘Bob, have you been reading PEOPLE magazine?’ You don’t imagine Bob Dylan as a media junkie, but I swear, he takes in everything.” She and Flanagan share a laugh imagining the poet laureate ensconced in his info-age bunker, studiously hunched over banks of monitors tuned in to the E!/ET/Extra axis.

Whether His Bobness elects to tune in to VH1 or The WB when her Storytellers airs in October, Crow is too much the diplomat to tell tales out of school on a famous friend. But there’s someone she’s even more reluctant to rat on: herself. ”I have a nasty cold,” she confessed earlier in the day, out of earshot of VH1’s producers, ”and I’m sure it’s psychosomatic because I don’t want to have to talk about my songs.” A common symptom for TV-shy rockers, we assure her. ”Really? I’ve never gotten sick. I’m nervous about this, more so than anything I’ve done. It’s having to talk rather than just talking when you want that’s really nerve-racking.”

Not that she’s ever been prone to volunteering highly personal or epic preambles in concert, either. ”Oh, I have, though,” she insists. ”Only when I’ve been wasted.”

Flanagan may have his work cut out for him: Crow isn’t hitting the sauce so hard anymore, and even in her loosened-up prime, a common observation was that she’s A Little Hard to Figure. Not everyone got that her fun-loving first hit, ”All I Wanna Do,” was drenched in alcoholic sarcasm. And her quintuple-platinum ’93 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, impressive bow that it was, didn’t leave her fans, critics, or even collaborators with the clearest sense of what she was all about. Come the harder-looking and -sounding imagery of her second album, her persona seemed less waif, more wraith. A certain inscrutability was the hallmark of anthems like ”If It Makes You Happy,” which could set a plaintive chorus against verses full of weird, seemingly random details, keeping you a little bit at bay even as you howled along with the top down.

The Globe Sessions
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