By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
"Formal musical training is invaluable. But equally important is listening to and playing along with great music that has come before us"
For this instalment we get an insight into an incredible multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, Grammy Award-winning, long-serving musician that crosses many genres.
I believe it's quite rare to come across naturally gifted musicians that can consistently create continuously over their entire career. To make a career as a musician is somewhat of a leap of faith when one first starts out but some people just have that special something that shines through on everything they create or play on.
An artist of compositional maturity and melodic sense that has sold over 50-million albums worldwide, the superstar strummer that is Miss Sheryl Crow!
Jingles To Jackson 🎙
Let’s head back to 1962, 100-miles from Memphis to the humble little town Kennett, Missouri. On 11th February we saw the birth of a certain Sheryl Crow, arriving into a staple mid-Western society, a heritage backdrop for an all American upbringing 🇺🇸.
It seems as though music was running through her veins the minute she opened her eyes, her mother Bernice was a piano teacher and engaged with her from a young age, Sheryl’s father Wendell was a lawyer and also the trumpet player!
A natural affiliation with music saw her begin piano lessons at the age of 6; music and instrumentation would be part of her every day life and upbringing it was pure normality.
Crow was an outgoing youngster and at school she was an all-star athlete along with being a cheerleader, she was not afraid to get out there and try stuff and do things: she brimmed with confidence. 🤘
I always find it fascinating when a musician is a true multi-instrumentalist and doesn't designate themselves to one instrument or rely on it, they use every instrument to paint the picture on the canvas - Sheryl Crow 100% falls into this category. She's never declared herself a guitar player a pianist, a bass player, or a vocalist, she is just there for the music and the overall creation but has the ability to fill any role incredible really!
“Guitar.com: There was lots of music around you when you were growing up. What kind of influences inform the music you make?
Sheryl Crow: I grew up really loving blues music, and I kinda got into country music when Bob Dylan put out Nashville Skyline, and also [the Rolling Stones’] Let it Bleed and Exile on Main Street were really big albums for me. And when I was in high school, it was stuff like Foreigner and Boston — real corporate rock bands.”
Sheryl Crow for Guitar.com
Upon finishing Kennett High School Sheryl went on to the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1984. While she was studying at the university, she used to perform with a local band called 'Cashmere'.
Graduating with a BS Ed Degree in Music Education Crow went onto work as a music teacher in elementary school back in Missouri. As a young musician this enabled her to work a weekday job and have weekends to develop her music, playing in bands and generally get into the industry she longed to be heavily involved in down the line.
As the old theory goes there is really only one way to get ahead in the music industry and that’s to be out there in the mix, and out on the scene Crow encountered local musician and Record Producer Jay Oliver.
Jay was a cool cat and had his own basement studio at his parents' property. He showed a keen interest in music and production much like Sheryl and they hit it off well as musical buddies.
Jay encouraged Sheryl to experiment and dive into the world of jingles, her first jingle was a back-to-school spot for the St. Louis department store Famous-Barr. Soon after she sang in commercial jingles for McDonald's and Toyota. She was quoted in a 60-minutes segment as saying she made $40,000 on the McDonald's ad alone.
As momentum begin to build with the jingle work which was clearly a natural spark for Crow she moved to LA in search of more and the bigger world of music outside of Missouri. Dipping into the scene and moving around with the vibe at the time Sheryl somehow found herself auditioning for quite a large upcoming tour; auditioning as a backing singer and this is where it gets really interesting
Sheryl managed to land herself an incredible gig between 1987 and 1989 as Michael Jackson's backing singer, one of his main backing singers, and actually duetted with him night after night.
“When were you last really happy?” she replied: “Being Michael Jackson’s backing singer on his ‘BAD’ tour from 1987 to 1989. I was in my mid-20s. I hadn’t released any records. I didn’t even own a passport when I landed the job. And there I was, travelling the world with the biggest pop star on the planet. Walking out in front of full stadiums every night was exhilarating enough. To be performing alongside Jackson was something else altogether. Seeing him dance a few feet away from me was an other-worldly experience. It was the happiest of times.” -
Sheryl Crow via mjworld.net
Commercial Success & Signature Guitars 🎸
After the comedown of the Michael Jackson tour Crow did suffer from some form of depression and struggled adjusting after such a monumental experience. However, being a strong character and completely resilient musician she was quickly back up and signed to a major label. 🎼
Crafting her own songs and putting together her own compositions really began to display what an incredible melodic and gifted songwriter Sheryl really is.
A true Hitmaker drawing on life experience both her own and the experience of the general every man/woman.
The tunes produced here are incredible, the recordings are 2nd-to-none, the parts played are so interesting, driven from a songsmith's perspective you can feel and hear the presence of Sheryl and the personality she embeds into all of her work.
The band are phenomenal players and there really is some exquisite slide and lap steel licks in there, heavily country-rock driven material that is the best of its kind and has a real decorative pop edge to it.
Fundamentally these achievements represent girl power in the music industry. 🤘
One way to define a bonafide guitar hero is of course to have a signature guitar... Sheryl has been synonymous with the Gibson Country & Western for many years. As she has been using one from the early days, Gibson decided to collaborate and produce a signature model!
This singular attribute now defines Sheryl Crow as a rock goddess and guitar hero! 💪 This incredible video on Gibson TV really goes into her influences and her reason for playing guitar, Sheryl described herself as a meat and potatoes player who gets the job done but we think she is a great player and seriously underestimates herself.
Every great guitar player gives their main instrument a nickname and what better name than “The Hitmaker” .
Strings For A Songsmith ✍️
“Music is the thread of my whole life”
Sheryl Crow for Rolling Stone Magazine
When you hear a great songwriter like Sheryl Crow discuss her string preferences you can really trust she's using her ear and is looking for a sound that inspires and resonates with her craft. Strings that have to be ready to perform all the time every time and require a tone that really aides the creative process.
"I love the sound of D'Addario strings on every one of my guitars and basses.”
"I love the sound of EJ16 Phosphor Bronze 12-53 strings!”
Sheryl Crow via D’Addario.com
Once you find something that works for you, like a particular string brand and a particular string gauge, it's a great thing and somewhere to settle if you're completely happy, as seems to be the case here with Sheryl Crow - she is a full ambassador for D’Addario strings. 🎸
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