LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Back in early 1995 when Sheryl Crow won Grammy gold for her debut album, her bank account was hardly glistening.
The album, “Tuesday Night Music Club,” had already sold about two million copies in the seven months before Crow walked off with honors for best new artist, record of the year and female pop vocalist.
But it was not until the following year that the rock singer/songwriter received her first royalty check, she recalled in a recent interview with Reuters.
“My manager was still working out of a storage unit,” Crow, aged 47, said. “That was his office, and I was still driving an old Corvair and paying my rent.
“The way it’s set up is that the money comes in and they (the record label) hold it for as long as possible, and you ultimately have to make threats to get the money.”
She said things got “nasty,” but ultimately her relationship with A&M Records was a happy one.
Crow’s problem is not uncommon. Record labels spend a fortune establishing new artists, and it can take a while for them to recoup their expenses. Moreover Crow had recorded an album before “Tuesday Night Morning Club.” She and A&M decided it was not worthy of release, so she owed the label for the cost of making two albums.
The royalty checks quickly piled up as Crow’s career soared, and her finances are about to get a boost from the re-release of “Tuesday Night Music Club” as a deluxe package. The album, which contained such hits as “All I Wanna Do” and “Strong Enough,” now boasts a bonus CD of b-sides and rarities and a DVD of video clips and unseen tour footage.
Stardom came relatively late to Crow, who was 31 when “Tuesday Night Music Club” came out but was hardly a neophyte. She spent her 20s working as a backup singer, either on the road with Michael Jackson and Don Henley, or in the studio with the likes of Sting and Rod Stewart.
As the title suggests, the album was recorded during informal weekly recording sessions with a group of musicians at the Los Angeles studio of producer Bill Bottrell. Amid much drinking by all, Crow helped write the songs, sang on them and played some keyboards.
Once the album was released, sales were predictably slow since no one knew who Crow was. She hit the road and won over fans the old-fashioned way. It eventually sold about seven million copies, the biggest album of her career.
“I look back on it and those days seem extremely precious to me now,” she said. “There was an earthiness and a realness to it, of going out and playing the music for the experience of it, and building a fan base from nothing.”
But the good times were interrupted when a few of the musicians groused about songwriting and publishing splits. Crow said everyone was duly credited and made a lot of money. Still the backlash gnawed at her for a long time.
“There are people out there that are built the way they’re built and they’re never gonna be happy with the way anything turns out,” she said. “If the record had sold 5,000 they would have been happier than the fact that it sold as many as it did.”
Professionally, Crow’s life has been relatively trouble-free since then, while a slew of high-powered boyfriends such as Eric Clapton and Lance Armstrong kept her private life interesting.
When she hit 40, she suffered what she now describes as “a personal-career meltdown in the quiet of my own home,” wondering about her place in a musical landscape populated by teen idols. Mentors such as Bob Dylan helped out.
“He’s made himself very accessible to me,” she said of the elusive bard. “He’s given me advice about how to write, how to get out of being stuck in a songwriters block. Just personal conversations that I wouldn’t get into the details about, but that have been really instrumental in helping me keep moving forward.”
Looking forward, Crow hopes to release the follow-up to her 2008 album “Detours” by next April. She described it as a “straight-up southern rock” effort in the vein of her 1996 single “If It Makes You Happy.” If all goes to plan, recording will begin later this year and the process should be completed within a few weeks.
Editing by Jill Serjeant