Sheryl Crow: 'Reviving Tupac With AI Is Despicable'

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Sheryl Crow: “AI can do a lot of things, but it can't go out and play live”

  • the author, Mark Savage
  • the role, Music Correspondent
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Sheryl Crow has something to get off her chest.

Over the years, the nine-time Grammy winner has never been afraid to voice her opinion.

Known for the classic roots rock of songs like My Favorite Mistake and All I Wanna Do, he has also used his voice to campaign on issues such as gun control and climate change.

Now, he has his sights set on artificial intelligence.

The title track of his new album Evolution deals with the effects of AI on people and the planet.

Speaking to the BBC, she describes the technology as a “slippery slope” and “a fraud” that “goes against everything humanity is based on”.

He focused on the software last year after meeting a young songwriter who was using it in his work.

Frustrated that male singers wouldn't listen to her demos, she paid an AI clone of country star John Mayer to replace her voice.

When Crowe heard the song, she was so “terrified” that she was “literally hyperventilating”.

“I know John and I know the nuances of his voice,” she says. “And there would be no way you could tell he wasn't singing that song.”

His horror deepened when Drake used AI to recreate the late rapper Tupac Shakur's voice on his song Taylor Made Freestyle earlier this year.

The track was later taken down after lawyers for Tupac's estate threatened to sue, but Crowe says it should never have been released in the first place.

“You can't bring people back from the dead and trust them to stand up for it,” she protests.

“I'm sure Drake thought, 'Yeah, I shouldn't do this, but I'll say sorry later'. But it's already happened, and people will find him even if he takes it down.”

“It's disgusting. It goes against the life force that exists in all of us.”

image caption, The star is touring Europe this summer to promote his new Evolution album.

As a mother of two teenagers, she is concerned about the implications of AI in not only music, but also politics and society.

If voices and likenesses can be faked, how can we stop the spread of misinformation? And what happens to the workforce when AI takes over everyday tasks?

“I talk to my kids about it,” she says.

“I'm like, 'You're growing up with this thing and it doesn't seem dangerous to you because you're a frog in a pot of water. But the water is just starting to boil, and you don't realize it. That it's getting hotter until we're all floating up”.

Starr has already called for politicians to tighten controls on AI – but although she worries about the speed of its progress, she also sees a glimmer of hope.

“AI can do a lot of things, but it can't go out and go live,” she says.

“So as long as we have live music, as long as we have hands holding paint brushes, all is not lost.”

'I wanted to be strong'

Live music is on his mind as Crowe has just wrapped up a week of UK concerts at historic venues such as Blenheim Palace and Hampton Court.

The setlists lean heavily on her first four albums, including 1990s radio staples like Everyday Is A Winding Road, Soak Up The Sun, My Favorite Mistek and Living Las Vegas.

The 62-year-old woman says she is content playing hit songs.

“What a gift, to be able to go out and play at my age. I literally look at my band and go, 'I can't believe we're still doing this!'” she laughs.

Calm and relaxed despite her jet set, Crowe exudes plenty of rock star energy as she struts around in a plum velvet vest and flared blue jeans from the BBC.

But despite 50 million record sales, she gives the impression that her career is one big happy accident.

'more brash'

Born in Missouri, Crowe became a high-achieving all-state track athlete and a majorette at school — but she never quite fit in, constantly finding herself “on the periphery of many different cliques.”

Music was his outlet. Rejecting “corporate” bands like Boston and Foreigner, she gravitated to the charm and glamor of blues and rock.

“I wanted to rock more, you know? Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, that kind of thing.

His first group didn't provide much opportunity for bravado. A band that covered weddings and events, their repertoire included hits by Hugh Lewis and Hart. “All the greats from the '80s,” she smiles. “Not my favorite era of music.”

After school, she studied classical piano, then moved to St. Louis to become a music teacher, while moonlighting as a club singer.

“One night, a producer came in and asked if I would come in and sing a couple jingles for him, and those jingles paid me more than all my years of education.”

He earned enough to move to LA from Toyota and McDonald's armed with demo tapes of his commercials.

This led to more work as a session singer and eventually work on Michael Jackson's Bad Tour (he used to throw sweets at him over the dressing room wall).

“After the Jackson tour, I had seen all this and I tried to get a record deal,” she says.

“But I wasn't a technical singer like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, and I wasn't interested in doing dance music like Madonna and Paula Abdul.”

image source, Getty Images

image caption, During the 1988 Bad Tour, Crowe frequently performed the song I Just Can't Stop Loving You with Michael Jackson.

Eventually, A&M Records took a punt – inspired by a self-produced demo heavily influenced by Sting and Peter Gabriel's solo albums.

He paired it with Sting's producer, Hugh Padgham, but after the album was finished, Crowe lost faith in the material.

“I just couldn't find myself in it. The songs were harmless and didn't really represent who I wanted to be.

He was not impressed when he told the label.

“That record cost a lot of money. I'm talking $450,000 in the 1990s, and they needed to pay that money back.

“So it was really, really hard. They weren't in a rush to get me back in the studio.

The finished album

Eventually, she joined the songwriting collective, Tuesday Music Club, through her then-boyfriend Kevin Gilbert. Every week, they would gather in Pasadena and try to write a complete song before dawn.

The sessions were recorded by Michael Jackson's producer Bill Bottrell at “About Two Cents” and released in 1993 as the Crowe's debut album.

Blending roots, Americana, emotional confessions, melody and wit, the album was slow to catch fire. It didn't even chart for the first seven months of release.

In the UK, Danny Baker was an early champion, playing singles Run, Baby Run and Living Las Vegas on BBC Radio 1 – but it was the barroom slice-of-life anthem All I Wanna Do that changed the album's fortunes. gave Much to Crow's surprise.

“I wasn't convinced of what I wanted to do,” she says. “I felt it was far from a drunken night of jamming.

“But on reflection, there was something very authentic in the spirit of that song. There was a lot of irritation and apathy with this old man at the time. [George Bush Sr] In office, but also Bill Clinton's high hopes of appealing to MTV's audience. So I think the song captured a moment.”

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Tuesday Night Music Club was one of the best-selling albums of the 1990s in the United States.

A top-five hit on both sides of the Atlantic, it helped Tuesday Night Music Club sell more than 11 million copies worldwide… but Crowe still felt like an outsider.

Grunge and alternative rock were on the rise, and no one knew what to do with this country-coded throwback rock singer.

“I wasn't cool with Pearl Jam,” she recalls. “I definitely wasn't cool enough to crack a pumpkin.

“But what hurt was that I was embraced by people I loved. The Rolling Stones took me on the road with them and Bob Dylan invited me to open for him. What an incredible gift.” “

Flirting with Fleetwood

Dylan contributed an unreleased song, Mississippi, to Crowe's third album, The Globe Sessions. He recorded a Bond theme, Tomorrow Never Dies, and a duet with Prince and Johnny Cash.

She was even considered to replace Christine McVie on Fleetwood Mac's 2003 world tour.

“There were things, yes, but I kind of blew it,” she says.

“I talked about it in the press. And I think Lindsay [Buckingham] Really…” she stops herself before saying the wrong thing.

“I mean, I love everybody in this band. And I'm proud to be able to say that. Just getting to know them has been amazing.”

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Stevie Nicks sang Strong Enough and Everyday Is a Winding Road with Crowe as she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last November.

image source, Getty Images

image caption, Olivia Rodrigo also attended the event, playing a rousing version of If It Makes You Happy.

Stevie Nicks has been a huge presence in her life before and since.

Last November, she came to support Crowe at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“I'm so proud of you,” Nicks told the singer. “This is a very high club for us ladies. I found out at four in the morning and had to dance for you in my room.

Also joining the celebration was Olivia Rodrigo, who spoke highly of Crowe's influence on her songwriting.

She is not alone.

Indie supergroup Boygenius wrote their breakout hit Not Strong Enough as a response to Crowe's song Strong Enough. Kacey Musgraves recorded her Golden Hour at Crowe's home studio in Nashville. And St. Vincent recently called for advice on the production of his new album.

Crow is blown away by all the love that comes his way.

“It's amazing,” she says. “The young women playing and singing and writing authentically right now blows my mind because, 15 or 20 years ago, I was really worried that everything was just dance routines and lip syncs. And there are breasts and lips.

“I was just like, 'When are we going to have young female songwriters who pick up a guitar and tell us where they are with a guitar?

“And I'm seeing it now with Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor and Boygenius and Courtney Barnett. It's so much fun. I feel so hopeful.”

image source, Will Scowns

image caption, Crowe says she still loves being on tour: “It's an honor. I feel happy.”

And what if his sons decide to follow him on stage?

She's already made a brief (but cute) appearance during her Glastonbury set in 2019, and the singer says she'll be there to support, no matter where life takes her.

“I try to help my kids navigate their lives, as opposed to trying to orchestrate their lives,” she says.

“Nothing is off limits. I even tell my kids, 'If you drink, my phone is on, you come to call me, you won't be grounded'.”

Isn't it because they could easily look up his youthful misdeeds on Google?

“We talked about it!” she laughs. “I talked about the fact that I can't believe I'm alive, you know?

“I remember nights of recording in Pasadena and driving home in my car, and not remembering how I got there. I'm very lucky, some people aren't.

“I tell my kids, 'Don't trust in angels'… but there are angels.”

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