Like scores of rock and pop artists, Sheryl Crow knows the days when she'll see her albums routinely sell several million copies have passed.
With downloading and file sharing, record sales are down significantly in every genre. She no longer expects to get her songs played on commercial radio, and finds that satellite radio and National Public Radio are now her main outlets for airplay.
"I think pop radio is very driven by beats, by young artists, a lot of dance music, a lot of rap well not rap, I guess, but R&B," says Crow. "It's just a different time. It's about what sells, and it's much more difficult to get on pop radio."
So how will Crow keep her career on track in this environment? The best strategy, Crow says, is simply to stay true to her earthy brand of pop music and the heartfelt lyrics that populate her songs.
"The best I can do is make records that matter to me, that I think have integrity, and just trust that there will always be a need for singer-songwriters."
Crow does just that on her latest CD, Detours, which finds her reunited with producer/songwriting collaborator Bill Bottrell for the first time since Crow's hugely popular, triple-Grammy-winning 1993 debut CD, Tuesday Night Music Club. The album is being widely hailed as the most personal and outspoken record of her career.
The CD comes after a challenging three-year period that saw her much-publicized romance with cyclist Lance Armstrong end in early 2006, followed just days later by the news that Crow had breast cancer and needed to undergo what was described as minimally invasive surgery, followed by radiation treatment.
On the brighter side, Crow, 46, adopted a baby boy, Wyatt, last spring and says she is relishing her life as a mother.
"I couldn't even begin to know that it was going to be as wonderful as it is," Crow says. "I'm really lucky that he's a very curious child, very game and a good little traveler and just a healthy and happy, joyful little guy. So it just makes every day like Christmas."
Social and political concerns filter into a good number of songs on Detours, which finds Crow emphasizing ballads and mid-tempo material and a more acoustic-centric sound than on her six previous albums.
"Gasoline" is a futuristic tale of oil and greed. "Peace Be Upon Us" laments the misguided motivations of war. And several songs (including "Motivation" and "God Bless this Mess") touch on the idea that people have become too distracted with their own lives and pursuits to care about the problems of the nation and world.
And yes, a few songs deal with romantic struggles. There has been speculation that three songs in particular "Now That You're Gone," "Drunk with the Thought of You" and "Diamond Ring" are about the Armstrong breakup. But Crow cautions against taking that narrow of a view.
"I think the experiences of those songs are very universal," says Crow. "I've been in several relationships that have ended up being really learning experiences for me. I wouldn't say that everything was relegated to the Lance relationship. There's a lot to be learned from all your relationships."