“Making this album felt like a travel in time,” Sheryl Crow tells Apple Music. “There was a lot of reflection involved.” The trailblazing rock icon—whose conversational, subversive megahits helped soundtrack the past three decades—says that her 11th album Threads will be her last. But she isn’t retiring so much as changing gears; from here on, she’ll focus on releasing singles and playing shows. “I am unequivocally not going to stop touring,” she says. “I’ve had a wonderful, long career of making albums. I’m up for something different now.” To cap off her LP era, Crow assembled a staggering crew of rock, blues, and country legends to sing alongside her, a roster that feels lifted from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There are her idols, like Stevie Nicks, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, and Willie Nelson; friends and peers, like St. Vincent and Gary Clark Jr.; and next-generation superstars like Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile who are set to carry her torch. “These are people who inspired me to do what I'm doing, whose records I pored over as a young girl and studied as a young songwriter,” she says. “It's a history of my influences and a look forward.” So it's fitting that Threads includes a mix of original songs and classic covers, and one track that’s a bit of both: She and Johnny Cash duet on a new version of her 1996 song “Redemption Day,” which Cash covered in 2003 shortly before his death. Here, she tells us about a few of the project's highlights. “Prove You Wrong” (feat. Stevie Nicks & Maren Morris) “Stevie was one of my first calls. Not only has she been a great friend and collaborator over the years, but she was one of my original inspirations for doing what I do. I wanted to be that girl in the ballet slippers on the cover of Fleetwood Mac. Inviting Maren in just made sense. She’s sort of like a godchild to Stevie and I—super fierce, loves that connection with her audience, and truly has her own perspective on life. That song is a celebration of strong women bringing it.” “Live Wire” (feat. Bonnie Raitt & Mavis Staples) “I saw Bonnie play when I was 17 years old. It was the first time I'd seen a woman play an electric guitar, and it was a defining moment for me as a young artist. And Mavis’ music—and the music of The Staple Singers—was the soundtrack to my childhood in the late '60s and early '70s.” “Beware of Darkness” (feat. Eric Clapton, Sting & Brandi Carlile) “I’ve always been a huge George Harrison fan, and this song is off of All Things Must Pass, which is probably my desert island album. I wanted to record this as a tribute to George, but also as a message to my children: to let them know that while they're living through what we're going through, they must witness people either moving towards light or moving towards darkness. I think that explains a lot about why we are where we are. I reached out to Eric—who knew George well and actually played on the original song, and who's been a dear friend of mine for the better part of 20 years—and he started working on it in his studio. He must've spent a few days on it, because I felt like he tapped into something bigger. When I heard it, it made me cry. He must've felt George's presence while he was playing. Sting has also been a very good friend from the beginning; it was because I gave my cassette tape to his producer that I got a record deal way back in the day. And in the years since, we’ve stayed friends and he’s been there for me in a lot of my own personal turmoil. So I wanted him on this as well.” “Redemption Day” “I feel like this song finally found its moment. It’s timely. It speaks to the fact that our children bear witness to the decisions that we make, you know? We model their future. I’m passionate about that. And having known who Johnny Cash was and what he stood for, to have him singing with me in this new version was a very profound experience. It’s still hard for me to listen to it. I can feel his presence.” “The Worst” (feat. Keith Richards) “Not a lot of people know this, but in the late '80s, I was a schoolteacher in St. Louis and went to see the taping of [the music documentary] Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll with Chuck Berry and Keith Richards. I was in the audience on a Friday night, taking it in. Cut to 20 years later, I’m recording with Keith Richards, with Steve Jordan producing, so you never know what can happen to a small-town girl—a town with three stoplights. It’s amazing what can happen in your life.” “Lonely Alone” (feat. Willie Nelson) “I sat down with a friend of mine and said, ‘I want to write a song that's worthy of Willie.’ Now, I’ve sung with Willie for the last 25 years, and he is do I put this? I feel like singing with Willie Nelson is my kind of high, and I wanted to make sure I wrote a song that he could really sink his teeth into. We wrote this with him in mind.” “Wouldn't Want to Be Like You” (feat. St. Vincent) “This song is a comment on our relationship to the truth. It’s about the fact that while we're teaching our kids that the truth matters, we're seeing it become an inconvenience to people at the top of our government. I sent the track to Annie [Clark] and said, ‘Look, I've written this. Sit with it and let me know if you want to be a part of this.’ She got right back to me and said, ‘I’m in,’ although I think her direct words were ‘F—k yeah.’”

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