Sheryl Crow Admits 'My Favorite Mistake' Is Her 'You're So Vain' Moment: 'I Carly-ed It' (Exclusive)

The singer-songwriter's 1998 hit has long been thought to be about Eric Clapton, but Crow says "the song is older" than their brief relationship

<p>Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty</p> Sheryl Crow at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty

Sheryl Crow at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Sheryl Crow doesn’t kiss and tell — especially not in the lyrics of her songs.

Crow, 61, prefers to keep her cards close to her chest when it comes to the romances that inspired some of her biggest hits, including “My Favorite Mistake.”

The song, about a cheating ex she just can’t bring herself to hate, was the first single off her 1998 album The Globe Sessions — and despite rumors it was inspired by a late ‘90s romance with Eric Clapton, Crow tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue that that’s not the case. She even likens it to Carly Simon's 1972 hit "You're So Vain," the narcissistic subjects of which Simon has vowed never to publicly reveal (Though she did say in 2015 that verse two was about Warren Beatty).

“It’s still so personal to me that I don’t know that anybody knows who it’s really about. I guess it’s my 'You’re So Vain' moment—I Carly [Simon]-ed it,” says Crow. “People thought it was [about Clapton] because I had been dating him for a little bit; I love Eric, and I admire him, but the song was older than that.”

Related: Sheryl Crow Says 'Having to Defend' Herself from 'Very Sexist' Men Inspired Her Hit 'If It Makes You Happy' (Exclusive)

Crow says that during the writing process for The Globe Sessions, she’d been engaged to an unidentified ex and the relationship had recently ended. She also found herself “uprooted” from Los Angeles and moving to New York City.

“[I] was really, really raw from a relationship I had had that was just simply a very bad idea,” she says. “A lot of that record was weeding through the upheaval, digging through the subterfuge.”

Years down the line, Crow and Clapton, 78, remain friends; she was on the bill for his Crossroads Guitar Festival in Los Angeles in September, and he featured on her 2019 album Threads. The two have even performed “My Favorite Mistake” together.

Related: Sheryl Crow Says Being Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Alongside Her Heroes Is a 'Giant Honor' (Exclusive)

Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect Eric Clapton and Sheryl Crow
Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect Eric Clapton and Sheryl Crow

Though Crow — who will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Friday in a ceremony in New York — said that Threads would be her last record, she’s changed her tune, and has announced a new album, called Evolution, will be out on March 29, 2024.

“I said I was never putting out another album, but there are several songs on that that I feel like are, to me, the best songs I’ve ever written,” she says. “I’m excited! You can never be too old to be excited. You can watch lines grow on your face and you can watch some of your abs start to really disappear, but you’re never too old to get excited.”

For more on Sheryl Crow, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

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