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SHANIA TWAIN NEWS, ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS INTERVIEW WITH BRYAN WHITE
Modern Screen's Country Music, July 1998
One of the highlights of Shania Twain's third album, Come On Over, is her incredible duet with Bryan white, "From This Moment On," where Dry once again proves he's got some of the most unique chops in all of country music. We asked the handsome superstar who is currently on the road with LeAnn Rimes knocking 'em dead everynight on their "Let's Give 'Em Something To Talk About" tour, about the song and his time recording it with Shania and her producer/husband Mutt Lange.
Mike Greenblatt: Great duet with Shania Twain!
Bryan White: Thank you. To me, that was one of the best experiences of last year. I'd never actually collaborated, as far as a duet, with anybody before, so it became a lot of fun. I got to go up to New York, where Shania and Mutt have a beautiful house, to work on it with them. I fee! it was just another great creative outlet for me, just SO much fun to do it. They let me do exactly what I wanted to do, and I think we blended real well together. I have a feeling it'll be a real successful, real strong record.
MG: How did it make you feel when Shania said you have, "the best male voice in country music. Beyond coun-try music! He's an excellent excellent singer. So he NEEDED to be on this record because the song soars. It demands that. It demands' dynamics."
BW: [smiling] I appreciate it. That's a flattering compliment. It makes me glad to hear something like that.
MG: Just how much fun was it to work on that song with her?
BW: A lot, believe me. I'm not kidding. Mainly because I got to work out all kinds of different arrangement things with them. I say "them" a lot because I think of it as not only working with Shania but also with Mutt, who's SO much a part of her sound. They were always both there. Basically, a lot of her [vocal] part was already down when I arrived. That meant I, mostly, did my part to her track because she had already finished. But that was ok. I did my part, and, vocally, it was extremely challenging. That's what made it so interesting and fun. It was SO different from anything I usually do. Plus, it's such a well written song, and, y'know, it takes not only a great song, but when it comes to recording a duet, it takes two people who can really make the song believable and make it work. Only then does it happen. I considered it a great honor to be able to work with both of them.
MG: Who could've handled that song, maybe John Berry or Collin Raye. It's a real credit to your vocal chops. Congratulations. What other kind of stuff have you been listening to? We've talked before and I know your tastes are SO varied. Is there anything that has captured your attention of late?
BW: [pause] Urn, you know, I think the thing I find myself goin' back to more and more is probably soul music. I listen to A LOT of Stevie Wonder stuff. I mean, if you go back and listen to that, it's like some of the best music ever recorded, especially the songs on his unbelievable album Songs In The Key Of Life. There's SQ much truth to that music and I think, regardless, some of that stuff just doesn't fall in any cate-gory. I think it's just great music, and you know, obviously, I like all the greats. Country-wise, it's still Steve Warmer for me. I loved his music growin' up and I've always been his biggest FANatic. Let's see, who else? Oh, I know. I'm a HUGE Vince Gill fan. And I realize that there's also a lot of other great music out there.
MG: How 'bout your own music? Anything new to tell us?
BW:Definitely. I have been doing some songwriting with a lot of different kinds of writers. One which may sound like a surprise is Richard Marx.
MG: The rock'n'roll guy?
BW: [chuckles] Yeah.
MG: So when can we expect a little hard rock to creep into the Bryan White sound?
BW: [laughing] No, that won't be me, no, no. Actually, Richard is a really really great melodic writer and lyric writer, I think his forte has always been a lot of great ballads. He had a lot of success, y'know, with "Right Here Waiting," "Endless Summer Nights" and "Hold Onto The Night." I'm always workin' ahead, lookin' toward the next project.
MG: OK, so no hard rock or heavy metal for Bryan White. I find it interesting, though, you mention Stevie Wonder, because I swore I heard a definite Stevie Wonder influence when you were singing "Let's Give 'Em Something To Talk About" with LeAnn Rimes on the Late night With David Letterman TV show. You've always had that little soulful thing goin', and on that particular Bonnie Raitt song it became much more pronounced.
BW: Thank you, thank you, but, I gotta say, I don't know if I can hear Stevie in my voice, but I sure do like his music.
SHANIAMANIA HITS THE ROAD
Shania Twain stands triumphantly at center stage, arms raised in victory, fists pumping.
"I feel great!" she yells amid the roar of her adoring fans. "I've been waiting so long for this day and now it's finally here! I feel pumped!"
The Canadian superstar is kicking off her first tour since she burst onto the country charts three years ago. Explosions, fireworks, giant video screens, costume changes, and even a dazzling magic trick offer a visual spectacle as Shania fever sweeps through the crowd in Sudbury, Ontario.
"Are you ready? We're just getting started. I've got a lot of energy to burn!" Shania exclaims before igniting the audience with a spirited rendition of "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" It's just one of the 23 songs she plucks from her multi-million-selling albums The Woman in Me and Come On Over for the long-awaited show.
"I've been involved in every aspect of the production," she tells COUNTRY WEEKLY with a hint of pride. "We're offering the best in lighting and sound, but the music will always be first.
"We've been arranging some of the songs so they'll fit better into a live setting. They're slightly different arrangements but everybody will know the songs. We actually had to cut the show down from two-and-a-half hours to two hours. We wanted to get people home before midnight.
"There won't be too many lulls. We've designed it so that everything flows. We're packing a lot of energy into the show."
And money, too. "I keep signing big checks week after week," she laughs. "I'm not even sure how much it costs."
It's been proclaimed Shania Twain Day in Sudbury, and it's just that for the 5,000 fans getting a first look at the brilliant production Shania will be taking on the road for the next two years.
"We drove over five hours from Ottawa and it was well worth the trip," bubbles Dave Hetherington. "She's awesome!"
Well-wisher Cathy Leger brings a framed embroidered portrait of the star that is a 120 hour labor of love, and hopes to present it to her sometime during the evening.
"I've been a fan of hers right from the beginning," says Leger, who gives her handiwork to one of the country star's nine band members for delivery.
As the big show begins, Shania - decked out in a leather vest, gold lame tank top, skin-tight black pants and platform running shoes - sings and struts around her huge gray metallic stage. Her husband/producer Mutt Lange, making a rare public appearance, mans the sound board, overcoming echo problems in the arena normally used for hockey games.
Four gigantic video screens project the action. Five rows of computerized spotlights and three huge searchlights - more common at movie premieres than a concert setting - light up the stage. Massive stacks of more than 60 speakers are suspended from the ceiling, providing a powerful wallop for Shania's words.
Shania ends the memorable "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!" by standing on a giant snare drum. There's an explosion, a puff of smoke, and then the singer disappears. Moments later she reappears in the audience standing atop a platform held up by six security guards. The crowd goes wild, their arms reaching out to touch her.
"It's a relief," Shania says later. "You never really know how the public's going to take you. Do they really want to see me? I hope they're not sick of me."
In city after sold-out city of her historic tour, Shania will be making the most of local talent.
"I'm augmenting it with a lot of local stuff," she explains. "There's a local choir, a local drummer, and we're bringing somebody out onstage every night to sing. It's a very interactive show. I want to involve all the local communities."
Sudbury resident Suzanne Nault is certainly involved at the first concert. Her prize for winning a karaoke contest sponsored by a local roadhouse: a pair of front-row tickets and a chance to sing "What Made You Say That" onstage, with Shania.
The crowd laps it up.
"It takes a lot of guts to come up here and do that," Shania says as she embraces Suzanne. "It's a nerve-wracking experience."
Shania's striking gold in the nickel-mining town of Sudbury, but she had hoped to kick off the tour in her hometown of Timmins. "I was very disappointed to find that they had already booked the venue way in advance," she explains.
"Then I thought about doing it outdoors, but they just didn't have the facilities. It was impossible."
However, she emphasizes that Sudbury was no secondhand substitute.
"I lived here for five years and went to school here," says Shania. "So there are a lot of good memories. Plus, it isn't too far for everyone in Timmins to travel."
In fact, more than 800 hometown supporters made the three-and-a-half hour trek. Family, friends and familiar faces dot the audience. At one point between songs, Shania recognizes an old school pal. She waves and yells, "How are you? Thanks for the letters!"
There's another homey touch, as Shania sings a soulful version of "God Bless the Child," backed by the angelic voices of a local high-school choir.
Shania sits cross-legged onstage to croon a tasteful medley of "Home Ain't Where His Heart Is (Anymore)," "The Woman in Me" and "I Won't Leave You Lonely" that leaves the crowd in a state of mush.
Shania's personal touch extends to her hand-picked opening act, the high-energy, nine-member brother and sister act from Lakefield, Ontario, called Leahy. Their fiddling, Irish step dancing and Celtic music fascinates Shania.
"I chose them because I wanted something really exciting to warm up the crowd," she says. The band also joins her onstage to re-enact the dancing sequence in the video for "Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)."
"It's funny how things worked out, because the video choreography in ÔDon't Be Stupid' seems to complement what they do, and that wasn't planned at all," Shania says.
Something Shania did plan is to maintain fitness. Now that she's on the road, she'll be sticking to a strict routine.
"Eat, sleep and rest are going to be the priorities," says Shania. "I'm very fit, and I've been very specific about my diet. I've hired a tour assistant who will cook for me, and everything will be healthy. Everything is designed for me to tour very comfortably so I can give 100 percent when I'm onstage every night.
"If anything, this tour should be easier because I don't have to worry about setting up lights, pushing around an amp or driving around in a cube van," she says, recalling the struggling days of touring Ontario, fronting various rock and country bands.
As a rule, Shania will keep a fixed schedule to preserve her stamina. "I'm going to be very selfish with my time," vows the singer, who is taking her horse along with her on tour. "My mornings are going to be free so I can walk my dog Tim and go riding.
"If I feel I need to exercise or need to stretch out, I'll do that in the morning. Then in the afternoon
I'll show up at sound check and start my day. All my meet and greets are before the show. Health is the priority on this tour."
After sweating it out for two hours night in and night out, Shania has only one destination in mind: her custom-designed tour bus and eight hours of comfortable, undisturbed sleep.
"To be honest, I'm going to be pretty exhausted," she admits. "I'm going to soak in a hot bath and then go to bed. I'm not one of those people who stays up til 4:00 in the morning eating pizza and drinking beer."
As for the daily menu, Shania says the emphasis is going to be on fresh foods. "There won't be any restaurants, or anything from cans or packages for me," she says. "I love pasta, but I can't eat it all the time. Fresh is the key word: a lot of fresh juices, vegetables and proteins."
To ensure peace and quiet on the bus, Shania says, "There's also a separate door if management needs to come in and make some phone calls or whatever for business. But there's a private area in my bus that's only for me. I need that privacy."
Husband Mutt won't be at every concert. "That's not unusual," she says. "We've spent a lot of time apart. But things are going to be paced a little differently. When I take breaks they're going to be ten day breaks, so we'll be able to spend more than a week together, which is a luxury.
"Even when I have a few days off now and again, they're not really days off because you're always doing something. There's business details to attend to, things that need your attention, so you don't really have time off. This time, there will be no interruptions."
For now, she's just concentrating on life on the road. After months of rehearsals, where Shania ran through the show up to four times in a 10-hour day, she feels that her audience will finally get to see the real her.
"I am finally in my element. Everything came together exactly the way I planned, and it's every bit as wonderful as I imagined it to be.
"It's a big relief."
|TWAIN BELLYS UP TO THE CAMERAS |
Tyler McLeod, Calgary Sun, Jun 4, 1998
Yeah, seeing Shania Twain live would be nice. But can it compete with her videos? It's difficult to see her belly button from Row 68. A round-up of those oft-played clips featuring that oh-so-oft-shown navel:
* You Lay a Whole Lot Of Love On Me: Sappy ballad, Montreal scenery and Twain with shockingly large hair. It provides only a glimpse of her midriff before some schmuck covers her up with his coat. 1 (out of five)
* Dance With The One Who Brought You: Sean Penn directed this '93 clip. Memorable only for Twain flirting with Charles Durning. 1.5
* What Made You Say That: Obviously shot in Miami, it seems like a Paula Abdul video, but it's still fun. She frolics on the beach with a half-naked hunk. There are 13 glorious belly-button shots. 5
* Any Man Of Mine: We counted 50 belly-button flashes. Still the definitive Twain video since storming CMT in 1995, has her on a cattle drive in chaps, wandering the bedroom in a towel, surveying the barn in a black evening gown and taking a bubble bath. Twain shimmies, shakes, and makes the Earth quake. 5
* Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?: The men dining in the Longhorn Coffee Shop are a case for The X-Files. Twain slithers from one lap to the other and none of them pays any notice. She even table-dances with no takers. Bizarre. The guitar covers her midriff in all but three shots. 3
* The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You): Dreamy clip of Twain in angelic poses and outfits. What do the pyramids have to do the song? Who cares -- six belly-button glimpses and Twain on horseback. 4
* (If You're Not In It For Love) I'm Outta Here!: Twain's rock video. Slo-mo dancers a la Smells Like Teen Spirit, annoying Fame-wannabes and a boring set. The good news? There are 53 belly-button glimpses. 2
* You Win My Love: Call it "Go, Speed Racer, A-Go-Go." Twain, in leather, cruises around a go-cart track. She shows off her "classy little chassis" and does cartwheels. Eleven belly buttons. 3
* No One Needs To Know: Back on the front porch. We finally get to see her band, but little of her midriff. A belly button is only visible in the last shot. 3
* Home Ain't Where His Heart Is (Anymore): The clip turns from a Harlequin romance to movie of the week when (as if!) some schmuck walks out on a maternal Twain. 2
* God Bless The Child: An insultingly glossy video for what is purported to be a serious song. She struts and prances in fronts of a gospel choir like a preacher. 1
* Love Gets Me Every Time: Twain enters a room filled with outfits. And she wears them all, taking the time eat a banana and roll around on the floor. 2
* Don't Be Stupid: It ain't stupid to combine two hot tickets, Shania Twain and Riverdance, into one video. Twain gets jiggy with a group of Celtic artists in what appears to be a flood zone. 3.5
* You're Still The One: Shania sells seashells by the seashore. Apparently Twain has been shipwrecked in a Brut commercial and the only torso we see belongs to a hunk. It's the most beefcake in a Twain vid since What Made You Say That? 1.5
| ||IN HER OWN WORDS |
Anika Van Wyk, Calgary Sun, Jun 4, 1998
She could easily let her music do the talking. But Canadian country superstar Shania Twain has always been forthcoming with the media. She has talked openly about her childhood, her dreams of being a singer, her marriage to Robert John (Mutt) Lange and, of course, her ascent to stardom. Here is Shani a Twain, talking about the woman in her.
On her beginnings:
* "We were extremely poor when I was a kid and I used to just sing and play guitar in my bedroom as an escape. But my mother noticed my singing ability and lived with the hope that it would lead me to something special. My parents got me out of the house, and I performed everywhere they could get me booked - every TV station, every radio station, every community centre, every old-age home."
* "I'm very thankful for any of the hardships that I've gone through because I think it's easy to become an egomaniac in this industry. Everybody's always telling you how great you are and you get so caught up in all of it that nobody likes you anymore. I don't want to be that person."
* "I pretty much missed my childhood. My personal life changed drastically. When my parents died, my brothers and younger sister were still living at home. My brothers were only 13 and 14 years old and I became sister/mom. I had responsibilities, so I couldn't just go around getting gigs here and there, or writing only when I felt like it. I took a job singing at a resort (Deerhurst). I bought a house, a family truck, and settled down - I thought forever."
On her success:
* "There are days I just have to pinch myself to make certain I'm not dreaming."
* "Right now, when you're this popular, it's all about what color clothes to wear and how big a hat. The reality is that you can't be No. 1 all the time. There is great talent waiting in the wings. It's your songs, not your celebrity that will give you your longevity."
On her tour:
* "Now (with the release of Come On Over) I have enough songs to do a proper-length show with original material. You can't be a headlining act and get up and do only six songs. I never wanted to be in the position of having to fill the gaps. As a songwriter, that would have been too insulting to me."
* "I don't want a show that's over-produced. There will be great lights, excellent sound and a band that's animated and the live arrangements of the songs will be a big part of the dynamics of the show. But it won't be as slick as a Janet Jackson show."
On her image:
* "I don't want to be seen as just a pretty face with a pretty voice."
* "I refuse to play down the way I look in order to be taken seriously as an artist. I mean, if I had an office job, I wouldn't show up for work baring my midriff . But this is entertainment.... I don't wanna be 50 years old thinking: I should have enjoyed it while I had it."
* "I'm still not able to walk down the beach without a beach wrap. I don't think I'll ever be able to. It's kinda dumb."
* "I developed very young and I was very much into sports. So now I wasn't just running on the football team as one of the guys; I was running on the football team bouncing! I started wearing layers of clothing.... I really withdrew from wanting to be girl."
* "My message to teens or women pertaining to this subject is if you used to wear a T-shirt before you got a chest, you still should wear a T-shirt. And don't stop doing things because you're afraid of bouncing. That's you - you're going to bounce."
On her music:
* "The music has elements that were familiar to country listeners and elements that were familiar to pop and rock listeners. There's a lot of people who listen to my album who listen to the Smashing Pumpkins and there are other who might have a George Strait album along with mine."
On her hometown of Timmins, Ont.:
* "I feel like the same person as when I left town."
* "This proves that you can come from a small town and still go a long way."
* "I always look forward to coming back to Canada and seeing everyone."
On her family and heritage:
* "I don't know how much Indian blood I actually have in me, but as the adopted daughter of my father , Jerry, I became legally registered as 50 percent North American Indian. Being raised by a full-blooded Indian and being part of his family and their culture from a young age is all I've know. That heritage is my heart and my soul, and I'm very proud of it."
On her husband/producer/writing partner Robert John (Mutt) Lange:
* "Our relationship started because we were compatible creatively ... so that's really one of the parts of our relationship that is the most compatible."
* "He's the type of guy who almost never puts the guitar down. He's always got it on him, he walks around with it."
* "If we can't agree (while writing), and we're just like this, we usually try to find an alternative - that's part of the fun actually.
* "If we can't compromise, because it's very difficult to compromise artistically, we take up the challenge of finding another way of saying it and it always comes out better that way."
* "When we wrote (The Woman In Me), we weren't together romantically yet.We've come such a long way as co-writers.
* "We just know each other so much better. With this album (Come On Over), we know each other so well that it's easier to challenge each other.
* "We're not as intimidated with each other and that opens up a whole bunch of new creative doors."
* "Mutt's a huge country music fan. I may be the princess in his life, but Tammy Wynette is the Queen!"
On having children:
* "(Getting pregnant) is something I'm trying to avoid at the moment because I obviously have big plans to tour. Perhaps, at one point that will happen, but not at the moment."
On her influences:
* "I grew up listening to Waylon, Willie, Dolly, Tammy, all of them. My parents were obsessed with country music. But we also listened to the Mamas and the Papas, The Carpenters, The Supremes, The Jacksons and such."
On her love of animals:
* "I really love animals and I become quite excited and childlike around them. Even watching them from a distance is extremely pleasurable to me."
|BREAKING ALL THE RULES |
Mike Ross, Edmonton Sun, Jun 3, 1998
What beautiful irony.
Robert Oermann publishes an exhaustive tome about women in country music, Finding Her Voice. He cleverly times his book tour one day ahead of Shania Twain's tour, thus ensuring press from towns hungry for more hype - and the book doesn't even mention Shania Twain!
The dapper Nashville-based writer shrugs, "It went to press literally right before she broke."
During an interview yesterday, he promises the sequel will include a chapter on Shania Twain, one of the biggest stars country music has ever seen. A gorgeous Canadian singer who has no problem flaunting her sexuality also creates music that sounds like Def Leppard with a cowboy hat (thanks l argely to husband producer Mutt Lange) and sells 12 million albums?! Make that two chapters.
In breaking all the rules, Twain has redefined country music, says Oermann. "We've got somebody who just isn't following the genre - she's leading it."
In case you didn't know already, Twain performs tonight in the Coliseum.
Oermann, dubbed the "dean of Nashville's music writers" and one of the most powerful pundits in the country scene, admits he's a traditionalist, but he is a Shania fan.
Since pop music has "lost its centre," he says, a star like Shania Twain came along at the perfect time. Country music has always reflected the era in which it was made, "and right now, young people growing up today are in dance clubs and shopping malls - and that's the kind of act she is. Sh e is very much the young woman in her little fun outfit doing the dance clubs and singing vaguely post-feminist lyrics that don't ask for equality. They kind of expect it, like Any Man of Mine. It's very '90s to me. There's something very accessible about what she does. You can't walk around humming a Celine Dion song all day long, but you hear one of Shania Twain's tunes on the radio and whether you like it or not, it's going to stick in your brain."
Oermann caught the opening show in Sudbury and gave it the big thumbs up. Imagine a loud rock band with a layer of fiddle and accordion on top, he says. Imagine costume changes (at least three in all). Imagine hearing not two songs go by where Shania isn't bringing someone on stage, greeting fans, singing with the children's choir or doing something wonderful and wholesome. She blows some stuff up, too.
And the crowd wasn't just "a bunch of little Shania Spice Girls wannabes bouncing around in little outfits," as he expected, but everyone from teenage boys to grandmothers - a testament to the accessibility of modern country music. Shania pulls it off with the best of them.
"The show is excellent," Oermann reports. "She sang for two hours. She worked her butt off. By any measure, whether you like her music or not, it is a vindication for her. There's something about her that I like, and not just physically. There's some grit there. She has a kind of steely deter mination about her. She's the girl in your high school class that got straight As not because she was the most gifted, but because she studied really, really hard. And I like her for it."
Not only that, but "it's an incredibly important tour. She's the only act out there right now that has not been seen. Lilith Fair, we did that already. Lollapalooza's not going out this year. There's nothing else going out this year that is like the artist of the moment and here she is launch ing a tour with a No. 1 pop record. The live performance business, frankly, has been in the toilet during the past two years. This tour is not just important for country music, it's important for the whole entertainment business. And I think that she brings it off."
Amazingly, there are a hundred or so tickets left for tonight's show, but they're behind the stage (not that it's necessarily a bad thing with Shania Twain).
Call Ticketmaster at 451-8000 to order.
| ||HOMECOMING QUEEN |
Rick Overall, Ottawa Sun, May 31, 1998
SUDBURY - Shania Twain's return to her home turf began as a musical triumph and ended as a coronation. When Twain re-entered the Sudbury Community Arena after her rousing tour opener on Friday night she did so like Cleopatra, carried on platform by a half-dozen burly men.
They brought her right through the centre of the arena with the full house lights blazing and the locals went bananas.
"We love you Shania," they screamed and surged to touch her hands. She was carried triumphantly through the crowd of well wishers who threw flowers, stuffed animals, kisses, anything -- they ran after her in packs, beaming smiles from ear to ear.
Twain became royalty in their eyes because she had proved their faith in her was legitimate. The two hours of rockin' country she provided for them was far and above the expectations of most and a show that would soon be amazing audiences all over the continent.
"Shania Twain, what a helluva show she gave Sudbury," said the excited DJ on the local country station. "And just think, she'll be back to do it again Sunday night."
Despite a few technical miscues, Friday's first concert was a success and something that Twain and her fans are going to remember for a long, long while.
After all, every hit they had been singing along to on the radio and in their living rooms was packed into a frenetic two-hour show.
Just before Twain took the stage, her husband/producer and co-songwriter Mutt Lange stood in a walkway, watching the crowd and getting ready for the start.
I asked him how he was feeling and he smiled confidently.
"We've worked hard putting it together but what I'm really interested in seeing is how the people react, that will be the barometer," he said with his slight South African accent.
"I think the biggest concern for us is the sound. In a smaller arena like this, sound is always a bit of a lottery, you just never know."
The man running the Shania show is George Travis, also responsible for staging mega-tours for Bruce Spingsteen, Madonna and Mariah Carey.
While the crew scrambled madly to get everything in place on Friday afternoon, Travis looked calm.
"What Shania has done is allowed us to go out and get all the very best people in order to put on a first class show. We've got the best in the business, they've all got major experience with a host of top tours and artists," Travis said with a smile.
Twain made a major decision with the presentation of this show and that was to get seriously interactive with her audience -- that's what's going to endear her to the masses.
The fact that she built in a segment featuring a local choir singing backup on God Bless The Child worked well, as did karaoke singer Suzanne Nault who belted out What Made You Say That with Twain singing backup.
But the real winner Friday night was when Twain grabbed two young girls and hauled them on stage as she sang I'm Holding On To Love (To Save My Life). The younger of the two stood there thunderstruck but the older (about 11 or 12 years old) sang along with authority, taking turns with Twain on the mike and never missing a word.
It was genuine and even moving. It showed that as calculated and slick as this show is, there are still opportunities for genuinely joyous slices of humanity within it.
Those five minutes of unrehearsed star/fan contact reminded us of what this exercise is all about.
Knowing that Twain intends on doing this in every city on the tour gives the fans something to really hang on to -- hoping that they might be the lucky ones to be picked.
Twain also promised that she would keep a strong Canadian element in her production that filtered down through several technical areas to the most visible example -- using Leahy as the opening act.
The nine brothers and sisters served up a short but dramatic portion of their trademark brand of Celtic Electric sound.
But Twain's major coup here was to bring the whole group back on stage for an explosive Riverdance style presentation of her hit Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You).
With master fiddler Donnell Leahy joining her and the rest of Leahy providing the stepdancing power, this hit record suddenly became an all-Canadian treat.
What Shania Twain has done with this live performance is silence the critics who called her a studio creation, give the millions who adore her a show that they can treasure and prove to the entire planet that she is the real deal.
Local Twain fans who want to see her, will have to wait a while.
As of Friday afternoon the word on Twain's tour stopping in Ottawa was that November would be the most likely time frame.
|TORONTO AMPITHEATRE REPORT |
Sarah and Kristen, August 7th 1998
Hi Shania fans! My name is Sarah and I am an extremely dedicated Shania fanatic. I'm sure many of you are as well. Shania is my life! I love her and I have for about four years now. My dream was to go to Shania's concert and be picked to come up on stage and sing with her. Pretty big dream eh? Well on August 7, 1998 Shania changed my life when she made my dream come true!
Sarah and Kristen (Shania and Twain!)
I am 15 years old and so is my best friend and other half Kristen (a.k.a. Twain, I am Shania!) We live in Shania's home province Ontario. Though we are in Toronto, it is only a drive down the Shania Twain Way (that is the stretch of road named for Shania) to get to Timmins. When I say fanatic I mean it. When we were in grade eight, Kristen and I would do the announcements together at school. We would always open with "Hey! This is Shania and Twain delivering your morning announcements." They were our second names! There isn't a magazine with Shania somewhere in it that I don't own. I know basically everything about her, every tv event she has been in I have in my Shania video library and I can say the same for Kristen, we just love her!
The Tickets go on sale....
Ever since her first album I have been dying to see her live in concert, but I didn't mind waiting two albums later because she only got better. So finally it's announced - Shania tickets for Molson Amphitheater on sale at 10:00 am and that's it!- we've got parents at work on cell phones, wrist bands, the works. My father came home that day with a wristband and that means I've got tickets for sure so I am esctactic! But I never expected that the next day my dad would hand me second row seats! I started crying and screaming and I called Kristen to tell her that not only are we going to see Shania but we are going to be so close that we can almost touch her!
All that praying was about to pay off...
We had prayed and hoped that we would be the two teenage girls that we had read Shania pulls on to the stage for "I'm Holding on to Love to save my Life" or to play the drums in "If You're Not In It For Love." So we would jokingly but hopefully talk about what we would say and do on stage etc.
The big day arrives...
So the summer goes by and we can't wait for August 7th. It finally arrives and Kristen and I are decked out. We got professional Shania shirts made, our hair done, we had Shania pins, stickers and Canadian flags. We were ready for the time of our lives but we never expected that it really would be the absolute, definite, experience of a lifetime.
With our tickets in hand we race down the stairs to the entrance of the seats. We look back, far back to the grass seats where we saw a concert the month before. We can't believe how close these seats are! A staff member asks to see our stubs and when looking at them says "Whoa!" we scream"What!?" "These are so close! You guys are sitting with all the contest winners! See those grey chairs way up in front of the stage separated from the rest of the seats? Those first three rows those are where your seats are" said the guy. I nearly died! We were so close that we could reach out and touch Shania!! Now that was another dream come true. How did we get those seats you ask? Luck, pure luck. We don't have connections we got those seats just like any other person there did- it was fate.
Leahy open up...
The rest of the night only got better starting with the most amazing opening act, Leahy. I knew this family was good and I had always liked them but they blew the entire place away! Kristen and I were going nuts! We were the only ones standing and dancing and jumping like crazy and guess who noticed? The Leahy family I thank our seats again because we were so close to Leahy that Siobhan and Maria Leahy (the bass guitar and guitar players) were waving and smiling at me and Kristen so much. Siobhan actually stopped playing her guitar to wave directly at us, then she went over to Maria and talked about us then they both turned and waved again!! Well that was it! Kristen and I were physco, we had no idea what was in store next!
Shania makes her entrance...
The lights go down and the crowd is wild. All of the sudden we hear her voice coming from the speakers but Shania is nowhere in sight. Her band starts and she says "Are you ready Toronto?" Everyone screams and she says once more, yelling this time "I said, are you READY TORONTO?" Up starts "Man I Feel like a Woman" and in front of a huge spotlight Shania appears. I am crying and screaming because all I have ever wanted was to see Shania in person and she is beautiful! Her long dark hair is shining, she's in leather with a fushia crop top and arm bands. I am in shock, I can't believe that the person I have been obsessed with for years in right there in front of me. She's on my walls and in my cd player. I own every mag she has been in but no, she is there live and in person and I am about to faint - but I don't cause this is the show of my life!
She comes over to the left side of the stage right near us - we scream and she points right at us and waves! Me and Kristen are nuts!! Shania Twain has acknowledged us and from then on in it was just like that! Every time she would come near us we would go crazy and then she'd wave! We were the only ones on our feet from the first moment the show started, we are dancing singing every word to every song - having the time of our live, little did we know that Shania had been scoping us out of the crowd and decided that she would change our lives by making us be the ones to sing with her at this show.
'I'm holding On to Love' had passed and we were worried she wasn't having any one up, but we brushed it off and said "maybe another song." Shania then says "Now I am going to do my faveourite song off the new album - "When" its one of my faves too. We are dancing and singing away, then Shania makes her way over to our side and then points down. 'To us?', we wonder and hope. Then she starts waving her hand to come up. 'US?' we motion, she waves us up again and we take off! Pushing through people in our row, we run for the stairs and the body guards say "NO! Go up the platform!" So we dash for this huge wood block and climb up on to the stage. Shania is right here to pull us up. When we are up Shania says "Come on girls" she hands us her mike and we dance across to the middle of stage! We are holding Shania's mike, so she doesn't have one. We start to sing the chorus and Shania joins in! We then share the mike and a sing together. I was delirious, I really was. I remember looking out and seeing myself on 5 huge jumbotrons. There were people everywhere on their feet clapping and cheering for us. It was the coolest thing ever. Here I am, Sarah form Oakville, Ontario on the Molson Amphitheatre stage in front of 16000 screaming fans, holding and singing into Shania Twain's mike with her band playing behind me! It is too unreal and I still can't believe it happened. Shania is now on the right of the stage and we are on the left singing without her. There comes this part in "When" where it goes "Love can guarantee, You'll come back to me" Well, on the "you'll come back" part, Kristen and I without planning both reach out to Shania and she reaches back!
We are having a blast dancing and singing with her (singing without her too!!!). We finish up the song and get a standing ovation as well as Shania screaming "Your guys are great!" And then she turns to her band and says "They are amazing!" My idol who I have loved for years is saying I am great! Ahh! "Come girls" she says while taking us each by the hands and brings us to the circle in the middle of the stage. When we got there we gave her back her mike and she excitedly asks our names and says "and you guys are friends? This is so great!" "Yeah" we say, "best friends." We talk some more and then half crying I say "Thank you for bringing us up here Shania, this is our dream! We love you so much!" she then threw her arms around both of us and gave us a hug! She said we could get an autograph so we jumped down into a crowd of people who were waiting to shake our hands and congratulate us. Shania sat down and said "Whoa! Those girls were great, they really got my adrenaline going!" Kristen started jumping and couldn't stop and I was too in a daze to remember the medley that she then sang. "Oh! I promised these girls I would sign their books" she said and came over and signed them. I must admit for the rest of the concert I wasn't all there. I was definitely on cloud nine. The only thing I had ever wanted just happened and I can't even begin to describe how that feels. I would love to see that night on tape because there is probably so much that happened that I wasn't aware of.
A lady came over to us and said "Hi! My name is Julie and I work at Ciss FM 92.5 and you girls were incredible!" "Oh my gosh! Ciss Fm? That's our station, it's all we listen to" we scream. "Well we want to talk to you after the show. Meet me at the radio booth" says Julie. We are nuts! Could this night get any better?
Shania went on to finish the rest of her out-of-this-world show. It was two hours of non stop fun. Shania is an incredible performer and her voice is just amazing, but she is also the nicest person you could ever imagine! She would reach down and shake all the children's hands, say hi while she was singing, and would hold up every sign that she was given! I will never see anything like it for as long as I live.
After the show we dashed to the Ciss FM booth to meet the voices we listen to everyday! We had a live interview and sang our acapella version of When! We also met the aspiring singer that won the contest to sing "What Made You Say That" on stage. She was so great but she told us we were amazing! So many people came up to us screaming "you were the girls!! You were so great!" They wanted our autographs and to hug us, just so they could touch the girls that Shania hugged.
On our way out we noticed a crowd near a slightly opened barricade. Who was there we wondered? Then Kristen screamed "Ahhh Leahy!" We run over and push through the crowd to meet Erin Leahy the piano player who was signing autographs which we wanted to add to our collection!! "Erin, you guys are amazing, we love you" I cried. What does she say back?!! "Well we thought you guys were pretty good yourselves!" We are nuts because we have now had the opening act and feature performer compliment us! Two teenagers from Oakville!
and there was more to come!....
That was the night of my life - do you think I could get to sleep? No Way! I eagerly awaited the next morning so I could listen to Ciss because they were talking all about the show. Well I almost died again when the hosts starting talking about Kristen and I! quote "If you missed it, they were just so good. I guess Shania saw them singing along in the front row and called them up and handed them the microphone. They're singing, and I'm looking up and going, 'No'. There's somebody singing in the background; the professionals are singing. I'm looking around the stage; nobody is singing but the girls. I thought, 'There is no way they are that good.' Then on the big screen you could see the close up of their faces. They were just too freaked out not to be real..." said one of the hosts! Then callers were giving what they thought the highlight was, and they were saying it was when she had us up! I can't believe that we are the highlight of the Shania show! I then went out and bought the three Toronto newspapers to read the reviews and pray that maybe we are in it somewhere. Well sure enough all three papers talk about us, again calling us the highlight quoting me and commenting on our Shania shirts. One of the papers did a whole paragraph on us and even challenged that we were a set up and that it was professionals singing! I'll take that as a compliment!
We are famous in Oakville as the two Shania girls. The local paper did a spread on us with a large picture and article.
You can see Sarah and Kristen onstage with Shania in Behind The Music - Shania Special We tried very hard to get a clip or picture of us with Shania to show our family although my mom was there and got to see her daughter sing with Shania! Also it would have been nice to keep as a memory. We even tried her management in New York who tape every show, but no luck - Copyright laws won't allow it. It's okay though we sang with, talked to, hugged and got complimented by the most amazing person in this world! We don't need anything more.
Its been a few months since that summer day in August when my life changed forever. I am still in disbelief - it is just to good to be true. I don't think it will ever sink in. I was really excited about this brand new Shania special 'Behind the Music of Shania Twain' on that night. I love anything with her in it and I was ready to tape it. In the back of my mind I was praying that she would mention us, or there would be a clip of us but there never seems to be clips from the Toronto concerts. This show is really amazing with footage from Deerhurst and Shania back stage at the Toronto show!! Then I see her point like she did at us one time during the show. Then I see the two girls who were sitting in font of us!!! "Oh my gosh! This is our show!" I scream.
Next thing I know, there is Kristen, me, and Shania on the Stage! We are holding her mike and pointing at her while singing "you'll come back to me..." Then it flashes us again dancing with her!! I am crying because I am so happy. I got to see me with Shania Twain. It really happened it wasn't just a dream. Now I have this to cherish forever of Kristen and me with Shania.
I can't say how grateful I am to her for making dream come true. I now believe that dreams do come true after that. You have no idea how much she has changed these two girls' lives. I love her, her music and I believe that she is the nicest most generous person I will ever know. I used to think that we would get to meet Shania when money grew on trees, when elephants could fly, but now I can say that Elvis lives again and yeah John is back with the Beatles! Thank you Shania.
| ||SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO |
Mike Ross, May 31, 1998
A lot of people walk around with their belly buttons exposed, Shania Twain points out.
So "why is mine so famous? I'll never know."
Gosh, let's see. Could it be that she's the sexiest country star ever to drop a "g"? Just a theory.
We'll get to her music in a moment, but Shania's bare midriff has become as much a trademark as Terri Clark's hat, George Strait's hat or, um, Garth Brooks's hat. Shania Twain does not wear a hat. She doesn't have to. Come to think of it, country music needed someone like her.
The 32-year-old superstar figures the belly button thing has been blown out of proportion. It's just one part of a greater picture.
"I don't think that it's a belly button that makes somebody sexy," Twain says during a recent phone interview. "Somebody can be incredibly unsexy and show their belly button." (Agreed, but no one's going to get in a car accident after seeing a shirtless Mike Duffy walk down the street.)
"So it's got nothing to do with what you reveal. I think it's the music that dictates that. It's the voice that dictates that. I don't think it would matter what I wore. I think that there's just a sexy way about the way I translate my music."
Fans will no doubt get the proof when Twain performs at Edmonton Coliseum Wednesday. She's on her first tour since The Woman in Me sold gazillions and made her into one of the most unlikely and refreshing stars the country music industry has ever seen. Twain and producer-husband Robert John "Mutt" Lange broke all the records by breaking the rules:
1. They spent a large amount of money and time on the project, more than most observers deemed necessary.
2. Twain wrote her own material, almost unheard of for a new country artist.
3. Most bewildering of all, she didn't tour to support the album. That's absolutely unheard of.
About 12 million in sales and another already-multi-platinum album later (Come on Over), Twain is more than ready to make up for lost time.
"I'm dying to go out there. And I'm also very happy that I waited, because the anticipation has been able to build. Now I have a show that I want. It's moulded to me. I've been hands-on with everything - lights, sound, the performance of every single person. I hand-picked my band. I auditioned everybody personally."
Contrary to perception, the live stage is where Twain is the most comfortable. She performed frequently as a child, appearing on radio, TV and anywhere she could get booked. After both her parents were killed in a car accident when she was 21, Twain supported three younger siblings with a house gig at the Deerhurst Resort, singing show tunes by Gershwin and Andrew Lloyd Webber. She later focused on country music, her first love, and hit the road with designs on a record contract in Nashville. By then she had changed her given name, Eileen, to Shania, which means "I'm on my way" in the Ojibway tongue of her father. She finally grabbed the brass ring in 1993. Her first self-titled album was released on Mercury Records and, while it contained only one of her own songs, she says she was signed on the strength of her original material.
"You can't have everything at once," she says now. "I knew it was all part of the process."
The album was a modest success, but her career really took off after she met her future husband. Perceived as the Svengali behind Twain's success, Mutt Lange was already famous for polishing the metal on such acts as AC/DC and Def Leppard. He had never worked with a country artist - or a female artist - before. The result of this experiment, an exuberant, brash blast of country rock called Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?, turned the country establishment on its ear. The fans voted their approval and Shania Twain quickly became a household name.
With that, naturally, came the inevitable backlash. "She's just a studio creation!" cried detractors, and those were just the nicer ones. Her numerous and sexy videos only increased the perception.
"People thought I must be a studio product," Twain says. "They obviously don't know my history, which I didn't expect them to. I just did kind of come out of nowhere as a recording artist. But I made my living being a road dog and travelling around in cube vans. I've done all that . The thing is now I'm finally going to get to tour in actual luxury and be comfortable and have everything the way I want it. I'll have a custom show, rather than just be a cover artist, which I was for so many years on the road. I'm back in my element, if anything. And I'm back in a way that you can only dream of as a touring artist."
Twain's too modest to take credit for changing the way country stars are built, but, "maybe it's changed as a result of what I've done. I don't know. A lot of people say that. But that's not my goal. I guess the beauty of that is that I've been able to be myself and country has em braced it. And by doing that, they've had to loosen up a bit and widen their margin of what they support. What made that happen is the fact that the fan support was there. That's all that the industry needed. That's all that counts.
"I think fans don't even really care if it's labelled as country or not, to be honest. They just want to be entertained. They want great music. They want something cool to party with. I consider my music somewhat of a free spirit. Let it just land where it lands."
And who's going to argue with someone who has a belly button like hers? Not us.
BORN: Eileen Regina Edwards, Aug. 28, 1965, in Windsor, Ontario (changed last name to Twain when mother remarried).
RAISED: Timmins, Ont.
HUSBAND: British producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange.
ALBUMS: Shania Twain, 1993, The Woman In Me, 1995, Come on Over, 1997.
No. 1 Singles: Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?, Any Man of Mine, The Woman in Me.
AWARDS: One Grammy, seven Junos and various ACMs, CCMAs and Blockbuster Entertainment awards.
BOOK: Shania Twain on My Way, a new unauthorized, but still flattering, biography by Dallas Williams.
CHART-TOPPING WOMEN IN COUNTRY
It may be "Women in Rock" when Lilith Fair rolls through town, but it's still very much a man's world in the country music industry.
With a few notable exceptions: Shania Twain is by far the top sweetheart of the rodeo at the moment, having sold more than 12 million copies of her second album, The Woman in Me, with her latest, Come On Over, already well into its third million. It's unprecedented success for any female country artist.
Here's how some of the other ladies of country stack up:
REBA McENTIRE: She may look as though she's about to cry at any moment, but the red-haired queen of country is laughing when it comes to album sales. With Greatest Hits Volume II leading the pack, McEntire has sold an estimated 35 million records in her long career.
LEANN RIMES: The junior Dolly Parton, who turns 16 in August, is being milked for all she's worth. Her four albums - Blue, Inspirational Songs, Unchained Melody and the latest, Sittin' on Top of the World - have collectively racked up sales of more than 10 million.
FAITH HILL: This 31-year-old Mississippi native, wife of country star Tim McGraw, has three albums to her credit, including her latest self-titled release. Estimated album sales: Six million.
DEANA CARTER: The daughter of Nashville session guitarist Fred Carter Jr. failed to get a break when she was 17, but made up for it with the release of Did I Shave My Legs For This? in 1996. Her debut album has sold nearly four million copies. Her follow-up is scheduled for August.
TRISHA YEARWOOD: A powerhouse singer and wife of the Mavericks' Rob Reynolds, this Georgia-born star has six albums under her belt, plus a new greatest hits collection. Estimated album sales: Eight million.
MICHELLE WRIGHT: Originally from Chatham, Ontario and now based in Nashville, Canada's sweetheart measures her album sales in hundreds of thousands, not millions. Her success is largely confined to Canada, although she sure is trying.
TERRI CLARK: This long, tall, Medicine Hat woman, usually decked out in a white cowboy hat and Wrangler jeans, bought into the Nashville status quo with impressive success. Her first two albums collectively sold more than two million copies. Her latest, How I Feel, is in stores now.
|AN ENDURING SINCERITY |
Beth E. Cochran, Upbeat Entertainment, Jan 1998
Shania Twain is a rare combination of pure country soul and sensual appeal. With a silky smooth self assurance that evolves from a strong sense of faith, this multifaceted performer has only begun to shine.
Three years ago, if you had told a then unknown Shania Twain that her 1995 release 'The Woman in Me' would sell 12 million copies worldwide, breaking the already impressive record held by Country Music legend Patsy Cline, she probably would have said you were, (in the immortal words of Patsy herself) "Crazy". With that sort of astounding accomplishment under her belt, it's not surprising that her recent follow up, 'Come on Over' would carry a tremendous weight to succeed. How could it possibly compete with the 9 times platinum 'Woman in Me'? Before 'Come on Over' was released this past November, many critics were asking if Twain could really pull off the same incredible success again.
Perhaps she just got "lucky" with 'The Woman in Me', or maybe she happened along at precisely the right time, a time when country music desperately needed a stimulating change of pace. The thirty two year old Twain may not have volunteered for a pivotal role in leading country music into the 21st century, but she definitely earned it. Since she hit the scene in 1995, the image of women in country music has changed drastically. With heavy metal undertones (Shania's married to producer Robert "Mutt" Lange who has been credited with the success of classic rocks bands such as Def Leppard and AC/DC.) her sexy, domineering lyrics and traffic halting good looks, Shania Twain creates a uniquely compelling message. With songs like 'If You're Not In It For Love- I'm Outta Here!' and 'Any Man of Mine' Twain makes it perfectly clear that being a country gal no longer requires one to be a "lovesick" "stand by your man" type of woman. Her trademark sound literally sent shock waves through the country music industry, especially Nashville. What would a nice country girl be doing in a belly button revealing video, singing confidently about her sexuality? While some critics were skeptical, and die hard country music fans remained increasingly critical, Twain revolutionaries began surfacing everywhere.
All women could easily identify with the words and undertones of a Shania Twain single. Her lines resembled that of Alanis Morrissette's 'You Outta Know', a song which spoke "unity' to women everywhere. The phrase, "She's such a babe" has become synonymous with Shania Twain, and unless you've dwelled for years below the earth's surface, you know exactly who she is, no matter what kind of music you listen to. Her music touches a place that clearly defines a new and welcome feminine perspective on relationships. The song writing is both clever and humorous, and has yet again reached bold levels of pure expression. 'Love Gets Me Everytime', the first single from 'Come On Over' made history six weeks before the CD was released. In its first week on the radio, the song entered the Country Top 50 chart at number 20, the highest debut ever by a female country artist, not to mention the highest debut in the entire history of the chart itself. But only a few weeks after the CD hit the shelves, some country radio stations began playing the politics of "safe", claiming the CD was "too rock" for country music listeners.
Garth Brooks successfully incorporated the cool rock sound into his version of contemporary country music years ago, and he's obviously converted it into a very lucrative career. Why then should Shania Twain's music be perceived differently? Perhaps it has something to do with her strength as a successful music "entity". So if she's not considered to be "entirely country", and she's not extreme "pop rock", what category does Shania Twain fall into? It's difficult to categorize such a cutting edge talent, by most criteria, she's an extraordinary woman who is destined to become a multimedia, international superstar. For the moment though, Twain is more primarily interested in focusing on 'Come On Over'. Throughout the discussion there are various times when the Canadian born singer makes subtle inferences that give away her desire to detach herself from the country way of life.
For example, when she elaborates a bit about her duet with Bryan White, she tells the story of how she was writing the song for someone else. "Maybe someone like Celine Dion or another female artist," Shania contends. The word "country" is casually omitted from the equation. Twain might have had someone else in mind while writing the ballad, but she quickly clarified the song's meaning. It conveyed her own personal feelings about love and commitment. Actually, the entire CD is a tribute to Twain's outlook on each and every aspect of life. "This album really does come from my perspective," explains Twain. "I never realized it while I was writing, but now, looking back, this is exactly the way I feel. When it comes to lyrics I've written like, 'I don't need a shrink to tell me what to think," I'm so independent that way. I'm so determined to do things my own way and as naturally as I can. I never like to have the interference of someone or something else. I really feel like life will dictate itself," she continues. "You should allow it to unfold as naturally as possible. Just go with the flow. When you're really desperate, you say a few prayers and hope for the best. That's the way I've always lived my life."
This auspiciously sincere outlook has helped Twain survive the hardships in her life, including a terrible personal tragedy that tested her inner strength. At age 21, Twain's mother and stepfather were killed in a car accident. The second oldest of five children, she was left to raise her three younger brothers. To support her siblings, Twain took a job as a performer at Ontario's Deerhurst Resort. There, she absorbed and utilized every aspect of theatrical performance, from musical comedy to Gershwin. The atmosphere wasn't at all foreign to her, when she was 8, Twain had already sang with the house band at a local bar.
As she grew older, her genuine love for music intensified. She spent summers singing in small clubs and taverns and making local television and radio appearances. Although her parents earned very little money at the time, they were always supportive of their daughter's obvious talent. Twain has vivid memories of her parents shuttling her back and forth to radio and television studios and "Everywhere they could get me booked," she says. From experience, Twain has developed a "tell it like it is" attitude, which is evident in every song she records. Her signature colloquial phrases, like "Get a life", "Get a grip", or "Don't freak out until you know the facts," (the latter from her latest single, 'Don't Be Stupid You Know I Love You') appear throughout the CD itself. "I like to use phrases people use everyday," says Twain. "I wanted this album to be conversational. The lyrics are not going to get you an "A" in grammar, that's for sure," she laughs. "But it's more the way we speak in everyday life."The marital union of country and rock between Twain and husband Mutt Lange, who has creatively produced her trademark style and sound, has also developed many of the phrases and lyrics of this particular CD. "Whenever Mutt and I do anything together, we're always song writing. It's nonstop," she admits.
There's no doubt that the somewhat odd collaboration, which began in 1993, (also the year they married) gave birth to the distinctive Shania sound. But the couple was just as surprised as everyone else when 'The Woman In Me' shot up the charts with a vengeance in 1995. The phenomenal success was more than Twain had ever hoped for. It wasn't at all anticipated, which was largely the reason why there wasn't a lavishly produced tour accompanying the CD. Not only was Twain unprepared for a tour, but with the CD selling so well, there simply wasn't a need for a tour to promote it.
'Come On Over' was developed and produced with touring in mind. "This album is geared very much to be live," she says. "The tour is going to be in 1998, but we don't know exactly when. I really want it to be exciting. I want great sound, great light, and an enthusiastic audience. I'm going to make the arrangements longer and animate the music. It's going to be more rock and roll. No choreographed dancers, I don't want it to be too pop. I want it to be more rock."With her first career tour catching all of the buzz, Twain became much more aware of all that is riding on her follow up album. But even with the pressure closing in, she remains completely unaffected by all the hype. "I don't have to worry about what people are thinking and what's going on in the industry, " says Twain. "I don't want that stuff to influence what I'm doing. Because I think it stifles you creatively. I don't want to have to care too much about that. All I care about is what the fans think. It's really all I care about, honestly."
To say that Shania Twain doesn't care what people think about her looks is quite an accurate assumption as well. She appeared on her previous album cover in a cowboy hat and a halter top, drawing tremendous attention to her flat as a pancake stomach, and her now infamous belly button. It's a tad bit presumptuous to say that Twain is not at all concerned with her beauty merely because she has the face of a supermodel and a perfectly shaped physique. She says she does whatever she can to look her best and is extremely flattered by all of the compliments she receives. The casual attitude she maintains about her image disappears whenever she speaks about her work. Twain is much more concerned with the quality of both her sound and her performance.
She enjoys the entire process of development as well. According to Twain 'Come On Over' was not her first choice for the CD's title. "I wanted to call the CD 'No Inhibitions', but I had to listen very openly to constructive criticism. As independent as I am, I have a very open mind when it comes to creativity," she admits. Listening to Twain candidly discuss the CD and it's interpretive meaning, 'No Inhibitions' would probably have been the more appropriate title. It not only profiles the song material, it also personifies Shania Twain. During the entire interview, I was completely absorbed by her ability to just be as open as humanly possible.
There isn't a topic on earth this woman isn't comfortable discussing openly. Her perspectives on life and relationships are truly remarkable and poignant. Shania Twain is unapologetic and outspoken when she assesses the issues. Her passionate sincerity is more than evident throughout her work. Twain sends out a powerfully inspirational message about the strength and determination of all women. She possesses a gritty understanding for the harsh realities of life many women face on a daily basis. That in itself is the primary reason Twain has continued to abandon the country stereo type and further explore the entire scope of possibility.One of the cuts on the CD, entitled 'Black Eyes, Blue Tears', deals with physical abuse. "We're educated about physical abuse," reasons Shania. "It's out in the open. But let's move on now. That's what the song is trying to say.
It's meant to be a positive outlook. It's saying to the victims of abuse, 'You didn't have any choices before, but now you do'. Still a lot of women get depressed and stay where they are. My message is that time is a healer. You can move on and have a life. It's like Thelma and Louise. You can be in that car with the top down and drive away from life, but you don't have to drive over the damn cliff," she asserts. "It's taking your freedom one step further. It's saying life is waiting for you."
Twain speaks openly about women's roles in the 90's. The song, 'Man I Feel Like A Woman' is "A celebration of being a woman," says Twain. "It was so much fun writing that song. As long as I can make people laugh about something, I've accomplished a lot. The title is actually an expression I use, but the song is about taking advantage of the advantages we have in society today. The point I was trying to make was that we can be anything we want."In 'Honey I'm Home', Twain boldly goes where no other woman associated with country music has ever dared to go before her. By using lyrics about PMS, panty lines and flat hair, Twain injects her brand of poetic insight to the music. "This cut is a sister to 'Any Man of Mine' on 'The Woman In Me' CD, It's a woman's anthem. It's real.
I wouldn't write about anything that wasn't." Twain says. adding, "Basically, there are women out there who are much more talented and much more capable of doing things beyond what they're doing to make a living. As a woman, you can do anything you want now, but it's very difficult to turn back the clock for women who might not have gotten the education or skills back then because there wasn't the equality issue. Several years ago, it was like, 'Why bother to go to school for years and years when a man is going to get the job anyway?' Now the opportunity is there, but a certain group of women didn't get the skills or the education before and now they're caught."
If you haven't already concluded that Shania Twain reveals so much of herself within her music, you need only listen with your heart. "Everyone perceives you and writes about you in a different way, in print, in the media. The only true way to get to know an artist is through their music. If you're listening to an artist who writes down their own music, you know you're finding out about that person through their songs," Twain confesses. "Without a doubt, the best way to get to know me is through my music."
That being the case, Shania Twain is by far the epitome of compassion and candor. Her natural talent is genuine and the manner in which her style continues to evolve is absolutely remarkable. There is a contagious spirit of pure "hope spun" throughout the cleverly effective lyrics. It's as if for a brief moment, she's somehow managed to reach into our heartfelt sentiments. It's within this inherent depth of understanding that Shania Twain has clearly defined herself as an enduring performer. And to her critics? It goes without saying that her continued success speakes volumes... It's the stuff legends are made of.
| ||MULTI-PLATINUM COUNTRY STAR GOES GLOBAL |
Ian Nicolson, Dotmusic
Only three women have sold more than 10m copies of their most recent albums in North America, but what sets Shania Twain apart from Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette is that she managed it without touring. Now her relative unknown status outside the US is set to be reversed with, after three years of pleading, a worldwide tour and, in the UK, Mercury MD Howard Berman making her his biggest US launch since Hanson.
Twain spent most of 1996 and 1997 without a manager. During that time she sold 13m copies of her second album, The Woman In Me, and wrote 16 songs for the next, Come On Over, which is released here on March 9. She also appeared on a string of TV shows and set personal appearance records all across North America but chose not to perform a single live show where she stood to make a cent on the door.
Since Twain took on new management in mid-1997 Jon Landau and Barbara Carr at JLM who look after just two other artists: Bruce Springsteen and Natalie Merchant things are looking even better. Come On Over has already sold more than 4m copies in the US since its November 4 release (it debuted at number two on the main Billboard album chart) and notched up consecutive number one singles on the country chart.
And her 1998 US concert tour that has Europe, Australia and the Far East pencilled in for late autumn will cement that achievement. As UK promoter Harvey Goldsmith put it after meeting Twain earlier this month, "She's not country, she's not pop, she's just a huge talent and that's what will make this tour a success everywhere." But what makes Twain stand out from other artists in the satin and denim-lined ghetto of country music is that, with JLM, she's now working on a second agenda they call "internationalisation". By this time next year, Twain plans to be a global star to compare with Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey or Celine Dion.
Mercury divisions around the world have her on priority status for the first quarter because they can see the same potential that the artist and her management see: a singer and writer whose manner, looks and style reflect a mainstream future, not a country past. So when Twain sings in French and Spanish on I Won't Leave You Lonely from the new album it fits the needs of the song, not those of the marketplace.
Richard Beck of London-based LD Publicity, which has been hired to help translate her appeal across the Atlantic and to provide heavy input into the re-styling exercise, says, "Shania is it! More than any other country artist ever she's the one that will cross over." It's a gamble of course, although Twain's proven cross-format appeal in the US constitutes a tip-off, and her multi-platinum success in Australia another. But this isn't a management and label plot for world domination. They are just catching up on what the Canadian-born, broadly-travelled singer and songwriter has wanted from the start. And reflecting Twain's own ideas about how to make it happen.
Manager Carr says, "She's pretty hands-on. There isn't much in Twain's life that isn't under her control." During a break from shooting a set of "not-Nashville" pictures at London's Metro Daylight studios, Twain says, "I really do want a lot of people to enjoy my work. Being a singer of other people's songs can be very superficial. I wouldn't be willing to take the risks I do if it didn't all feel like me."
You get the feeling that by "songs" she might also just mean other people's plans for her career. Beck says, "What has really sold her to the UK media is herself. She's just so natural. No bullshit at all." To that end, FHM and The Sunday Times will be splashing the results of the photo-shoot. The additional lead time between the US and international dates has allowed what Beck describes as co-ordination time. The breathing space allows Twain, producer Robert 'Mutt' Lange and Mercury to remix and resequence the album for international markets as well as redesign the sleeve and the publicity. Twain, talking down the sonic differences in the tracks, says, "It gave Mutt and I some extra time to keep playing with the songs. To change some drum sounds, add a few harmonies here and there...we didn't want to change the whole record outside the US, just make it a little better. . ." The biggest difference is in the choice of focus tracks. After two rocked-up country dancers in the US, America and Europe will come back into sync with the first UK single, You're Still The One. It's a heartfelt tribute to successful relationships (born out of the media and industry scepticism that greeted her marriage to Lange), which blends Orleans-style vocal harmonies, pop piano and rock engineering with a keening pedal steel line, mandolin and Hammond organ. In another dramatic break with country habits, the track was serviced direct to US pop radio and is already picking up heavy airplay.
And since the debut US single, Love Gets Me Every Time, is said to have racked up more first-week plays than any other single ever released in the US by a female artist, it looks as though one cornerstone of the plan not losing her star profile in a crowded pop marketplace is firmly in place.
Once Nashville didn't believe Twain knew what would work either. Her first album featured just one of her own songs, the feisty God Ain't Gonna Getcha For That. Then Luke Lewis, president of Mercury Nashville, took a huge gamble on Twain and Lange. He agreed to let them deliver The Woman In Me without hearing a single track first. And there was no change in protocol for Come On Over. So Mercury ended up with 16 songs on a 55-minute album breaking country rules again. And although nobody's revealing concrete dates for the tour yet, Twain sounds like she's ready to lay one more myth that she can't cut it live to rest. "I'm a very straightforward person. I'm not eccentric. Well, maybe just a little. And I spent most of my childhood and up to the second album touring and singing live. It's been three years off now, and I'm really ready to go back on stage," she says.
Her band, being put together now, will feature three fiddle players just don't expect The Nashville Strings.
|READY TO ROCK THIS COUNTRY |
Wray Ellis, Country Wave, Feb 1998
Shania Twain's sultry smile beckons from every newsstand. Her life-sized cut-out elbows you in record stores. Her videos enjoy endless rotation on country television. And since its release in 1995, Twain's last album The Woman In Me has sold over 12,000,000 copies worldwide. Shania Twain has become Canada's hottest export since Trivial Pursuit.
There is however, nothing trivial about her appeal. Her latest album Come On Over has been embraced by a Shania-hungry audience and once again, the unlikely pairing of a heavy metal producer with a country singer continues a cross-over phenomenon of historic proportions. You might suspect that riding this kind of a comet could be a little scary.
"NO! It's really fun. It's opened up so many new doors. It's great that I have so many types of listeners. They all hear (my music) a different way. It makes me very excited to know that I might be in someone's record collection who has no other country records. And then at the same time, I'm in another record collection of people who just listen to country music and they wouldn't dare listen to anything else. They both have my record. I'm very flattered by that. Isn't it great that music can cross those boundaries?"
Bubbly and enthusiastic, Twain comes across the phone line as a driven, clear-thinking young woman. Just off a flight from Europe, she seems unruffled by jet lag and eager to talk. In a half-hour chat stolen from her Sunday afternoon, she talked candidly about the woman she is, the child she was and the star she has become.
"I think when I was younger, my ambitions were more to be successful and independent through my career. Now you don't need to be a star to achieve that, so I'm not really sure how high my sights were set. I definitely wanted to become successful. Of course, I knew (stardom) was out there, and this was something that could happen, but I was set on becoming independent financially, and never having to rely on anyone."
Songwriting has always been a part of her life. Since the age of eight, she kept her songs in boxes where they would be safe. Then at 16, she was given a birthday present which she still has today.
"When I was in this band, the drummer, as a birthday gift, gave me a black ledger and said, 'You've gotta stop collecting all your songs on loose pieces of paper. You should put them where you're not going to lose anything.' So I rewrote all of my songs into this ledger and I've kept that. I've been a little more organized from that point on. (laughs) I look back at that book and I look at all the different handwriting I've had over the years. It went from being really neat to really messy. I can see the progression of the lack of patience that I had in writing my songs in so neatly. It is quite funny."
It isn't always easy to present new song ideas to your producer -- even if you are romantically involved with said producer. Twain admits that when pitching a song to Mutt, timing is practically everything.
"I don't know if it's a man/woman thing, but I suppose it is. Sometimes I'll play him something or I'll talk about a song concept and he's not into it. He doesn't hear it. Then a few months later, I'll reintroduce it and he'll like it! (laughs) I'm telling you, it's a very funny thing. I'm very independent as a songwriter. If I like something, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm not going to NOT write it because Mutt didn't think it was a good idea. That's what a partnership is all about. I don't get discouraged at all by something he's not interested in. I go away and live with it on my own for a while."
Although acting hasn't really attracted her, offers do come. Twain admits that if the right person, say, Jodie Foster called and asked if she'd star in her next film, acting would certainly get some serious consideration.
"I never really wanted to and it's not a goal of mine but I think if I was ever approached by anyone as credible as (Jodie Foster), then I would be interested. She's someone who's very serious about what she does and I think I could learn a great deal. That's more the point. I don't know anything about acting but it would be something I would try. I almost have to try new things just for the sake of trying, as long as it was within my own moral boundaries. I'm only interested if it's the right situation."
Which leads us to another aspect of mass-marketing: Sex. Her videos often deal with love's playful side. This sexy innocence has made Twain one of today's most desirable girls-next-door. However, just because she loved the movie, don't expect Shania Twain to ever do a "Full Monty." Those offers don't even make it as far as the "in" bin.
"I stop it before it even starts. I've told my agency that I'm not interested in movies where that's the requirement. I don't even get those scripts. I've already told them that right off the bat. Don't even approach me with something with that requirement. It's as simple as that."
Stardom comes with a darker, ominous side-effect. In their quest to sell tabloids, publishers sometimes print stories that are... (a-hem)... less than accurate. Twain would like to set the record straight about some fiction recently splashed along grocery store check-out lines.
"The story that Mutt and I are divorcing. To anybody who has read that, it's absolutely false. We're very much in love and we plan on being a team for the rest of our lives. So everybody can rest easy about that."
Even when you're the biggest, people still can't resist offering you advice. Most of the time you smile and nod. Sometimes, as Twain points out, it's advice worth taking.
"I think the best advice anyone could ever give me, and I get advice from left, right and centre (laughs), is... humility. It's so easy to get flattered by everything that's going on around you. And it's okay to be flattered, but it's not okay to lose a true sense of humility. And it's hard. Sometimes you're trying to build your confidence and confidence comes from ego. In order to be really confident, and do a good job, it's kind of an ego thing. So, how do you do that and stay humble at the same time? There's a lot of vanity involved in what we do. We do it so that we can get a response. We want people to like it. So, it's tough. I think humility is the most important thing for me to remember."
The next big test for Shania Twain will be the stage. Can she perform live? Although she toured extensively in the past, that was before The Woman In Me. Once again, the diminutive heavyweight dismisses the skeptics and becomes giddy at the thought of planning her very own concert tour and for the first time, doing it in style.
"It's going to be fun! That's the thing I'm most looking forward to. I've never been on a tour of this magnitude before. The show is not going to look like a music video for instance. It's going to be more performance by the band, myself, great lights, great sound, and great live arrangements. The music is going to be slightly different from the record. More exciting, more dynamic. I think the show is going to be... dramatic. I'm telling you, it's gonna be so great!"
| ||SHANIA REVEALED |
Brian D. Johnson, Maclean's, March 23 1998
They are lining up to meet her in the flesh. Hundreds of broadcasters, delegates to a country radio conference, have gathered for a party at the new Planet Hollywood in Nashville. In a room ringed with buffet tables, some queue up for Cajun shrimp, but the major feeding frenzy is around Canadian country star Shania Twain. She is not singing; she is signing autographs and posing for snapshots while a video of her song Don't Be Stupid plays on the wall behind her. The broadcasters so eager to meet her are professional fans, fans with influence. And Twain greets them with professional warmth. A hundred handshakes. A hundred autographs. A hundred point-and-shoot smiles. And, with each click of the shutter, a hundred strange hands clasped around her famous midriff. Every so often, like a boxer rehydrating between rounds, Twain turns to her makeup artist, Daisy, who holds up a bottle of water for her to sip through a straw. Finally, after more than an hour, Twain's handlers whisk her upstairs. In the elevator, the star holds out her hands. Daisy, who knows the drill, produces some wet wipes and scrubs them clean.
Later, in a roped-off VIP area upstairs, Twain sits for a moment before resuming the "meet and greet" ritual with another echelon of fandom - employees of her own record company. Does it not all start to seem absurd after a while? Twain fields the question with a puzzled look. "Not really," she says. "It's just part of it now. And people who want to meet you usually get some pleasure out it. It's nice. It's a nice exchange."
Nice. For the reigning queen of country music, playing the girl next door to throngs of strangers has become second nature. Country singers, like TV soap stars and politicians, are still expected to service the fan base in person. Up close, Shania Twain loses none of her radiance; she has the sort of star power that people expect from royalty. And part of the magic is a life story that reads like a fairy tale - Cinderella meets Bambi in the Canadian bush. A country girl from Timmins, Ont., is raised dirt poor, starts performing in bars as a child, loses her parents at 22 when their car collides with a logging truck, sings to support her three teenage siblings, then finds her prince -- reclusive rock producer Robert John (Mutt) Lange -- who gives her a studio kiss of stardom and a 2.5-carat diamond.
It is a story that occasionally threatens to veer into melodrama. Twain has had to fend off media controversy over her adoptive native heritage, and early rumors of trouble in her marriage to Lange. But although their careers often keep them apart, producer and star now appear to be living happily ever after. They call home a 1,200-hectare retreat with a private lake in upstate New York. And last week, Twain told Maclean's that they are seriously thinking of moving to Europe. They have begun looking for a house in the Swiss countryside.
Eileen Regina Twain - who rechristened herself Shania seven years ago - has certainly fulfilled the promise of her name, which means "I'm on my way" in Ojibwa. Now 32, she has sold more albums than any female country singer in history. Breaking a record that it took Patsy Cline 40 years to set, her 1995 CD The Woman in Me has attained sales of 12 million copies worldwide - two million of them in Canada alone. Twain's new album, Come on Over, which is nominated for three awards at this Sunday's Junos in Vancouver, has sold 4.2 million after just five months of release. And what is remarkable is that Twain has done it all without performing live. Instead, she has spent the past three years working as an indefatigable publicity machine - parading through talk shows, shopping malls and radio stations from Alberta to Australia.
Now, however, Twain is finally ready to hit the stage. She has put together a nine-piece band, and plans to launch a tour of Canadian hockey arenas on May 29 with a two-night stand in Sudbury, Ont., followed by a swing through Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver in early June. After some U.S. dates on the West Coast, she plans to play Toronto and Montreal in August, then smaller Canadian centres in the fall. Twain hopes to be on the road for most of this year and next. And anyone watching her rehearse and perform with her band last month at a Nashville TV studio could see that this is no typical country act. It is a hip, urban-looking outfit with an aggressive three-piece fiddle section and the energy of a pop band. "Basically, the show will be a party," says Twain, "and I'm the hostess. It's not going to be that slick. Just high energy, great lights and great sound."
With her music, Twain has goosed the tired country format with a well-aimed kick of sexy common sense. Her songs, which she co-writes with Lange, range from domestic-bliss ballads to sassy rockers that taunt and tease. In Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You), she offers feisty reassurance to a jealous mate. In That Don't Impress Me Much, she sings, "OK, so you're Brad Pitt ... so you've got the looks, but have you got the touch?" This is not hurtin' music, but painless pop. "Shania Twain has carved out her own place in country," says Chet Flippo, Nashville correspondent for Billboard. "Until she came along, there was no job description for what she is - a pop femme fatale in country, for want of a better term. She's playing by her own rules. And she's changing the audience."
Twain, meanwhile, is spearheading a country music invasion from Canada that is rejuvenating an industry rooted in the American South. "She's only the tip of the iceberg," says Nashville music journalist Robert K. Oermann. "A lot of the freshest sounds in country music are coming from Canada. The industry is looking north, because that's where the authenticity is."
Along with Céline Dion, Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan, Twain also belongs to a brave new wave of Canadian women who have taken the U.S. music industry by storm. And judging by the current slate of Juno nominees, a new generation of talent, both male and female, is hot on their heels. If Dion is the pop diva, Morissette the angry young rocker and McLachlan the sensitive folkie, Twain is the no-nonsense sex symbol - a take-charge woman line-dancing down the middle of the road, splitting the difference between feminine compliance and feminist effrontery.
Twain's voice has a melting twang, enough to conjure up country, yet more suggestive of the boudoir than the barn. Her songs are flavored with fiddle and steel guitar, but Lange - who has put his studio stamp on Def Leppard, AC/DC and Bryan Adams - upholsters the music with lush arrangements typical of rock. "There are a lot of country fans who wouldn't usually be interested in as progressive a sound," says Twain. "And by the same token a lot of pop people like my music who wouldn't usually be attracted to country." With the new album, Twain's image, along with the music, creeps closer to pop. On the poster for it, denim and cowboy chaps have given way to faux-leopard and black leather. And in the video for Don't Be Stupid, she is in black sequins, river-dancing across a flooded alley.
While there is no denying her talent as a singer and songwriter, image is an integral part of Twain's appeal. She is a country singer who looks like a supermodel. Hollywood has, predictably, taken notice - the singer has turned down a stream of movie offers, including a role opposite Al Pacino. On camera, Twain projects a playful sexuality, an allure that is part come-on, part come-off-it. Like a PG version of Madonna, Twain promotes the flirtatious co-existence of glamor and self-empowerment. She is country's Cosmo-girl, a fantasy that works for both men and women. The video for her latest single, the ballad You're Still the One, unfolds like a Harlequin romance, with Twain on a moonlit beach in a silky robe, dreaming of a Calvin Klein hunk, who steps from the bath dripping wet and lets his towel fall to the floor as he slides into her bed.
No country singer has used video to promote herself with as much audacity as Twain. In fact, it was her very first video -- a sexy, midriff-baring number from her first album -- that hooked her most important fan. Lange saw it in 1993 and phoned her out of the blue. The same footage caught the eye of actor Sean Penn, who directed a video for her. John and Bo Derek (10) also took notice, and together they shot the first video from the second album, with Twain dancing on a diner countertop in a hot red dress.
Twain's style has drawn some flack from traditional quarters of country music. Guitarist Steve Earle once dismissed her as "the world's highest paid lap dancer." And some critics dwell on the fact that, since her breakthrough, she has never proven herself as a performer, except through a camera lens. Others suggest she is a studio Barbie created by a Svengali husband and a high-powered rock management (Twain is now handled out of Connecticut by Jon Laundau, who represents Bruce Springsteen). "A lot of people are accusing her of being packaged," concedes Luke Lewis, Nashville president of her Mercury label. "But I don't think this is a marketing-driven artist. It's been her vision from the beginning -- all the clothes, all the looks, all the concepts."
In person, Twain certainly seems self-possessed. Sitting down for an interview in a Nashville hotel suite, she extends a firm handshake. In black pants, a black leather vest and a white T-shirt showing a sliver of midriff, she looks perennially ready for her close-up. She does not drink or smoke. She keeps her five-foot, four-inch, 110-lb. frame fit with regular workouts. Her skin has the glow of a woman who rides horses to relax. But Twain's clear-eyed charisma also works as a mask. She never lets down her guard, which can be frustrating for a photographer or interviewer hoping to catch her in a candid moment. Still, for a woman who is so poised and put together, it is a relief to know that she finds fault with her body. "I don't like my legs," she says flatly when asked why she sings about short skirts but never wears them.
It is late afternoon, and Twain has spent the day doing nonstop interviews with country radio broadcasters, ending each one with a snapshot and an autograph. Over and over, she answered questions about the new ripple in her hair, explaining that it comes from a curling iron, not a perm. One unctuous radio host had an unusual request.
"If you wouldn't mind calling me Sweet Cheeks, maybe once," he said.
As the tape rolled, he introduced his guest. "Here we are in Shania Twain's hotel room ..."
"And I'm with Sweet Cheeks," she said.
"See, Shania Twain does call me Sweet Cheeks ... I'll pay you later."
"Just leave it on the dresser."
No wonder she is eager to start touring. "I want to do less talking and more singing," says Twain. Her tour bus is under construction. "It's not going to be opulent," she insists. "There's not going to be any marble or anything. I want it to feel like home, with a fairly big kitchen space because I'm going to cook a lot." She plans to tour with her dog, a German shepherd named Tim, and one of her five horses, an Andalusian purebred named Dancer. Dancer will get his own trailer.
Twain, meanwhile, has handpicked a versatile touring band. The musicians all happen to be good-looking. They all sing, and most play more than one instrument -- including 27-year-old Cory Churko, a Vancouver fiddler-guitarist who has spent more time playing rock than country. "She wanted a young, energetic, rocking band," says Churko, who quit his job as a computer animator to enlist. Twain is categorical about her criteria: "I can't have anyone in the band who doesn't have my energy. I don't want people who have been on the road for years and are just doing it in order to do it. And I like a clean band. I don't like drugs. I don't like alcohol. I like to have clean-living people around me."
Is she not nervous about performing live? "I'm going to be overwhelmed at first," Twain admits. "But it's going to be fun, not scary." Although she has not toured since she became a star, Twain points out that she has 20 years of stage experience under her belt - beginning at the age of 8, when her parents first started dragging her out of bed so that she could sing (legally) at the Mattagami Hotel bar in Timmins after it had stopped serving liquor. Talk about paying your dues.
"I love being in front of a live audience where I can control things," says Twain. "What I'm least comfortable with is the studio or anything contrived. I'm never at my best on television. There's a row of cameras between you and the audience, and it's very weird, very confusing."
Shania Twain is onstage, rehearsing with her band for a taping of TNN's Prime Time Country. The TV studio occupies a wing of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. As the nine-piece band runs through Don't Be Stupid, its young black drummer, wearing headphones in a Plexiglas booth, plays to a pre-recorded cue track. And although Twain is singing live, her vocals are perfectly synced to the song's video, which is projected behind her.
The band plays with unerring precision, fiddles cutting in and out with the galvanized attack of a horn section. Twain, meanwhile, delivers her songs with polished moves that barely change from one take to the next. The toss of the hair, the hand-slap on the hip, each gesture seems built into the song. And as cameras swoop around the stage, she seems in firm command, knowing exactly where to look and how to act. Twain lays to rest any doubts that she can deliver onstage. Her voice may lack power, but she sings with melodic ease. Even when she is just testing the microphone with some a cappella phrases, there is a seductive luxury to her unadorned vocals. And as she searches for an elusive intimacy, the one thing she fusses over is the sound - "too nasal ... too much bottom ... too much bite ... can you take a bit of the hard edge off? ..."
An hour after the rehearsal, the bleachers in the Nashville studio fill up with fans, who are taught how to produce polite "golf claps" or "thunderous applause" on cue. As the show begins, a life-sized poster of Twain in the form of a jigsaw puzzle is lowered from the lights. Counting down the days to her appearance, a piece has been added each week, and now that she has finally arrived, the last remaining segment - showing her belly button - is stuck into place.
Between songs, Twain puts in time on the talk-show couch. She tells a story about taking the train to the big city to appear on a TV show when she was 12. After a while, she realized she was going in the wrong direction. The conductor told her she could transfer at another station in six hours. "I said, 'You've got to stop the train right now because I'm going to be on TV.' So they let me off in the middle of the bush with my guitar, like a little hobo. I caught a train going the other way in half an hour, but I did think, 'What if the train never comes?' "
Twain's childhood reminiscences often have an apocryphal ring, but perhaps they have just become buffed by constant repetition. This much is known. She was born in Windsor, Ont., on Aug. 28, 1965, the second of three daughters of an Irish-Canadian mother, Sharon, and her husband, Clarence Edwards, who is of Irish and French descent. By the time Twain was 2, her parents' marriage collapsed, and Sharon moved with the children to Timmins, where - four years later - she married Jerry Twain, an Ojibwa forester and prospector. He adopted the children, who automatically gained First Nations status.
Throughout her childhood, Twain was aware of her biological father, and he occasionally visited her family. But she kept his existence a secret until 1996, when The Daily Press in Timmins broke the story about the facts of her birth. There was a storm of controversy as Twain was accused of lying, and of enhancing her native heritage for the sake of her career. "It was very hard on my native family," she says. "I'm a registered band member. I've been part of their community since I was a little child. It's very hurtful to know there are people who want to unravel all that."
When asked why she didn't tell the truth from the beginning, Twain's consistently perky composure gives way to a burst of anger. "Half the people in my life didn't know I was adopted," she says. "Why should I have told the press? It frustrates me no end, I can't tell you. I have never referred to Jerry as my stepfather. I never even referred to Clarence as my father, and I didn't care if I was ever in contact with that family again." Then, she adds: "It's never been an issue for me, but it's an issue for everyone else all of a sudden. It's like a big black hole."
In his recent book about country music, Three Chords and The Truth, U.S. author Laurence Leamer went so far as to call Twain's life story "a brilliant reconstruction," claiming that she has exaggerated the poverty of her childhood. Twain says that in fact the reverse is true: "Let's put it this way. I'm not sugarcoating, but I've revealed very little of the true hardship and intensity of my life, and that's the way I'm going to keep it."
As a child, the singer recalls, she sometimes went for days with nothing to eat but bread, milk and sugar heated up in a pot. "I hardly ever took a lunch to school. I'd say I'm not hungry. Or I'd bring, like, mustard sandwiches." But Twain has fond memories of learning to hunt and trap in the bush with her father - although she is now vegetarian. And alone in nature, she would create her own world. "I'd take my guitar for a walk and go to a field or the river and write songs," she says. "As a kid I had three dreams: to live in a brick house and eat roast beef, to be kidnapped by Frank Sinatra, and to be Stevie Wonder's backup singer. It was never my dream to be a star. That was my parents' dream. I guess they prayed real hard."
Twain was a reluctant performer, but her parents were persistent. By her early teens, she was popping up on programs such as The Tommy Hunter Show. But only when she discovered rock 'n' roll did she begin to enjoy the stage. "I couldn't hide behind my guitar," she says. "I sensed a freedom that I'd never sensed before." Twain completed high school while working at McDonald's and playing bars. Meanwhile, her parents started a reforestation business, and from age 16 she spent summers in the bush, learning about chainsaws and seedlings, until she was supervising her own native crew.
In 1987, the death of her parents changed everything. Twain, then 22, was suddenly forced to become a mother to her younger sister and two teenage brothers. Her manager at the time, Mary Bailey, came to the rescue with a steady gig at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville - as a lounge act and as a singer in glitzy cabaret revues such as Viva Vegas. Twain paid her dues for three years at Deerhurst. And Bailey lured a Nashville producer up there to see her perform - which led to her first record deal in 1991.
The first album, Shania Twain, had modest sales of about 100,000 copies. But it led to the romance with Lange, which started as a songwriting relationship over the phone. They finally met face-to-face in Nashville, and married at the Deerhurst six months later. Lange, meanwhile, helped finance The Woman in Me, a ,000 work of studio wizardry touted as the most expensive country album ever recorded.
Since then, reports of ruin have swirled around Twain's marriage. "People in the industry were calling my management all the time asking, 'Are they really divorcing?' " she recalls. "Most people thought we were unlikely to succeed. My family were like, 'You just met this guy, you can't get married.' " Twain adds that You're Still the One is about Mutt - and "the nice feeling that we've made it against all odds."
They do seem an odd couple. She spends much of her life in a professional romance with the camera; he is so obsessively media-shy that it is impossible to find a published Mutt Lange picture or interview. The South African-born producer never shows up with his wife at industry functions where he might be photographed. At the TNN show in Nashville, however, a backstage sighting - of a blue-denimed figure in his 40s, tall and handsome with a shag of blond hair - confirmed that he does, in fact, exist.
How can such a reclusive husband get along with such a public wife? "I make my living partly by being a celebrity," says Twain. "But I would love to have his life, to do the music and not have to be famous. I'm more private than people realize. I'm not that easy to get to know. My husband's the only one who really knows me. To get through the kind of life I've been through, you have to be strong, and it's wonderful when you find the right person who can share everything about you."
Whatever pain lies behind Twain's nearly seamless public persona, there is little evidence of it in her music. "It's not pure emotion. I mould it so it can be applied to people's lives. But I write a lot of music I don't share, for the same reason people have diaries. I just express myself. It's not a creative thing. It's therapeutic."
Twain's celebrity has brought its own pain to her family, and not just the native heritage controversy. Over the years, her younger brothers, Mark and Darryl, now 25 and 24, have been in and out of trouble with the law. In 1996, after they were caught trying to steal cars from a Toyota dealership in Huntsville, everyone from the CBC to The National Enquirer chased the story. "It's difficult for them to be exposed if they do anything wrong," says their sister, "but at the same time it helps keep them straight." Her brothers, she adds, are now working in the bush cutting timber.
Back in the Grand Ole Opry studio in Nashville, the host of TNN's Prime Time Country regales his audience with tales of Twain's days as a forestry worker in an exotic place called Timmins. Getting her to put on a yellow hard hat, he challenges the singer to a log-cutting contest. Picking up one of two small electric chainsaws, she says: "This is kind of dinky. It's what men would call a woman's chainsaw." They start their engines. And as the crowd roars, Twain cuts through her log in seconds, leaving her host in the sawdust - and her legend intact
|SHANIA'S THROWING A PARTY AND EVERYONE IS INVITED |
Country Weekly, Mar 31, 1998
Shania Twain's long-awaited tour begins at the end of May, and it's going to be a party. Take her word for it.
"It'll be a fun, party atmosphere," says the 32-year-old superstar from Timmins, Ontario. "The performance will be very high energy with great lights and great sound. I'm going to do variations on the arrangements of my songs so they'll be different and more exciting live. We're planning on doing some creative things musically."
Though the details are still being finalized, Shania says she will play about 70 tour dates in the 1998 leg of the two-year tour. The first concerts will be in Canada and then she'll move onto the United States in June.
"I'm going to try to do a lot of outdoors stuff because it is going to be spring, summer. I think it'll be a very fun vibe, and I've always liked going to those types of shows."
It's obvious Shania's excited as she curls up in jeans and sneakers on the sofa in a Nashville hotel room to talk with COUNTRY WEEKLY about her tour - her first sing-for-pay performances since she toured in 1993 after releasing her unsuccessful debut album. Her second album, 1995's multi-platinum The Woman in Me vaulted her to stardom, and her 1997 album, Come on Over, further whetted her fans' appetites.
The wait won't be long, for either her new legion of fans or Shania, who's thrown herself into the preparation of the show and the bus that will be her home for much of the next two years.
The show first. "I've got a great band," she says, a lilt in her voice. "There are nine pieces - three fiddlers - and everyone sings!"
But if her fans expect to see a tightly choreographed Vegas-style production, they're in for a surprise. "The show is going to be exciting, but it's not going to be slick. It's not going to look like a dance video," Shania emphasizes. "My musicians and I will move around, but I don't want to have to take dancing lessons to do the show." She shakes her head and laughs. "I'm not a dancer at all. This show is really going to be all about the music, and performance of the music."
Fans will be a big part of the show. "I feel like I'm hosting a party when I do a concert because you're inviting people there and it's your job to entertain them. I don't want to feel separated from the audience."
Instead, she wants communities to get involved in her show. For instance, she will recruit a couple of teenagers at every tour stop to play drums on "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here" - duplicating the multi-drummer scene in the song's video.
"I don't want audiences to sit back and observe," Shania says. "I want to create a section of the show that's intimate, acoustic, me sitting as close as I can to the audience, maybe on the floor, like you would if you're having a party. I want to create that atmosphere and entertain them as if I'm hosting a party."
Offstage, it could be called The Dog and Pony Tour, since her horse and her dog are traveling with her.
"I'll have someone take my horse and meet us on the road," she says. "They'll go at their own pace, moving from pasture to pasture. He's a very experienced traveler, and it'll be great for me to have him there."
Her dog Tim has an all-access pass - and a private entrance on the customized tour bus she's created.
"I've set the whole bus industry upside down with this bus design," she claims gleefully. "I'll have my dog Tim with me, so I've been practical about materials and colors; it's neutral and comfortable, more like a cabin than a luxury apartment."
There's a bigger than usual kitchen, a real bathtub, a miniature rehearsal studio. "I plan to eat a lot on my bus, I love baths, and I want to maybe record a few things that I write," says Shania, "so it's set up more like a living room. I've got a doggie hatch so I can let the dog in and out without having to go outside - little things like that. It has two doors, so I have my own private living area. I know what it's like to live on a bus, and I know where I want things, so I've rearranged it the way I want it."
That doesn't mean it's a mini Taj Mahal, however.
"It's not an opulent bus," Shania stresses. "There's no marble or anything like that. It's the design and layout that's important to me. It's more like a home."
Absent from the tour will be one vital part of her home life in upstate New York - her husband and producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange. He prefers to stay out of the limelight.
She wrote her current single, "You're Still the One," about their relationship.
The song's video, which includes a bedroom scene, startled some Music Row conservatives. Shania shrugs.
"It's totally ridiculous if anyone thinks I'm pushing the limits on that video," she says. "There is nothing revealing about it. I'm wrapped up to the gills. The video is sensual and has a surreal feel about it, but there is nothing sexual about it. When you start kissing and touching, it's sexual. But sensual? That's fine, in my opinion - it's a very romantic song."
Shania pays little attention to tongues wagging on Music Row.
"I don't pay attention to it because it limits you artistically. I think fans are totally unlimited. Their minds are completely open. They're always interested in what's creative and new and refreshing. Our job is to keep them entertained, and you have to be creative to make that happen." Restricting creativity, she adds, would be like an art gallery banning paintings that show women's breasts, effectively eliminating some of the world's greatest art. The concept makes her laugh. "You cannot restrict art that way," she adds.
Obviously, Shania's doing something right: In the United States alone, The Woman in Me sold more than 10 million copies - more than any other album by a female country artist - and Come on Over has reached triple platinum status. But she's as straightforward as ever, despite the changes in her fortune.
"I'm not really experiencing fame," Shania says. "I didn't know what to expect. I did think it would be more glamorous. I always thought it would be fun to have somebody doing your hair and makeup every day, and somebody shopping for your clothes. I thought it would be fun to sit around and drink tea and pick through the clothes.
"Let me tell you," she adds with a laugh, "it's not like that at all. It's more like, 'You've got five minutes and you better look great.' It's not this wonderful, glamorous experience I toyed with in front of the mirror as a child."
Stardom is heaps more work than she had foreseen. Right now, her career must take top billing at every level of her young life.
"Just how drastically things can change from day to day and week to week is incredible," she says. "The only way I can keep sane and enjoy what I'm doing is to focus on the fans and why I'm doing this. It's the only way to stay grounded, because if you get too serious about yourself you can't stay normal."
Normal's important to her. "I don't care about the fame," Shania says. "If it's gone tomorrow, I don't care. It's not important. Even when I was a kid, I never wanted to be the star - I just wanted to be Stevie Wonder's backup singer. Seriously, that's all I ever wanted to be. At 10 years old, I'd go to bed and pray, 'Please, I want Stevie Wonder to hear me sing and I want to write songs.' "
Both talents have served her well. Her singing won Shania her record deal; her songwriting made her stand out.
On her debut album, only one of the songs was hers. "They weren't interested at all in my songs," Shania recalls. "So it's a darn good thing I was a singer. It's funny how things come together, because when Mutt heard me sing he wanted to know if I was a songwriter. He couldn't understand why I wasn't recording my own music. After we got together, that's the way it ended up. Now the way I look at it is that I'm nothing without my songs.
"Look at my first album. My image was exactly the same then. I didn't change anything. I was the same performer and the same mover. I had the same body and the same hair. I was the same person. It's just that the songs weren't mine. And isn't that what made the biggest difference? It wasn't the look. It's interesting and ironic how it all comes together - in the end, you wind up being successful if your songs work."
One of the amusing things about Shania's glamorous image is that people who don't know her well fail to recognize how smart she is.
"If people choose to see me that way, it's their problem," she shrugs indifferently. "I'm not going to be less of a woman or suppress the way I look so people don't overlook my brains.
"I'm not talking about being overt sexually, but if we feel comfortable in a skirt, we should wear a skirt. If we feel comfortable in a bare midriff, we should wear a bare midriff. That should be fine."
Shania admits she wasn't always this comfortable with her body.
"I used to be very shy about my body," she remembers. "I didn't want to be seen as a girl. I was a tomboy and I wanted to stay a tomboy. When I was very young I met this girl; she was an athlete and very muscular and masculine. I told my mom, 'That's the kind of girl I want to be,' and my mother was horrified. She was like, 'No, no, surely you want to curl your hair and wear dresses,' and I said, 'No - I want to be strong and independent.'
"I saw at school that if you had breasts and you bounced and you were feminine, that everyone paid attention only to that. I hated that. I would wear loose clothing to completely hide my body. I realize now that I should have been proud of the fact that I was female, and tried to change their perceptions instead of changing myself."
Now that she feels free to express herself fully - and has the songs to prove it - Shania plans to write for other artists as well.
She intended "From This Moment On" to start a stockpile of songs for other artists, but Mutt insisted that she record it, which she did with Bryan White.
"That song would be better with a powerhouse vocalist, and I'm not a powerhouse vocalist," she says. "I'm a stylist, I'm not Celine Dion. I never will be and I don't want to be, but I want to write songs for people who sing like that. But Mutt said, 'Just sing it in your style.' I guess it works, but it's not the way I heard that song.
"Mutt is the producer, and sometimes you have to listen to the producer."
But while Shania tours, Mutt will, as always, stay away from the limelight. "He really does like his privacy," says Shania. "He loves European soccer, and he'd rather be at home watching the game. He's just not a public guy, not into being famous, doesn't ever want his picture taken. It's not done to be deliberately mysterious - it comes with real honesty."
Although her career is white-hot, Shania looks forward to a time when she can write songs for a living. "I'm enjoying my career and I have worked for this for a long time," Shania tells COUNTRY WEEKLY. "I want to make the most of it while I have it, because I do understand it doesn't last forever. But I'll be okay when things mellow out with my performance career. It'll be a very interesting experience, a whole new world."
| ||SHEER CLASS |
Anthony Noguera, FHM, April 98
Recently, E!, America's popular CELEBRITY TV gossip show, ran a feature on Shania Twain with the catchline: "Shania Twain - is she too sexy for country?" Looking at our pictures, you have to agree that they do have a point. Shania is unlike your average Nashville crooner in two obvious ways: she is not American, and she is not ugly. One of only four women who have sold ten million copies of a single album (1995's The Woman In Me, which contained an incredible four US number ones), she is perhaps unfairly labelled a country and western artist. She may have recorded a song entitled Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?, but her style is certainly closer to Bryan Adams than Willie Nelson.
Brought up in rural Canada, she is of Irish and French-Canadian descent, and was raised by an Ojibwa Indian father. The teenage Twain would spend weekends hunting on the reservation, and weeknights being smuggled into bars to perform precocious C&W standards on her acoustic guitar. These days she is married to rock producer Mutt Lange, responsible for guiding the careers of Bryan Adams, Def Leppard and AC/DC, among many others. Having a joint income greater than some small countries means that, come rent day, there's no scrabbling around for lost change down the back of the sofa in the Twain household. Yet in person, Shania displays none of the snobbery that all too often comes with success. And although the cover artwork for her hit new album, Come On Over, reveals the kind of form that has made her a trucker's favourite pin-up in the States, she readily admits to having a few skeletons in her fashion closet.
When you were a teenager, did you ever dress like a rock chick - with, like, back-combed hair?
Yeah, I have to admit it, I had big Seventies hair and really bad perms, ha ha! I also once had a frizzy hair period and I definitely wore too much black eye-liner as a teenager. But I was never into heavy make-up. I never had foundation or lipstick - just eye-liner and back-combed hair.
Did you ever sport a denim jacket with the name of a band embroidered on the back?
No, but when I was 16 I had my own rock band. We wore black satin jackets with our logo on the back. We were called Long Shot.
Were Long Shot any good?
We were pretty good actually, pretty dangerous for my home town and pretty popular. The bars we played in would have to lock the doors at 9pm - before we came on stage - because the places would be so full. And I wasn't even legally old enough to be in the bars. We would mix stuff like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with pop rock Foreigner-type stuff. And we'd do stuff by A Flock Of Seagulls.
You don't like A Flock Of Seagulls? (Sings) "Can I touch you to see if you're real?" I love that song!
What's the weirdest venue you've played in?
From when I was eight to about 12 I played in clubs, but I also played in community centres and senior citizens homes. My great-grandfather was in one, so I'd go and entertain him. I'd have some people going "I can't hear anything - is she playing anything?" and others complaining that it was too loud.
Did you ever play behind chicken-wire, like in The Blues Brothers?
No, but I've seen a lot of bar fights. If one broke out in front of the stage I'd get right in there, as I can't stand to see people hitting each other. I'd be trying to split them up - like I was going to be able to do anything! I'm surprised I didn't get myself killed. But I've never played behind chicken-wire. Or had a tomato thrown at me. Is it true that people in the UK spit at bands?
Not unless they really like them. Moving on, you sold ten million albums last year - that's just showing off isn't it?
Ha ha ha! Well, I'm having fun showing off! I enjoy it! I love what I do, so it's nice to get paid well for doing it. Music careers can be very short-lived, so it's a case of enjoying it while I can.
There seems to be confusion about exactly what kind of music you play. You're labelled as country, but your new album sounds like loud pop songs with guitars to me.
I guess you're right. They're pop songs with a country structure. The way I see it is that my music isn't country in the way you probably think of country, but it is influenced by country. I've fallen into that category and, to be honest, I really don't care - it hasn't stopped people from buying my records.
Your lyrics can be a bit corny - do you purposely write them with your tongue in your cheek?
Oh yeah. You can't take it seriously. I don't think hardcore country fans realise it, but everyone else knows that they're meant to be corny and humorous. I'm not an angry person, so I write with comic relief.
Do people do special line dance steps to your songs?
My husband was watching this country music dance programme, and when one of my songs came on all the people left the dancefloor. Just a couple of people were left trying real hard to dance along. Then, when my song finished, a real country kickin' tune came on and everybody came back onto the dancefloor. But at least some of them tried to dance.
You changed your name from Eileen Regina to Shania. Not an obvious switch, perhaps?
It means, "I'm on my way." I don't even put any emphasis on its meaning. Somebody else looked it up and told me what it meant. There was a wardrobe mistress in a show I once did and her name was Shania, because one of her parents was a Native American. I thought the name was beautiful. When I got my first record deal they told me "Eileen Twain" didn't flow and I had to change my surname, but I refused because my parents had passed away and I wanted to keep my family name. So I changed the first one to Shania. There wasn't a whole lot of thought went into it.
Where were you brought up?
My whole background, from when I was a toddler, was Ojibwa Indian. Most of my relatives lived on a reservation. My mother was Irish and French. My father didn't want us to grow up there, but we ended up spending a lot of our weekends and summers on the reserves. It was like one big happy family, completely different from white, city society. I learned how to snare rabbits and stuff like that.
You didn't have to wear the rabbits afterwards?
No, I didn't have to wear rabbit hats or anything, although my grandmother used to make me stage outfits out of deerskin. We ate a lot of wild meat. I'm a vegetarian now, but I don't look down on people who eat meat. And of course I've been to pow-wows. But no, I have never smoked a peace pipe.
One song from your new album, Don't Be Stupid, warns men about being jealous. Are there any other bad habits that we have that you'd like to sort out?
Men could learn to be more sensitive about the way they criticise how women look. That can really kill!
Your manager mentioned earlier that you hate it when men fart out loud in public.
Yeah, ha ha ha! Men fart out loud much too often. And they get away with it because they're men and it's totally disgusting. It completely embarrasses me! If I farted out loud I'd be so embarrassed! But guys think it's cool.
And finally, are you really too sexy for country?
You're either too sexy or you're not sexy enough. Right now I'm having fun with being sexy.
|TWAIN'S WORLD |
Bruce Feiler, Live Magazine, May 98
This is what she's wearing: skin-tight black pants, a pair of platform pumps, also black, and a soft, loose-fitting lavender V-neck bouclé sweater. Her chestnut hair scatters around her shoulders and frames her face, which - unlike the cover-girl public visage that has women marveling and men melting from Maui to Manhattan - at the moment is unadorned and pleasant looking, in the manner of the nicest school nurse you ever had. Her smile is reticent, her demeanor almost shy, and the anticipation of encountering a haughty prima donna quickly fades away as she retreats into the corner of a green-velvet booth in a posh but empty hotel dining room just steps from Times Square. Shania Twain, 32, one of the biggest-selling female artists in Nashville history, with the best-known belly button in country music and a deep desire to cross over to international divadom, has arrived for a drink (just water, please) and a chat. And she's left her image at home.
Despite her apparent nonchalance, Shania Twain has lots of opinions about image, as she does about music and men and plenty of other things. She'll talk about these opinions and does so with remarkable aplomb over the course of our conversation. But she prefers to do her talking musically, which she has done with admirable bluntness on her last two albums, each of which she wrote entirely with her husband, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, the South African-born producer behind some of the most successful rock acts in the last two decades: the Cars, AC/DC, Def Leppard and Bryan Adams.
After a tepid self-titled debut album in 1993, Twain teamed with Lange (the two first met in June 1993 and married in December of that year) to produce the most significant breakthrough in country music in the last decade, 1995's The Woman in Me, a 12-song mix of caressing love songs and dance-tinged "chick" anthems, such as "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!" and "Any Man of Mine." Over the past several decades, the anthem emanating from the distaff side of Nashville has gone from Tammy Wynette's homily "Stand by Your Man" to Twain's bold new edict that says, in effect, "Stand by Me." And it's striking a chord: The Woman in Me has sold more than 10 million copies, a feat Twain shares with only five other female artists: Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Carole King and Alanis Morissette.
Twain's third album, Come On Over (Mercury), released in November and certified triple platinum just eight weeks later, pushes further her role as captain of the local ladies bowling team. Unlike her previous effort, which featured only one exclamation point in its 12 song titles, the new album features six exclamation points in its 16 titles, including the double-exclamatory "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" and "Whatever You Do! Don't!" It's clear Twain is warming to her role: "Honey, I'm home, and I had a hard day/Pour me a cold one, and, oh, by the way/Rub my feet, gimme something to eat." This summer, Twain steps out from behind the studio microphone to meet her fans - and confront her critics - on her first-ever solo tour. Twain has taken flak for not touring earlier, thereby perpetuating the view that she is the studio creation of her husband, with only limited chops as a performer. The tour, which she says will last at least two summers and cover North America, Europe and Australia, is her chance to respond in the most vocal and high-stakes way. It's also a chance for her to put a live face to the hybrid of country, dance and pop she has forged on her records.
Which brings us to the topic she most enjoys discussing: music. This is what she's listening to at the moment: Elton John, Joan Osborne, Paula Cole, Wynonna. In recent years, while she was writing her last album, Twain didn't listen to many records. But now that she's preparing for her show, she's listening again. "Mariah Carey's Christmas album is one of my favorites," she says. "And Tammy Wynette's. I put them on when I'm cooking. It doesn't matter what time of year."
Perhaps this eclecticism has worked in her favor. One significant improvement on Come On Over is the quality of Twain's lyrics. "They are better," she agrees. "I think I just put more work into it. I was less concerned and less cautious."
Also, more experienced. The much-speculated-upon collaboration between Twain and Lange works, she says, like this: She comes up with the ideas, writes the lyrics and throws in what she calls "a few crazy touches." Then she takes them to her husband. "I'll ask him, 'What about this?' I'm always apologizing for what I think. It's really stupid. I guess my confidence isn't quite there. He'll say, 'No, no, no. That's great. What else do you have? What else aren't you telling me?' "
Her insecurity, she says, does not stem from Lange's being a man, but from his being the producer: "I think if we were just cowriters, it would be different, but because he's the producer, he sees the whole picture. I mean, this guy has a brain that's unbelievable. So when you say something, he computes it into a million things. And then you're sitting there waiting for the response."
Which brings us to the topic most associated with Twain: sex. "It's a part of country music, whether Nashville likes it or not," she says. "Music is a very sensual experience, and country music can be very erotic. There are a lot of sexy artists who don't even realize they're sexy." George Strait, she mentions, and Dwight Yoakam. "Sex appeal and things that are sensuous do not have be threatening."
Which brings us to the topic that has most plagued her: the idea that she has surrounded herself with domineering men who are the real forces behind her success. On that point, Twain says she's always had strong men in her life. Her parents divorced when she was young, and Twain and her sister were raised by their mother and stepfather, who had one child together and adopted another. Twain credits her stepfather, Jerry, with imparting his Native American heritage to her. Although her paternal grandmother later complained in the press that Shania, who was born Eilleen, had fabricated her Native American roots, Twain insists otherwise. "My whole life, I never mentioned my biological father or the fact that I was adopted by my stepfather. I never even thought about it. Around our house, the word step-anything was forbidden."
After her mother and stepfather were killed in an automobile accident when she was 21, Twain raised her younger siblings. When she moved to Nashville, she adopted the moniker Shania, an Ojibwa Indian word meaning "I'm on my way."
In addition to the controversy surrounding her heritage, Twain is dogged by the even greater controversy surrounding her husband, who never appears with her in public, is almost never photographed and gives no interviews. Since their meeting in Nashville, the gossip mill has portrayed him as a Svengali. "The mystery that surrounds him has contributed to his reputation," she concedes. "But if he were sitting here, he'd be telling you exactly the way it is. He'd be saying, 'No, she does all of her own writing.' If anything, he'd say, 'I'm Mr. Twain.' It's very different from what a lot of people suspect."
Finally, on top of the controversies involving her stepfather and her husband, Twain added yet another strong-willed man to her team of advisers: Jon Landau. Last year, she hired the former-rock-critic-turned-mega-manager and his partner, Barbara Carr (they have just two other clients, Bruce Springsteen and Natalie Merchant), to mastermind her journey to superstardom. This news struck Nashville as yet another sign that Twain was eager to leave Music City behind, a charge she responds to by saying simply, "It's something that I needed. I needed that element in my career to take me to the next step."
Which brings us to the topic that most concerns her these days: her career. This is where Twain thinks hers is going: crossover. Mercury Records has been making an extraordinary pitch with her single, "You're the One," urging pop as well as country stations to play it. In addition, VH1 has joined Country Music Television in playing the video. In recent years, few Nashville artists have risked raising the ire of country radio stations by distributing their songs to other formats. Twain, though, isn't worried about a backlash. "I've been a good friend to country radio, and it's been a good friend to me. I don't see why that has to change."
Meanwhile, she says she also hopes her long-delayed tour will help her regain some confidence lost by sitting at home for the past two years, waiting until she felt comfortable launching a large-scale tour. It's a problem she knows she brought upon herself. "Everybody else is out there doing a show every second night. They've got the fans responding; they feel great. Here's me, once a month, or once every two months, going on TV, not having my chops, not being in shape, not having the confidence I would have if I was on the road. That's really hard, and I'm glad it's coming to an end."
As for the show itself, she promises it will be spirited, suited to her athletic image and apparel. "It'll be a little rock 'n' roll. Really high energy. A lot of people mention Tina Turner to me. I've never seen her show, but I guess it will be along the lines of her vibe and excitement." (As for which show was her favorite: Van Halen, whom she saw as a teenager.)
All of which points Twain in a certain direction. She has touched down for the past few years in Nashville, but she seems aimed toward anywhere but there. With her Canadian roots, Hollywood looks and global ambitions, Twain is like one of those spinning tops that appears ready to lift off at any moment and fly through the air. If anything, that's her goal.
"When fans leave my show, I want them to be exhilarated," she says. "When I walk off the stage and I think I've done good, I have a feeling of satisfaction. That's what I want them to feel as an audience. I want them to walk away thinking, 'Yeah, that was great.' "
With exclamation points?
"With exclamation points," she agrees. "Yeah! That was great!"