SHANIA TWAIN NEWS, ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS
Peter Kane, Q Magazine, Oct/98
She's like Garth Brooks, only slightly better looking.
Molson Amphitheater Toronto
It's simple really. In the space of five years and three albums, Shania Twain has gone from being another willing Nashville hopeful to the best-selling female country artist ever. It's a burden she's seemingly been readying herself for since she was eight, 25 years ago, when she sang for her supper and the senior citizens of her home town, Timmins, Ontario, 500 miles from here. John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads was an early favorite. Still, everybody has to start somewhere. These days she shares management with Bruce Springsteen and has a tour bus. "I've been on stage my whole life, in front of audiences, entertaining people.
I'm very, very comfortable with entertaining," she explains, not remotely phased by the fact that in less than 40 minutes she'll be walking out to face another 16,000 capacity audience for the second of her two nights in Toronto, number 30 on what is being billed as her first world tour. It's very big stuff.
Amazingly, even after she's chewed a morsel of fat with Q and posed coquettishly for backstage pictures wiggling bum, the lot- Twain still has time for a meet'n'greet snapping session with 100 or so specially handpicked fans; local radio knobs, competition winners, a couple of people in wheelchairs, that sort of thing, all patiently queuing for their few seconds alongside her.
There's a quick "Hi", a shake of the hand, a pose, a stunning 100-watt smile, a click and "next". It's a relentlessly professional operation but just part of the job for any star of country music, where it's still deemed that, no matter how high you fly, you must never, ever lose contact with the folks left on the ground, those who buy your records and shell out good money to come and see you. Throughout, she doesn't miss a beat. Not that it's all been plain sailing. The self-titled debut album, a conventional Nashville effort using mainly bought-in songs, didn't exactly set the cash registers zinging.
"I only realized later that I didn't have much time left at my label," she reckons. "If your first album doesn't work, do they really want to invest more money in you? They had barely scratched the surface of what I was capable of doing. I really thought that it was all going to happen in stages, that I would have time to come into my own. I now know how quickly I would have been passed over."
Instead, a particularly good fairy intervened. Robert John "Mutt" Lange, the British record producer of Boomtown Rats/Def Leppard/Bryan Adams clout, caught sight of her on video on TV, unsurprisingly liked what he saw, got in contact and suggested they made a record together. What had she got to lose? The result was 10 million plus sales for 1995's The Woman In Me. And lift-off.
A year in the making and sonically landscaped to sound more like a rock than a country record (surprise. surprise), it genuinely broke the mold even if, with its sleek, shiny surface it wasn't to most traditionalists' tastes. There was even a new heated-up image to go with it too: tousled mane and a distinctly knowing post-coital glow.
Country music had neither sounded or looked this way before and it still seems there are those who don't much like it, particularly in Nashville. Just one nomination for this year's highly prestigious Country Music Association Awards seems to bear that out. But with the new album, Come On Over, going strong (yielding the whopping You're Still The One and even managing to go gold in Britain) she can probably afford to be blasť.
"I don't think I'm seen as part of the Nashville establishment. I'm not one of their creations, so a lot of people there might be offended by that."
"There's a certain group of people there who really support what I do and probably feel I'm part of it. And there are others who don't."
"Because I don't co-write with their writers I'm not involved with the whole music community the way a lot of artists there are. I'm naturally very independent. And with Mutt producing my records and the fact that we're married, there's no reason for me to be involved with Nashville creatively at this point in my life."
And that raunchy image?
"It offends some people," she chuckles. "It's certainly over the top for some tastes. But there are plenty who really champion it too. I didn't realize at first that the way I saw myself or wanted to be seen visually wasn't really going to be accepted. It allowed me to be myself, but nearly got me booted out of town too. I was lucky enough to get through that because of the success. The fans have certainly proved that they're very happy with what's happening."
So it seems. She gets a standing ovation just for being here; all around, people shout, whoop, clap and call out her name. Blimey. No wonder she likes performing. This is a doddle, she could probably go home now. Instead, as the proud owner of a particularly pert posterior, she jumps onto an invisible yet obviously troublesome donkey, gets it going with much pelvic thrusting and goes straight to work with the stomping Man! I Feel Like A Woman Tonight! She seems to have fun, there's some steel guitar, fiddle too and a sudden blast of fireworks for those with a short attention span. Things were never like this with Tammy and Dolly.
Vocally, Shania - it's OK, everyone calls her just that possesses neither the range, nor depth, nor the sheer paint-peeling power of country divas such as Reba McEntire or Wynonna Judd. But there's none of the harsh twang either that many find so hard to take. No wonder Elton John and Karen Carpenter are among her favorite voices. Besides, when it comes to confidence and force of personality she bows to nobody. As she struts her way through her own calisthenics regime in clothes that always seem a couple of sizes smaller than skintight, only those in a state of permanent sexual denial could fail to see that she's a Frisky performer, although never enough to scare the children.
After all, this is a real Family crowd, one that literally goes From tots and teens all the way up.
With a nine-piece backing band to provide the bounce there's plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong. Naturally, nothing does. Yet there's still lots to admire in a job so well done: the three-pronged fiddle attack on Honey, I'm Home or the way during I Won't Leave You Lonely the stage revolves, the dry ice puffs, the stars come out and the accordionist steps forward for his brief tuppence worth. Sometimes it's the little things that count.
To add a dash of local flavor, Blue Jays' star pitcher, Roger Clemens, lurches on stage to make an "unexpected" presentation of a replica team shirt thanking Twain For "passing through Toronto". A local choir is enlisted to help out God Bless The Child and a nerveless five-year-old sings a whole song as well as any five-year-old can be expected to (i.e. not very). But the crowd thinks it's great; a fair reflection, perhaps, of where North American and European sensibilities part company.
For two hours Twain keeps going, although 22 songs is pushing it a bit. There are patches when things sag because there aren't enough genuine signature tunes. But she'll never be faulted for lack of effort.
As a finale, she steps on a bass drum, raises her arms heavenwards and disappears in a flash of smoke before emerging moments later in the audience, born aloft on the shoulders of four strapping blokes for a quick triumphant tour around the floor. It's a cheap trick but one sure way of geeing up the place for one last bout of hysteria. It works, of course.
The little girl really called Eileen who used to dream of being one of Stevie Wonder's backing singers has come far alright. She's a phenomenon, but country music simply isn't big enough to hold her. It'll take Armageddon to stop her now.
TWAIN AT THE CROSSROADS
Published 1st October 1998
This week Shania Twain's Come On Over album sits on top of the Australian country charts. Her last album, The Woman In Me, is at No. 8. Her single, From This Moment On, hugs No. 9 on the pop charts and the album is No .10. In the US, the song Honey I'm Home is enjoying top 10 status, too.
Twain, 32, is talking from her tour bus enroute to Montreal. Playing live is much more fun that being in the studio, she says. "It's always fun and exciting and there's always that adrenalin rush. I guess songwriting is the easiest part but the lifestyle makes it hard. Being on the road is different and you have to be so careful with yourself.
"When I song-write, I can be anywhere I want and don't have any restrictions. Just write when I feel inspired. Touring is not what I call living, but being on stage is great. Maybe I could just not do the other stuff in between." She says it with a warm laugh and you can almost hear her ticking over potential holiday destinations. In five years the Canadian singer has achieved what takes some industry veterans a lifetime. She's won a long list of awards, had four consecutive No. 1 hits and has sold more than 10 million albums world-wide. Come On Over was released at the beginning of this year and has managed to hold its own through the first single, You're Still The One, to From This Moment On.
The singer has also been included as part of the VH1 concert series caleed Divas which features her singing with Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Maria Carey, Gloria Estefan, and special guest Carole King. The producers of the show say they included her because they felt she was a diva in the making. The Divas album is in store from October 12. If Twain can lay claim to something else, it's bringing some of that sparkling rock'n'roll glamour to country music. Twain seems to consistenly prefer slinky and figure-hugging dresses as opposed to jeans, shirts and the almost obligatory hat.
She got her start as a country singer but Come On Over reaches further. Tracks like Man! I Feel Like A Woman! are quite at home on rock radio while big ballads like You're Still The One and From This Momen On are certain to grace wedding celebrations for years to come.
"I defintely would not be true to myself if I made a decision for the sake of fitting in somewhere," she says. "I have decided not to do that. I make the music that is naural to me. I'm influenced by pop, country and rock and everything that's around me."
"I don't want to be restricted by making a choice like being just country or just pop. I like the fact that I have not had to make a decision about how my music is going to sound. Some of it is more country, but that's what works for the song. Other songs are different."
Come On Over is more pop in Twain's language. She says the songs which worked best on her last album were the ones which pushed the envelope for country music, like I'm Outta Here, which was played both by country radio and mainstream commercial stations.
Twain is married to one of the best-known names behind the scenes of the music industry. Robert John Lange, most often known as 'Mutt', has written, played, and produced for acts including Bryan Adams, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Billy Ocean, and Foreigner. The pair met in 1993, were married six months later and began a creative partnership. Lange produced Come On Over and co-wrote all the tracks. "It's nice being able to write together because we can write any time," Twain says of her husband, who is in his late 40's.
"We're together and we don't have to plan when we are going to write. For us it feels like recreation in a way. We write best when we are sitting around relaxed and almost bored. Then we'll start writing." "It's quite fun. It's relaxed, there's nothing contrived and it's really natural. If anything, when you know each other so well there are fewer inhibitions because I would be afraid to reveal so much to someone else. There's nothing to hide. It's like we're more open and honest than we would be otherwise."
Twain says her writing is very much like her personality - she writes as she would say things, rather than being in a fantasy world. While she does take some creative licence, Twain says there's always a truth to the song somewhere.
She has written a lot of songs she would never care to record or make commercially available. She says many of those musical ideas are more like her diary. And while there's plenty to write about which she is happy to share, this kind of diary songwriting often isn't even heard by her her husband. "Our writing styles complement each other. We both come from different places. Lyrically we think differently to make it interesting."
"He's great on the guitar and while I write on the guitar as well, I'm not a great player. The up-tempo ones come from him most of the time but we bank our ideas.
"He has his own projects and he's not always with me. Actually he's not with me that often."
"He doesn't play live, though he used to play a long time ago. Since he's been producing he spends most of his time in the studio. All the background vocals on the album are ours and he does a lot of singing on all the stuff he does."
Obviously being on tour means Twain doesn't spend a lot of time at home. While she hails from Canada, she spends most of her "home" time in Florida, which replaced New York some years ago. "I'm a pretty normal person and I really like an everyday lifestyle. That's a bit of a struggle for me sometimes. I don't like living the life of a star. It's not my personality at all."
The current Australian single from Come On Over is the ballad From This Moment On. Twain wrote it while watching a soccer game in Italy. Not a huge fan of the sport, she penned the track thinking it would go to someone else. Lange convinced her the song had potential. "This song is a little more pop and is certainly more progressive. But I've also written songs which are pure country that I just might record. I don't really want to have to pay attention to those labels."
|FOR SHANIA IT IS ALL ABOUT MUSIC
An excerpt from the Country Weekly article by Deborah Barnes
Since Shania Twain splashed belly-button first onto the country music scene with a record-breaking album in 1995, fans and media alike have marveled at her supermodel looks, her silver-screen sexiness and now her spectacle of a tour. But for Shania, the glamour is just the sizzle - and her music is the meat of the matter.
"This is the way I treat everything I do in my career. The music leads the way and dictates everything," she declares.
The music has always come first for Shania, who started singing professionally even before she was old enough to enter the clubs where she performed.
"I started singing so young that the only way I was allowed in those clubs was for the band and the club owner to agree to bring me up onstage," says the 33-year-old. "That's why I now have a guest singer come up onstage during my show every night. I like to give these kids a chance to get up and sing."
Shania's music is the driving force behind her phenomenal stardom. In 1995 she released her landmark second album, The Woman in Me, which spawned seven hit singles and sold a phenomenal 10 million copies - the best-selling country album by a female in history. Her latest album, Come on Over, has sold 5 million copies since its release last November, and is on pace to top its predecessor.
To those who consider her sound too pop for true country, Shania points out that her millions of fans can't be wrong. "I find that the very thing I'm criticized for, being different and doing my own thing and being original, is the very thing that's making me successful," she reasons.
Besides, she says, her music is deeply rooted in country. She uses her recent hit, "Honey, I'm Home," as an example.
" 'Honey, I'm Home' is not really an ambitious song for country at all, actually," Shania says. "I find that it's quite traditional in a lot of aspects. It just happens to be updated for the '90s.
"Take for example the song 'Take This Job and Shove It.' You heard a lot of music like that when I was growing up. It was much more frank, in-your-face and real. That's what I'm trying to do with my music.
"What I tried to do with 'Honey, I'm Home' and a lot of songs on this album is to bring a sense of humor to real-life situations that might otherwise be problematic. Role reversal is what 'Honey, I'm Home' is all about - it's basically a satire. Of course, it's a huge exaggeration of what it's really like, and what women would imagine it could be in our wildest dreams.
"It's just my attempt to bring a sense of humor to the changing times and the challenges we have with the sexes in general in the '90s.
"My goal is to appeal to as many people as I can," she adds. "The more people who hear your music, the more satisfied you are as an artist."
While her tour features more pyrotechnics than a World War II flick, the special effects give way to the music at all the right times. "We're offering the best in lighting and sound, but the music will always be first," she says. "It's funny, but my performance style and communication hasn't changed since I was a teenager. I started singing without my guitar and moving around the stage and interacting with the fans in clubs.
"I was always a communicative performer, so I've just taken that on to a bigger stage."
Shania's even pulling up roots for the sake of her music. She and her husband/producer Mutt Lange are moving their home and recording studio to Switzerland so they can write and record in peace.
"It was a decision we made for the sake of the studio," Shania says. "It all boils down to where we want to spend the rest of our lives making music. It's kind of hard to record when you have everyone wanting to know what you're doing all the time. That's the problem with our home in New York. We need privacy not so much on a personal level, but for the music.
"I also have a home in Florida where I stay when I'm off, so we're not leaving the States completely. But we're moving the studio. We're going to go somewhere in Switzerland, not very far from Montreaux, where they have a lot of music stuff going on. The studio's going to fit in there as opposed to standing out. I think that's important."
POSITIVELY PACKAGE PERFECT
By Kimmy Wix
Opinions come a dime a dozen, but let's face it - Shania Twain's "got it going on" and in every way possible. Compare her to lady legends such as Loretta Lynn or the late Patsy Cline and there probably won't be many similarities. Categorize her with today's chart divas like Trisha Yearwood or Martina McBride and chances are, she won't fit in. But place Twain in a world of her own and you'll discover that she's sitting on top of it - making the kind of music she loves and selling it like there's no tomorrow.
Is it all - the quadruple-platinum-selling albums, a rack-up of Canadian Country Music Awards, sold out concerts and phenomenal cross-over success - part of a long-thought-out, strategic scheme to become a worldwide music icon? Shania says "Not so".
While Shania credits her husband/producer Mutt Lange for much of her success and inspiration, she says it's the music that dictates everything and it's the music that will guide her to the next level, whether that means reeling in even more fame or not.
"The music leads the way", she admits. "This is how I treat everything in my career. Really what happens is that I'm going to sit down and write the next album. I'm going to decide what's going on in my head and what I want to say the next time around, how I want to say it and what kind of personality do I want to give this next record. Then Mutt and I are going to get together and collaborate on what we've created independently over the next six months. I have to wait until I write the songs, and when Mutt gets his hands on that music, he can do anything with it. He can make it sound any way he wants to. So until we go through all of that, I couldn't tell you how it's going to end up.
"This is also what dictates the way I look, the way the videos look and the order that the songs will come out," she continues. "Everything (else) comes after that. It's not planned so far in advance that I can even tell you what that is going to be."
Whatever that is, it's working not only throughout the states and her native Canada, but across the world as well. To country fans and radio playlists, Shania is making country music. The country label, however, doesn't always work elsewhere. Shania knew that early on and is now reaping the benefits.
After she bombarded North America's country market with 'The Woman In Me', the best-selling album ever by a female country artist, her picture-perfect package of country, pop, fun-fest personality, rocketing marketing skills and unquestionable good looks quickly began to rock the rest of the world. With her current 'Honey, Im Home' smash - the song that literally set off explosives during the recent telecast of the CMA Awards Show, already becoming a lyric/music phenomenon, 'Youre Still The One'; from her multi-million-selling 'Come On Over' disc became a worldwide smash in both country and pop formats.
To some fans in Asia, Europe, Japan, Holland or Australia, Shania ain't country. In fact, the international version of 'Come On Over' is significantly different. Typical production marks and country sounds from such instruments as fiddles and steel guitars featured throughout several songs quip faintly in the background. While Bryan White is Shania's duet partner on the American-weaved 'From This Moment On' hit, she does it solo style on the international spin. Even what Shania wears on the two seperate album cover shots are different. The North American disc features Shania in a red shirt with hands over head. The international disc reveals the singer flaunting a sexy, sleeveless, silvery gown.
Shania still insists that the packaging approach is more spontaneous than preconceived -whether the focus happens to be on the music itself or the overall image.
"It's not over-thought, to be honest with you," she explains of her camera-ready look. "You go in and go through a big rack of clothes. You sit down in front of the mirror and play with your hair and makeup until you're happy with the way you look that day. The photographer takes photographs for a couple of hours, then you sit back and look back at the image that was created that day and decide how you like looking at yourself. I don't get a stylist involved in creating my image. I want to look at myself and like the way I look, and feel comfortable with that. It's no different than going into a good shop. You stand in front of the mirror and if you like what you see, you buy it. That's really it. It's not any more complicated and there's no more time spent on it than that. I just go with the flow."
While there's no questioning Shania's striking beauty or hook-line-and-sinker songs and studio production, exactly how well her first concert tour would flow was way up in the air. She faced both critics and country fans who claimed she would never pass the test when the live wire was plugged in. So far, the 'live' wire is still hot and has been since she kicked off the tour venture that's included countless dates throughout Canada and the United States. As the tour spills over into 1999, she'll also hit Europe and Asia.
"I feel totally comfortable on stage in this show because everyone around me worked as hard as they did to make it what I always dreamed it would be," she explains. "We spent several months putting the tour together and I was very particular about who came on the road with me. I have the best band on the road right now. I can safely say that.
"It's funny, but my performance style and communication hasn't changed since I was a teenager," Shania admits. "I started singing without my guitar and moving around the stage and interacting with the fans in clubs. I was always a communicative performer, so I've just taken that on to a bigger stage. I don't like being separated from the audience, and I couldn't see a show without it."
That interaction on stage also includes Shania inviting local musicians, singers or show extras to join her for every performance. Her recent CMA Awards Show performance of 'Honey, Im Home' featured a fleet of local screaming cheerleaders to help spice up the enthusiasm and energy of the song.
"From night to night, it changes," she says. "It's incredible. I bring people up on stage every night. It could be any one of any age - a man, a woman, a boy or girl. We've had some young children come up on stage and sing for us. I have a guest singer come up every night from that city to sing in front of thousands of people. It's pretty scary for them. The reason I started doing it is because I started singing so young that the only way I was allowed in those clubs was for the band and the club owner to agree to bring me up on stage. So I like to do it for these kids to give them a chance to get up and sing. We've had kids as young as eight years old come up and do this in my show. We bring up a local choir as well - always a group of teenagers from a local high school and a local teenage drum corp. It's like a party. I have an unbelievable amount of kids at my concerts," she adds. "There are two and three-year-old kids and they know all the words. It blows my mind. That's the biggest difference between then and now for me. Music is music, yes, but when it's your own music, it's everything."
'Everything'; includes the latest effort the world is witnessing from Shania - her romping 'Honey, Im Home' smash. As one music critic responded to her rockin' and pyrotechnic-laced CMA performance, "Nothin' like that good ole country music." The song is sure no 'Crazy' or 'He Stopped Loving Her Today'.
"It's not really an ambitious song for country at all, actually," says Shania. "It is maybe for where country's at now. I use for example the song 'Take This Job And Shove It.' You heard a lot of music like that when I was growing up. It was much more frank, in your face and real.That's what I'm trying to do with my music. I find that it's quite traditional in a lot of aspects. It just happens to be the 90s. What I tried to do with 'Honey, Im Home' and a lot of songs on this particular album is to bring a sense of humor to real life situations that might otherwise be very problematic. Role reversal is what 'Honey, I'm Home' is all about. Of course, it's a huge exaggeration of what it's really like and what we would imagine if it could be in our wildest dreams as women. It's just my attempt to bring a sense of humor to the changing times and the struggles that we have with role reversal and the challenges we have with the sexes in general in the 90s."
The 90s for singer/songwriter Shania Twain, is a far cry from what she actually dreamed of as a little girl. "My dream from the time I was a very young child was never to be a star," she admits. "I was much happier to be in the background. I was really a closet songwriter for a long time until my mother forced me to play her my music. Being a star is a fleeting thing, whereas being a songwriter is forever."
One can agree that times are certainly 'fleeting' right now for Shania Twain.
BBT RADIO INTERVIEW
David Allen, BBC Radio 2 Interview
Radio 2 (David Allen): We have, not just a guest, a special guest! Miss Shania Twain.
DA: Welcome. Yeah, welcome to BBC radio two. You dont need me to tell you how popular you are in Britain, a couple of hits there, and what a knockout concert in Hyde Park in the summer. That was great wasnt it?
Shania: Oh..that was great fun! I had such a great time. And I really, really wanted to take that audience home, definitely. That, i think changed my life as far as just reaction goes for live performance. I mean they were outrageous! I mean, there were over one hundred thousand people there mind you. so...
DA: Sunny day too. It was lovely.
Shania: Yeah, i mean, you dont get to experience that everday. With that many people, that was great fun
Radio 2: You had a pretty big job tonight really to start off the show. Y'know, and its got to start with a bang. And you certainly did that. Where did you get all these friends that came running down the aisles? Y'know it looked about two hundred of them there.
Shania: It was, what happens is, i really wanted to recreate the environment that we have every night in the concert. And all these kids, there all teenagers from local schools and we just made them a part of the audience tonight. Because...first of all...alot of them arent gonna get to see the show on friday. Because they have to do a school cheerleading thing. So there going to miss the concert...mm..and secondly, i mean, y'know....its kinda weird doing such a up high energy number like that to tuxedos. So it was to really get the whole thing feeling the way it should. We had all these teenagers come in and really just party with us. So every night in the concert..mm..we have teenage high school quiores, we have high school drum cor come up and i have a guest singer every night that comes up and joins me and its usually a teenager or a child actually. So, to get the real feeling of the way the show feels.
Radio 2: Its a great idea. Cos it is always the problem with these awards shows.
Radio 2: These industry people are not going to...they are trying to remain there cool. In their tuxedos there and they dont really join in do they?
Shania: Exactly! So, its hard for you as a performer to get up there and just do your four little minutes of bopping around. I for the sake of the camera, its alot more fun and real for me when it feels, when its real. Y'know, the environments more real.
Radio 2: Country musics obviously changing with people like yourself in it and the dixie chicks.
Radio 2: Some of the traditionalists sort of say, well, your not, your music's not really country. What do you say to them?
Shania: Sure...well, neither was Elvis Presley and he just got inducted into the hall of fame this evening.(laughs)
Radio 2: Smart answer!
Shania: Mm..yes..thats all i have to say about that.
(Laughter breaks out) Radio 2: Alright, well it was a great start to the show.
Radio 2: Really set it up for the evening. Thankyou for coming to see us.
DA: What is this about you coming to live in Switzerland? Is this true?
Shania: This is very true.
DA: Oh great!
Shania: I'm looking very forward to it. I love Europe and my husband obviously as lived there for many years. Mm..and I'll keep a home here in the States because I just, I'm here so much and i work so much, so i get the best of both worlds. And I'm looking very forward to it.
DA: Who do you thinks going to win Entertainer of the year? Have you any bets on that? Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Tim Mcgraw or George Strait? Coming up in a minute.
Shania: I think George Strait is going to get it. But it could a close tie with Tim Mcgraw. Thats my guess.
DA: Yeah, and of course Garths waiting there in Buffalo New York.
Shania: And Garth...I mean, Garth could very well easily get it. Somehow thats my guess.
DA: Right. We shall see, we shall see. Anyway thanks to Shania Twain live on Radio two.
GROWING TO FILL SUPERSTAR BOOTS
Andrew Flynn, Sept 1998
There once was a time when nobody took Shania Twain seriously. My, how things have changed. In three short years, since the release of the 12-million-selling album The Woman In Me, she has exploded into the highest ranks of celebrity.
Twain has now sold more albums than any other female artist in country music history. Heaps of awards hardware adorn her trophy case - including 15 honours from the Canadian Country Music Association. It's not a record number, but all have come since 1995.
Taking a breather in her dressing room after collecting six CCMAs last week, Twain is composed to the point of serenity - an impressive fact considering she's right in the middle of her first world tour and at the pinnancle of a very busy career.
"It's not all that different than it ever was," Twain says, her warm, tinkling laugh filling the small room.
"People always ask how have things changed with success and in a lot of ways nothing has. When I was a club singer, I was working harder then. I was travelling in junky vehicles and sleeping in yucky beds and singing in smoke-filled places. Those were just as demanding times in a different way."
As a person, Twain has matured dramatically in the last three years. She has grown quickly from a small-town country singer from Timmins, Ont., into an international phenomenon. And she has proven she can handle the constant pressures that come with the spotlight.
"You just get more and more comfortable with things," she says.
"Going on the road with the tour has given me a whole new sense of calm. I think before I went on the road I was questioned so much and I was doubted so much - that bothered me."
More than a year later, Twain is still smarting from suggestions by critics in the press and the music industry that she couldn't cut it on stage, that she was more image than musician.
"That was all very laughable because it's like - give me a break, I've been on tour my whole life, since I was a very young child. I know exactly what it's like to tour in the rough."
But the first world tour has been a vindication of sorts, Twain says.
"With that hanging over me, I think there was a cloud over me," she says. "Now I think that's gone. So there's a nice calm effect that comes from that. So big deal, I took a couple of years off. Touring is not difficult and I don't know where people get this idea. Touring as a struggling artist is difficult - touring as a successful artist is not hard, I'm sorry."
Handling a public persona seems to have come naturally to the 32-year-old midriff-baring beauty, who was eagerly adopted by the country music industry as a sex symbol.
But Twain as no-nonsense businesswoman? It's no secret, but neither is it commonly known how much control Twain has over her music and her image.
"I'm a planner in the sense that I like set goals for myself and I like to have direction," says Twain, who was instrumental in the preparation of her latest album, Come On Over, and the tour, right down to the design of her tour bus.
"I've always been totally involved but I haven't always been heard or taken as seriously as I am now. Now I think I'm just getting a little more respect.
"Everything in my career revolves around the music. Everything else is really up to me and that can be hard because I don't always have time to think clearly about making certain decisions and that scares me sometimes," Twain says.
"It's just part of being successful and sometimes I wish I was free of it: I wish I was just the singer and all I had to worry about was singing and writing.
"But I couldn't stand by and watch other people make decisions, especially creative decisions, for me - no way. It's not in my nature."
Control over her career is one thing. Being the star the public expects her to be is another.
"I never get tired of the fans, because I appreciate so much where they're coming from. I draw from their excitement. I'm flattered by it. I'm inspired by it," Twain says.
"But you have to sort of be 'on' all the time, you have to almost be more than what you are, it seems, because in a lot of people's eyes you're bigger than life. So you have to act bigger than life, which I'm not very good at," she says with an almost shy grin.
"I don't see myself as a star - I'm not really sure what that is," she says, raising her perfect eyebrows.
"Because you don't feel any different, you feel like the same person. So it really is uncomfortable for me, especially when people go so out of their way for me. I don't like to be treated like a star, I like to be treated like a normal person."
COUNTRY MUSIC SUPERSTAR SHANIA TWAIN HAS SOLD MORE RECORDS THAN ANY OTHER FEMALE ARTIST IN COUNTRY MUSIC. A SKETCH:
Born: Eileen Regina Edwards, Aug. 28, 1965, Windsor, Ont.
(Changed name to Twain when mother remarried).
Raised: Timmins, Ont.
Married: British producer Mutt Lange (Def Leppard).
Little-known fact: Shania is Ojibwa for "I'm on my way."
Shania Twain, 1993
The Woman In Me, 1995
Come On Over, 1997.
"I'm lucky. A lot of really great artists slip through the cracks because they don't have the right team behind them. There's a lot of people involved with videos, making the records, the label, the touring support. Everything is so crucial and not everybody is lucky enough to have the right people around them. Now, I'm very demanding of the people around me, as I am of myself. And I'm very focused, I know exactly what I want, so I think that helps everybody around me to focus and the whole machine works smoothly."
COUNTRY'S BETTER HALF
Mark Laswell, TV Guide, Sept 1998
It's women both as performers and as fans who are driving today's music Even in an art form as homespun and humble as country music, appearances can be quite deceiving. Take for instance the nominees for the Country Music Association's most prestigious award. The candidates for Entertainer of the Year are all male. And most of the speculation leading up to this week's ceremony concerns guys: Can George Strait complete the superlative type of year he has had (he just passed Merle Haggard as the CMA's most nominated performer ever) by copping the top prize? And if the notoriously competitive Garth Brooks loses, will the shade of purple he turns more closely resemble a damson plum's or Barney the dinosaur's?
But the most vital story in country music during the last year or so isn't going to be found under the brim of a Resistol cowboy hat. It's the women of country-performers, record buyers and concertgoers-who have Nashville agog. From such stalwarts as Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain to the just arrived Dixie Chicks, female artists have established a groundswell in country music that is transforming the industry. Their emergence has spurred massive record sales driven by female fans, who now make about 58 percent of all country-music purchases. (In fact, they've outnumbered men at the cash register for more than a decade; among music buyers overall, women overtook men just this year.) Country music's female posse has also created a sense that women, in a mostly male business, are the ones breaking new ground. With the country-music industry worried about stagnation after the boom years of the early 1990s, female performers are taking on controversial topics with their lyrics (in a recent concert, for instance, Twain revised a verse of "God Bless the Child" to include girls with "daddies who make them play games they don't want to play"), spicing up their music with unabashedly pop and rock riffs and generally shaking up a town that prefers life on the sedentary side.
"They've done an extraordinary job of articulating the situation of the contemporary woman in society today," says CMA executive director Ed Benson, discussing country's female big four, Twain, Yearwood, Faith Hill and LeAnn Rimes. "They have really set the standard for music in the last couple of years, whether by taking some chances on songs or doing music that's a bit edgier than the standard down-the-road stuff that country-music radio stations normally like to play."
Shania started singing in backwoods Canadian bars as an 8-year-old; now she has large chunks of North America (and beyond) singing bars from her music. Shania Twain, 33, is technically a country star-Come On Over is up for the CMA's album of the year award-but her pop chops have also won a massive mainstream audience. Her '95 album, The Woman in Me (produced and cowritten by her husband, rock-music veteran Robert John "Mutt" Lange), has sold more than 10 million copies, double-digit territory previously reached by only three female vocalists: Carole King, Whitney Houston and Alanis Morissette. Twain's sexy yet strong image is also decidedly beyond Nashville: She's post-Madonna, not latter-day Loretta.
TV Guide: Your success selling albums while not performing concerts led to expectations that your first world tour would be a bust, yet it's a critical and financial winner. Do you feel vindicated?
Shania Twain: People thought I was going to be petrified and that it was going to be a disaster. Meanwhile it's the easiest part of anything that I've ever done. The irony is that the studio and the video and the television-all the controlled environments that were very new to me a few years ago-that's the stuff I was most uncomfortable with. When you go up onstage in front of a live audience, the freedom is unbelievable. And when you're on television or in a video or in the studio, you have to achieve communication without communicating. It's so bizarre.
TVG: Is the whole "bare belly button" controversy behind you as well?
ST: I think that the industry seriously underestimated the fans and where they were at. I mean, come on, we have the Internet these days. Watch TV for one hour! The times are very progressive and very free. That's why I don't particularly pay a lot of attention to what the industry is doing. I don't want to be influenced by it, I don't want to know what they consider right and wrong.
TVG: You've struck a chord with young women in particular.
ST: You can't underestimate or fool the fans. They live real lives and they want real music, real thoughts and real words. That's what I try to give them. I like to express to young girls especially that you should feel comfortable with your body. Whether it's an extra roll that you don't like or whatever it is that you don't like about your body, you shouldn't feel that you have to hide it. The best example I can give, because this is what I spent doing in my teens, was I had a girlfriend who was very flat-chested, and she could always go around in T-shirts in the summer and tanks and stuff like that, and I never felt that I could because I was so heavy-chested. I covered myself up, and I never went to the beach. Now that I'm older, I'm thinking, What a waste. People should learn to respect the way you look and who you are. Period. I always try to explain to people that it's not about sex. Sensuality is part of being feminine. If you feel that you want to wear something that's sexy, that doesn't mean that you're looking for sex. People interpret these things way out of whack. And I think that's just a shame.
SHANIAMANIA SWEEPS CCMA AWARDS
Andrew Flynn, Canadian Press, Sept 15, 98
Shaniamania has swept the Canadian Country Music Awards for the second time in three years. Shania Twain took home six of the eight awards for which she was nominated at the Canadian Country Music Association's 1998 gala Monday night.
The superstar from Timmins, Ont., was the favourite in the fan's choice category, female vocalist of the year and took single of the year for You're Still the One, album of the year for Come On Over and video of the year for Don't Be Stupid.
Fans who bought tickets for the show at the Jubilee Auditorium screamed with delight as Twain picked up each of her awards.
Come On Over also scored as top-selling album of the year in Canada, beating even megastars Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes.
Accepting the award for single of the year, Twain said the romantic ballad about long-lasting love was based on her relationship with husband and producer Robert (Mutt) Lange.
"The last five years of my life have been a tremendous thrill," said Twain. "You're Still the One was pretty much Mutt and my story and it just feels wonderful."
It wasn't a surprise that Twain dominated the awards - Come On Over has sold nearly five million copies - and she has racked up 15 CCMA awards since 1995, when she won five.
Since then, her sexy, navel-baring image and sultry voice have made her a household name, one of the few country artists ever to be splashed across the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. At 32, she has already sold more albums than any other woman in country music history.
Twain lived up to her image Monday night, clad in a glittery silver dress open at the midriff.
Host Terri Clark lost no time in mugging about the extra-long train that swept behind Twain as she left the podium.
"I haven't seen a 'twain' like that since my wedding," Clark quipped.
Later, Twain bounced happily up to the microphone to pick her best album award.
"I want to say so much to the fans because you're everything - everything," Twain said, her voice breaking with emotion just a little.
Other winners included another one of Canada's country heavy-hitters: Michelle Wright of Chatham, Ont., for her duet with Jim Brickman, Your Love.
The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) award for song of the year went to Minesing, Ont., native Jason McCoy and his co-writers Naoise Sheridan and Dennis Carr for Born Again In Dixieland.
Calgary home-town boy Paul Brandt was named male vocalist of the year, while group of the year went to the nine-member family Celtic band Leahy, from Lakefield, Ont.
The rising star award for best newcomer on the country scene went to Sydney Mines, N.S., native Bruce Guthro.
In the independent awards - to honour artists on smaller labels not supported by a major record company - B.C.'s Rick Tippe was named best male vocalist.
Beverley Mahood of Kitchener, Ont., won best independent female vocalist, while Thomas Wade and Wayward were group of the year and received best single and song of the year for She's Getting Serious, written by Wade and Tim Taylor.
Vancouver-born songwriter Ray Griff was inducted into the association's hall of honour. In his 35-year career, Griff has written more than 2,000 songs, some of which have been covered by superstars like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mel Tillis.
The gala topped off the annual industry conference, Canadian Country Music Week, which gave artists a chance to catch their breath and evaluate the past year in Canadian country music.
CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC ASSOCIATION 1998 AWARD WINNERS:
Fans' Choice Award: Shania Twain Album of the Year: Come On Over - Shania Twain
SOCAN Song of the Year: Born Again In Dixieland (written by Jason McCoy, Naoise Sheridan & Dennis Carr; recorded by Jason McCoy)
Video of the Year: Don't Be Stupid - Shania Twain
Top Selling Album: Come On Over - Shania Twain
Female Vocalist of the Year: Shania Twain
Male Vocalist of the Year: Paul Brandt
Vocal Duo or Group of the Year: Leahy
Vocal/Instrumental Collaboration of the Year: Michelle Wright / Jim Brickman (Your Love)
Wrangler Rising Star Award: Bruce Guthro