SHANIA TWAIN INTERVIEWS AND ARTICLES
TALKING ABOUT THE WOMAN IN ME
So much of my own original material is on this album. That it's just more me, y'know. My attitude is just in the lyrics, vocally it's very intimate, its very much the way I would sing, just around the house, y'know. Alot of that as to do with Mutt, my husband and producer. Because of course he hears my voice in those moments, when I'm in the tub and when I'm in the kitchen cooking. And stuff like that. And so, he hears the things in my voice that he wants to hear. And remembers and reminds me to do when we're in the studio.
He coaches me. I need that in a producer. I like that he's a great mirror for me. And he will sit in the studio and I'll be doing my vocals and he'll say y'know, he'll just coach me through it. And he will say, y'know, he's a great singer himself, so he will give me examples of how I did that melody when I was cooking, y'know, because what happens is, we write this stuff, we dont have like, writing sessions, y'know, it's very casual. We'll be in the car going to do grocerys and we'll be writing a song together.
We've got about fifty guitars all over the house. Y'know, one in the bathroom, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, one in the kitchen, we've got them all over the place. I'm telling you, sometimes.. I'm stepping on guitars. It's kinda like when you've got kids and you've got toys all over the place... and you get sick and tired of stepping on toys. Well, I stepped on a guitar the other day and I said "okay, thats enough!" "we have to start putting these away."
But it's like you just pick it up wherever you are, whatever your doing and you just start playing something. And then Mutt might hear me in the other room and he'll start singing. Alot of times he'll be playing and I'll be somewhere else in the house and I'll hear him and I'll start getting a melody in my head. It's just a really cool thing that we can write that casually because we live together. And we know each other so well. So we always pick up on alot of little things. On the candid moments, y'know, I will even run in there and go, "no,no,no..go back and do it the way you were doing it", he wont even know I was listening.
Go back to the D or take the melody here or wait I think I've got the perfect lyric for that. Y'know. And so, alot of our writing is not scheduled and it's not erm neccessarily organised. So when we go into the studio ..mm..i think we take alot of that with us first of all. Which makes a big difference. We can take that casual mm.. frame of mind, with us when we go into the studio. And he'll say.."no,no,no..this is how you were doing it before". Because I'll forget, I'll do it differently for some reason. I'll be in a different frame of mind, I'll be in a performance frame of mind and he'll just remind me of how I did it, was doing before and all that kind of stuff. And which tone to go for, and all that kind of thing. When your more relaxed you sing a little differently.
TALKING ABOUT HOW SHE AND MUTT GOT TOGETHER
We met over the phone, originally. A friend of his erm..started seeing my video on CMT Europe and Mutt always has, y'know, when he was living in England, always had CMT on in the studio. And he would just be mixing Bryan Adams album and watching CMT at the same time (giggles) y'know, he'd have mute on the TV and he would just watch. And Mutt was collecting country albums, and he likes to keep up with the new country stuff all the time as well, because he's such a big country music fan. And so his friend, a friend of his in Nashville actually, managed to get him a CD over there in England. And he started working out to it every morning. And became a fan of my voice and wanted to know if I was a songwriter, and got hold of my manager and we hooked up. And y'know, we started writing songs over the phone. And we spent a few weeks over the phone just talking back and forth. I didnt know who he was, I didnt know mm.. that he was this big famous producer and that he had written all these mega hits. I wasnt aware of who he was, I just didnt know the name, I didnt know the name Mutt Lange.
So it was really nice to be able to be exchanging and getting to know each other, and to be that compatible creatively, without even knowing who he was. It was really nice, it was nice for both of us. And when I started talking to him over the phone he played me a Michael Bolton track that he was working on - 'I said I loved you but I lied'. Which was a big song for Michael. But Michaels voice wasnt on it yet. Michael hadnt done the vocal. And so, I was just listening to this wonderful track and y'know, 'cos he said, mm.. here, let me let you, let me play you what I'm working on right now. He must have thought the whole time I knew who he was y'know. I knew he was a songwriter and all that.
So I listened to it and I thought, "wow! this guys really good!" (laughs) Wow, I thought it was so great, I said, oh I can definitly write with this guy. oh okay, me and half the world! So er..he mm..i said wow, thats really beautiful, so he says, what about you? What have you been writing lately? What have you been working on? So I sang the chorus from Home aint where his heart is (anymore), which is the first track off this album. And he just, he loved it. And he thought thought the same thing y'know, he thought wow, I really like, thats beautiful. I think that in his own mind he's thinking i really wanna get together with this person and write. So that's when we decided to meet at fan fair in June 93.
STARDUM BY STORM
Kimmy Wix, Music City News, Nov/95
Only few go there, and those who do, rarely come back. It's a place where relatively new names in the music world quickly launch into a circle of stardom that's as phenomenal as stumbling onto the eighth wonder of the world. It's quite humorous, though, that only a couple of years ago, many of us were having difficulty pronouncing country music's latest wonder, Shania Twain's, name correctly.
Since her debut, the name Shania is now household and she's strolled right along that path to sheer stardom - standing on the pedestal with other quick country heroes and heroines as Garth Brooks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood, Billy Ray Cyrus and Tim McGraw. Although all of these artists had been honing their craft for a long time, it's sometimes one song that does it; an image that's surprisingly intriguing or an overall charisma that triggers us all to tune in for their next appearance, next song or next move.
Although it took this Canadian song princess' second Mercury album, "The Woman In Me," to completely break through the walls of stardom, every move she's made since has been a right one. Her signature song, Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under, skyrocketed to the top of the country charts and sparked an enormous domino-effect of success stories. Following up Whose Bed was the scorching Any Man Of Mine. Her "The Woman In Me" project broke previous records held by Wynonna's self-titled debut and Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Stones In The Road," both of which were No. 1 for five weeks. The album quickly reached gold status and soon achieved the platinum sales mark.
Twain not only soared to the top of the country sales charts, but hit the top of Billboard's Top 200 chart - out-selling such pop-rock greats as All-4-One, Michael Jackson, Hootie & The Blowfish and Madonna. Ultimately, the album was certified double platinum only six months after its release. Along with her phenomenal radio and retail success comes a series of award nominations. In her native country, Twain swept the nominations for the Canadian Country Music Awards and took home five honors of her seven nominations. She garnered the Female Vocalist of the Year award; Single of the Year for Any Man Of Mine; Album of the Year for "The Woman In Me;" the SOCAN Song of the Year for Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under; and Video of the Year for Any Man Of Mine.
The Country Music Association also took significant notice of this rising songstress. Twain is nominated for three 1995 CMA Awards, including nods in the coveted Horizon Award category and Single and Video of the Year for Any Man Of Mine.
Twain has traveled from coast to coast and around the world, promoting "The Woman In Me." The singer/songwriter, who's also wife to fellow writer and rock producer J.R. "Mutt" Lange, however, has yet to perform her first public concert in support of the album. Instead, she has spent the past ten months on the road making promotional appearances, radio visits and meeting with the press. She's been featured in such publications as the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly and has made appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Night With David Letterman and Entertainment Tonight.
With such widespread exposure and towering success already, the name, Shania, which is actually an Ojibway Indian name meaning, "I'm on my way," has certainly become an appropriate moniker for the artist. She's been on a musical path since she could walk. While growing up in the great northland of Timmins, Ontario, where both her father and mother were raised, Twain remembers singing at a local club before she was even a teenager.
"If not for my parents," she explains, "I'd still be singing in my bedroom. From the age of eight, I was doing weekends, the odd gig here and there. I did everything my parents could get me on. Every TV station, every radio station, every community center, every senior citizen center," she laughs, "They had me doing everything."
Twain's lifestyle, unlike most little girls' who grew up playing with dolls, became saturated with singing and playing the guitar. Even later on, during her summer time, Twain worked with her father as a foreman for a 13-man reforestation crew in the middle of the Canadian bush.
The burgeoning "star to be," unfortunately lost her very influential parents in a tragic automobile crash when she was only 21. It was then that she became even more inspired to pursue her music.
"My mother lived for my career," says Twain. "We were extremely poor when I was a kid, and my mother was often depressed with five children and no food to feed them. She knew I was talented and she lived with the hope that my abilities were my chance to do something special."
If "something special" means eventually raising her two younger brothers and sister, Twain deserves the title. When her siblings eventually grew up and followed their own paths, Twain began punching in her talent like never before - performing as much as possible and taking steps toward getting her music to the public.
Her love for music obviously paid off. Now, in the midst of promoting the title cut of her sophomore album, having filmed the video in Egypt, doing product endorsements with such companies as Washburn Guitars, and planning to hit the concert trail in '96, she's perhaps most in love now with the devoted fans who've cradled her from hard times to most deserving recognition.
"As a woman, when you're in love with someone, you just want them to love you back," she explains of her fan appreciation. "You want to do everything you can to please them. You want to make sure you wear the right thing. You want to make sure that they like your perfume, and you want to wear your hair the way they like it. It's the same type thing and is just part of being a responsible person. You're supposed to be out there to please the other person and you only hope to get that in return. When fans do that - when they please you because you're pleasing them - it's a great relationship."
WORLD CLASS TRAVELER
New Country Magazine, 1995
Shania Twain on Jet lag, Camping, Packing, Hotel Souvenirs, And more
Shania Twain is a world class traveller. Hailing from the great northland of Timmins, Ontario, she has been literally all over the world, from the Caribbean to Europe and the United States. With her new album, The Woman In Me, riding high on the charts and a busy tour schedule, Twain Isnt looking to slow down any time soon. In fact her name is Ojibwa Indian word meaning "I'm on my way", which may help explain her almost constant travelling. Twain stayed in one place long enough to answer some questions about travel, vacations and more.......
What do you do when you get jetlag?
You know, I dont really have a problem with that. I go in and out of time zones so frequently that I dont even pay attention anymore. What I do is, i sleep when I can, and I can sleep when I'm flying; I'm a good flyer. So that helps me not to get Jet lag.
Y'know, I can sleep right through a landing or a takeoff. One time I was on this flight and we were delayed on the ground. I didnt know we had landed because I had been sleeping. When I woke up, we were sitting still, but the planes engines were still going, so I thought we were still in the air. I was just amazed when I found out we had already landed.
Where is the most primitive airport you've been in?
Probably the airport in my town of Saranac Lake. Its so small, it only takes one size airplane. But I wouldnt say its primitive, because its very organised. The Caribbean has some primitive airports. They can get pretty funky.
Do you prefer to camp out or stay in a nice hotel?
Thats a hard question for me, but I'd probably have to say camping out. But i also love being in a great hotel. I mean I wouldnt want to have one without the other. I think what it is about camping is that I just love getting back to nature so much that its a true luxury. It's so relaxing, and i find any kind of relaxation a luxury. When you're spending (a fortune) to stay in a really nice hotel, I cant really relax because there's so much to do. You've got to feel like your getting your moneys worth with a hotel!
So you're out camping in the woods and a bear comes to visit. What would you do?
This happens alot up here, I would probably just make a lot of noise. Honestly, thats probably what you should do, because the bear will probably just go away. A bear may chase you, though, if you try to run away. You may provoke the bear by running. I think the bears are naturally kind of scared of people, so unless you were doing something that annoyed them or drew them to you in some way, they will probably just leave you alone. I've thought of everything on this! And it has happened to me a few times, and I never do what I think I should do. One time I just turned around and went the other way, but that was not the right thing to do. The best thing to do is just make alot of noise and they wont come near you in the first place.
Do you ever steal things from hotels?
Okay, you know what I take sometimes? scope bottles, but I dont use them. I collect them for future travelling. Actually thats not stealing because thats complimentary. But what I will take every once in a while is a face cloth. What happens is, sometimes when my curling iron is still hot, and I'm in a rush, I cant just stick it in my bag. So I wrap it in a face cloth so it wont burn anything. You know what else I take? A couple of times I've taken those little mini salt shakers that come with your room service. I take these because they come in handy with my clothes streamer. You have to add salt to the streamer, so those come in handy, and they're so small - you cant buy them that small. I'm probably going to get arrested now!
What's the proper way to pack a suitcase?
This is what I do: I travel with a suitbag. First of all, I lay all my jackets in there, and then I lay my pants across the whole bag, so that when i fold the bag, they're folded. All my shoes and boots go in the corners and sides. In one pocket goes my underwear, socks, nylons and stuff, and in the other pocket go my belts. Even distribution is the key to packing, I dont like suitacases because you can't evenly distribute things - they just go to the bottom.
HEAVEN IS JUST A KISS AWAY
Modern Screen's Country Music, June 1995
Heaven Is Just A Kiss Away: in bed with Shania Twain. Oh okay, ON the bed with Shania Twain, I fell in love yet again with this most velvet-voiced and beautiful of ladies. British hard-rock producer husband ~Mutt Lange notwithstanding he might sic Def Leppard on me, or even worse, AC-DC thinks she liked me too (don't show this picture to Lisa Stewart or Chely Wright).
MIKE GREENBLATT: You and your husband, Mutt Lange, collaborated on your new LP. where did the two of you meet?
SHANIA TWAIN: I met Mutt at Fan Fair. Mutt is a big fan of country music. When I first went to his house to write with him, he had the biggest country music collection I'd ever seen.
MG: So you had that in common!
ST: To tell you the truth, I find it very refreshing at times to get away from listening to country music. Like when I'm driving, sometimes I'll put on the rock station, or the pop station, or when I'm at home I'll listen to something a bit more obscure. Because I'm a writer, I need a little feed of creativity, so when I was with him I thought maybe I'd have a little of that- NO WAY! The radio goes on, it's country music, the stereo goes on, it's country music! A lot of the stuff that he's written, even for Def Leppard- they're the most melodic rock band you'll ever hear, I mean stacked with harmonies, and melody, things that you would hear in a Patsy Cline song. It's not your regular thrash kinda rock, and steel guitar is his favorite instrument. We have a lot in common that way.
MG: And you have mutual respect for each other's work!
ST: He really loved my writing and he loved my voice. He became a fan initially, and my first album was his workout CD in the morning for a long time. He knew every word of it by heart. He studied that album inside out. He knew everything about me, read the bio. He knew all about me even before I knew this man existed. I didn't even know who Mutt Lange was.
MG: He's practically the sixth member of Def Leppard.
ST: Exactly. I mean, he's just done so much. Almost all the acts that he's done were ten million [in sales] and over. Mutt has millions and millions, he's way up there with Michael Jackson and all the best. He's a genius, but he's so low profile, especially visu-ally. No one's ever seen him, and that's what he wants it to be. He has no desire to be a star and it's a beautiful, beautiful quality.
MG: So is your relationship with him gonna turn you into a hard rocker?
ST: No, it won't happen! I know people think that. As a matter of fact, he doesnt want to make country rock at all. He loves country because it's country. and wanted me to bring my stuff in. He wanted the album to be me, creatively. He wanted it to come from me, because after all, I am the artist. He wanted it to be that, so it's not going to be what you would typically hear from him.
MG: There should be a movie based on your life, it's almost like a country song the way you took over your family after your parents' tragic death.
ST: It was a very good character-building period in my life. I mean, I've always played that role in my family. I've always been kind of an anchor role in my family because I've always been very independent and I've always been very bold and straightforward and black and white. I like to simplify things, get to the facts. That's always been the way I've been and nothing has ever been able to distract me it's almost an insensitive quality. When you're raised poor and you've got lots of responsibilities as a child, you just end up that way and it actually can be a bitter thing, but when my parents died, it just made me realize just how valuable life is, how really fragile life is and it's just time to be happy and maybe just warm up to life a little bit. I bought a home at 22 years old. I housed my younger sister and my two younger brothers. My brothers were 13 and 14 and my sister was 20 when I took them in. I got a stable job singing in a variety show, and it paid my way. It was good money, it paid my mortgage. I had to buy a truck, something the whole family could fit in. I took the family dog, the whole thing. I had to sell my parents' home, I had to sell the business, I was the executive of the estate. I grew up. I mean, I was like 40 by the time the year ended. And about the second year after my parents died, my sister got engaged, so she moved out. My younger brother went off to private school, my other brother went on his own way, so everything started breaking up. So I decided to get on with my own career in a serious way. That's when I decided to become a recording artist and that's when I came to Nashville. That's what gave me the guts to come here. It's like, go for it. Why stop there? And that's the way I see my career as well. Not that I see my career as a piece of cake, but life is so deep and it has to be a drama all the time. Life is a lot more important than career. Your career is a part of your life, and if you keep that in perspective, there is no disappointment.
MG: You certainly are wise beyond your years.
ST: I guess, but I have no regrets at all. I think it was all rigged. I mean, obviously, my parents' dying, that was a tragedy, but it wouldn't have happened to me if I wasn't meant to handle it. I wouldn't have been the daughter in the situation. I have an older sister, it wasn't her. My younger sister didn't have to be as dependent on me, but she was. I was just forced to be the strong one in that situation and it's just made me stronger.
MG: After all that hardship, you must really enjoy your life now.
ST: Yes. I am so happy. But you know what, the truth is, I've been happy for quite a while. My parents died seven years ago, and I would say that for the last five years I've been a very happy person.
MG: Because you were able to accept it and go on?
ST: Yes, but I was forced to, that's why I'm saying the responsibility for my family after my parents died was a blessing in disguise. I like to turn everything into something positive because life is short, and you might as well die happy because we're gonna die anyway. I don't want to say when I'm 40 I'll be happy. No, I want to be happy now. When I saw the family all going off on their own and they didn't need me that way anymore, it was like my kids are grown up and I'm free. I'm free, now I can go conquer the world.
MG: Do you think women are threatened by your beauty, your success, and so on?
ST: The women buy the magazines, right? Why do you think women buy Vogue or any fashion magazine or anything beautiful? Because they love beauty! I buy them. All women buy them. People underestimate women. Women are not as easily intimidated as people think. Women are strong, and women admire beauty just as much as men do. I'll tell you one thing, men are more intimidated by me then the women. I am not kidding.
MG: Is it the old story of being the prettiest girl in school with no date 'cause the boys are afraid to ask?
ST: I can't tell you that because I wasn't a pretty kid. I wasn't the pretty one in the class, so I don't know that scenario! If you saw me the way I normally am, you wouldn't think I was beautiful, I don't know what you would think.
MG: You're telling me it's the make-up?
ST: No, no! I'm not kidding. I'm just saying, more than anything, it's an aura about a woman. I think I'm a very independent woman. When I'm on stage, I'm in control of what I'm doing. I'm very energetic. I like to really have fun with the audience. It's such a family thing and so fun that women, they don't see me that way, they really don't. They don't see me as a threat that way because I'm not sexual with their men. I'm just having a good time, singing to the women just like I'm singing to the men. At the end of the show, lots of times, it's the wife that has to drag the man, he's too shy, and she has to get his picture signed for him. That happens all the time. So the men are a lot more shy and intimidated than the women are. Because that's the way I feel towards women anyway. When I'm on stage, I'm myself and I have a good time, I'm not shy. I'm not intimidated by other women and other women aren't intimidated by me.
Mitch Potter, StarWeek, Dec 5, 1998
On the surface, there was nothing terribly revealing about Shania Twain's final trip to the podium in September at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Calgary.
She won, she wept. Again.
But for those watching closely, there was something more than patriotic pride in the Timmins, Ont., superstar's grateful tears. For a few fleeting moments, Twain was overcome with a kind of anguish as she tried in halting words to explain what it's like to undergo such an intense bout of fame.
Then, quickly realizing this was no place for Workaholics Anonymous-style confessions, Twain steeled herself, blurting out some generous thoughts about Canada before bidding a hasty retreat.
Three months later, in a cellphone interview from her tour bus in Little Rock, Ark., Twain confirms our suspicions. After four ambitious, exhaustive years of career-building, that onstage moment in Calgary was our first real glimpse at the vulnerablly stressed singer behind the bouncing belly-button image.
Stress by choice, mind you. If a new treshold of pressure has come this year with her broadening beyond country to find favor with the mainstream pop masses, it's entirely by design. And though twain has always carefully bottled up her laurels for future reflection, she admits the genie jumped out on stage that night in Calgary. She wasn't expecting it.
"That night... it was like a big exhale. It's like I'd spent all these years building up to this peak and that was the first moment I felt like I could allow myself to relax and let it our a little bit. It really hit me." Since then, business as usual, with Shania ticking off date after date on a sell-out tour likely to coninue through next June. This telephone interview, in fact, is among a handful she's doing to help direct eyeballs toward Sunday's CBC broadcast of Shania Live. Airing at 9, the one-hour special of almost continuous hit songs is culled from a Dallas concert that was aired live on US pay-per-view in September.
Whatever else she may be, Twain is no prima donna. She will dutifully fulfill all work that presents itself as her management team - Jon Landau, who steered Bruce Springsteen to iconic renown, now presents her - continues to exploit her increasingly uncountry image internationally.
"This tour is long, really, really long," she sighs. "I'm happy to do that, but when it's over I'm going to take - I wouldn't call it a sabbatical - but I'm really going to slow down and relax."
With sales approaching 20 million for her two albums, 1995's The Woman In Me, and the presciently titled crossover brakthrough Come On Over, Twain is operating on the healthy assumption her peak, if it hasn't yet arrived, is inevitable.
"I know my career will quiet down and I'm looking forward to it very much," she laughs. "Everything peaks. I'm not going to fight it."
"That's why I'm allowing myself to be overworked now. I don't want to be one of those people who regrets it later and says 'hey, I missed all these oppotrunities because I was too busy celebrating my success.' I want to do as much as I possibly can while I have the chance. There will be lots of time later to look back on it and reflect."
That reflection will happen in Switzerland, where Twain and her husband, producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, are seeking refuge from North America's particular brand of celebrity obsession. The overseas relocation means saying goodbye to their 20-quare-mile estate new lake Placid, New York, which apparently wasn't expansive enough to insulate the couple from the heat of fame.
"We loved it there, but Lake Placid isn't an option right now, nor is any other place in the US or Canada. Mutt and I have been getting little breaks in Switzerland, and it's been great. Small country but many different cultures, amazing history, clean air. And it's very low key. Many famous people who live there just blend in. Nobody makes a big fuss about it.
For now, Switzerland will be a studio lab for Twain and Lange. later, they plan to build a permanent residence. Meanwhile, Twain is intent on keeping a small house in Florida and soon she'll be shopping for waterfront property near Huntsville as a Canadian home.
"I don't want to become a hermit. It feels too long since I've had a real connection to Ontario, so having a cottage where I can be with my family, it's a treat, my bonus to myself," she says.
It's surprising, in fact, how tenacious twain remains in her support for Canadian music, particlularly in light of the fact that her career breaks have come exclusively on the American side of the border. She maintains that if Cancon had no direct bearing on her success, a Canadian approach to music certainly did.
"I thank Canada for the fact that my music is original enough to have its own place, so much so that it doesn't really fit anywhere. It just doesn't really fit anywhere. It just doesn't fir totally in country or pop. And doesn't that make me very Canadian? Because that's what happens to all of us - Anne Murray, Blue Rodeo, Susan Aglukark, The Rankins, Leahy.
"Joni Mitchell, fallin between folk and pop, is another good example. What is she? We all somehow connect to a tradition that doesn't quite square with America's musical categories. it makes us different."
Twain, of course, has something else that sets her apart: a marketing plan withour rival. With remarkably produced songs like "You're Still the One" come a remarkably produced array of images - videos, magazine covers, lots of television hits - that maximize her remarkable bodily charms. The voice is good, though less than remarkable, but such trifling details are of no concern to a growing audience seduced by the whole package.
She is the girl next door, if you happen to live next door to Baywatch. And millions want to be her neighbour.
Twain makes no apologies for her use of image, despite fairly harsh and occasional vivid criticism. Three years ago, for examlpe, I choked on a coffee during an interview with singer/songwriter Steven Earle when he came up with this spontaneous pronouncement on Twain: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. She's America's best-paid lap-dancer."
That particular quote had an afterlife, making it into a number of year-end lists. Last year a European publisher borrowed it for an anthology title Steve Earle in Quotes.
And yes, Twain herself heard about it.
"Some people can't figure out or duplicate our success and they get bitter about it," she says.
"But I have to take it in good humour. I'm not about to say anything nasty back to Steve Earle. It's just really cheap for artists to criticise other artists. I know Steve makes fun of himself and his own trouble, but that's not an excuse for what he says about other people.
"But as far as the criticism of my use of image," Twain continues, "the irony is that my record company begged me not to make videos when we first released The Woman In Me.
"They felt it was a waste of money because very few country fans watch Country Music Television. It really doesn't have a big impact on record sales. But I insisted on it because doing all these things together is something I enjoy. I like creating the image, I like creating the music.
"I like being young and energetic. And I really want to have a visual representation of these songs. Because that way, when I'm 60 years old I can laugh as I look back and remember when I had a flat stomach."
SHE'S STILL THE ONE
By Dee Hickmacher, Natural Living Today, Dec 98
Crossover Sensation Shania Twain Sings Her Way to the Top
My boyfriend is New York born and bred, prone to switching radio stations at the first sound of a twangy country chord. During a road trip through the deep South, he punched away at the dashboard buttons like a champ. Which is why I was shocked to hear him singing cheerfully along to Shania Twain, his hoarse voice lifting to sing along with her unabashedly sentimental Top 40 smash, Your Still The One. "But just look at us holding on ...We're still together, going strong..."
Shania does that to people. She's a classic showbiz story, the crossover sensation - her music universal enough, her voice disarming enough, the emotions of her lyrics transparent enough to cross genres in the blink of an eye. Born Eileen, she changed her name to Shania ("I'm on my way" in Ojibway Indian) after a major tragedy changed the path of her life. And like other crossovers, she's an intriguing mess of contradictions: A Canadian star who wows 'em in Nashville; a squeaky-clean beauty queen from a painful, dirt-poor background; a shy and private woman with a sexy, flirtatious image; even a vegetarian who knows how to shoot a gun.
"Living in a brick house was my idea of rich," she says. "Now I can afford roast beef, but I'm a vegetarian. It's so ironic." Shania grew up in Timmons, Ontario with her mom Sharon and her adoptive stepdad, Jerry. There were tough times: Jerry barely made a living, and Sharon frequently took to her bed, too depressed to even get dressed. Shania often went hungry hiding the mayo-and- mustard sandwiches she brought to school out of fear of social services catching wind. "I don't look at it as a bad thing at all," she says plainly, looking back. "I don't regret my childhood. Learning to make mustard sandwiches was something just to get me through the embarrassinent, to help me avoid humiliation."
At night, she'd retreat to her room to play guitar and sing, influenced even as a child by both country and pop: "Waylon, Willie, Dolly, Tammy, all of them. But we also listened to the Mamas and the Papas, the Carpenters, the Supremes and Stevie Wonder." When Shania was eight, her mother began aggressively booking her daughter at community centers, senior citizen homes, and nightclubs, even dragging her out of bed after midnight to perform for smokey, late-night crowds. By her late teens, Shania was fully capable of making a living, soothing a drunken crowd, warbling Broadway, Vegas, pop, rock, and country, even wielding an axe and handling a chainsaw. (She spent the summers working with her stepdad's reforestation crew.)
But when the singer was 21, her parents were killed in a tragic car accident. leaving her an orphan with three younger siblings to take care of. "I became very hard for quite a long time," she remembers. "I was so numb. Nothing penetrated. It was a very difficult time. But boy, oh, boy, did I ever get strong." By then, the ambition to make it as a star was in her own blood.
Making her way to Nashville with a demo tape, Shania was an instant hit, with her sweet warble, song-writing skills, and racy belly button-baring videos forming a potent commercial combination. (They also caught the attention of famed rock producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, who pursued her romantically after catching her sultry video for "What Made You Say That." The two married in 1993.)
Shania's image as wild country sexpot isn't, says the singer, the real her. "I don't see anything in particular in the mirror," she says dismissively.
"Pretty plain. Pretty simple. I have good teeth. Strong teeth. I floss all the time, twice a day. My eyes are too small. Have good cheekbones. My legs are stumpy. A dented nose." She's reserved, too, when it comes to her body. "I'm very conservative, really. I'm not that physical. I mean I am with Mutt, of course, and with my dog. But beyond that, not even with my family. I'm just not one of these hug everybody people. I'm better now than I was. Used to be, I didn't even want my mother to hug me."
In her spare time, Shania craves privacy, retreating to her idyllic spread in rural upstate New York - to hike, camp, and go horseback riding. Even there, though, she complains that she is recognized by fans, a problem that troubles her enough that she's considered buying a place in Switzerland. "I know I'll get more privacy over there; it'll be nice to be able to get on a plane and get off and then be in a completely different world. Because of the type of person I am, I'll enjoy that."
Where did this intense self-protectiveness come from? Her adolescence, for one. "The guys see a girl who's developed up there, maybe they touch you up there, and you really feel very invaded," she points out. "And so, you know what? The easiest thing is to just cover them up, trying to get rid of the bounce factor. And that's what I did, I wore three shirts at a time. I tied myself in." There's a song on her album Shania says she's especially proud of: "If You Want to Touch, Ask!" "Well, it stems from that. I could have made it a much deeper, darker song. But that's not the way I go."
These dark corners are something Shania seems able to hide from when she's in the spotlight. And when she's up there, she knows, an enormous audience can be touched by her music without ever touching her. And for now, that's just fine.
"It's what I wanted," she says, "right from the start."
SHANIA - LIVE ON THE PLAZA
By Shannon Savage
(used with permission)
The Big Apple got a small taste of what her 1998 concert tour offers when Shania Twain performed live for NBC's Today Show, Friday, August 21st. The morning news program invited Shania fans to "come on over" and experience their series of weekly outdoor summer performances held outside of "Today's" street-level studio located on the corner of 49th St. and Rockefeller Plaza, NYC.
Three of the singer's biggest boosters admitted to being on the scene at 11pm the night before, "when the street was just a street". They weren't alone though. At the same time, the NBC crew started construction of the platform and studio lights, sound system, wire #8, wire #9, and by 6am Friday morning, instruments were tuned and microphones were ready for Shania and her sleepy eyed band members to take the stage for a short rehearsal. A real treat for the crowd that had already assembled!
By the time the Summer Concert Series special was ready to roll at 8:30, hundreds of excited fans had assembled in the open air studio. Katie Couric, noting the "natives are restless", finally introduced Shania saying, "in the native American language, Ojibway, Shania means 'on my way', but with over 18 million albums sold and a grammy in the bag, it's clear she has already arrived".
Along with her tour band, Shania performed "You're Still The One" and the latest "Come On Over" single "Honey I'm Home". Studio lights were then dimmed, filming ceased, but the songwriter/singer continued to entertain the crowd with "When" and "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" while simultaneously handing out autographs. Shania had most certainly arrived in the city that never sleeps.
OH MY GOD! THEY KILLED COUNTRY!
Mark Blake, Q Magazine, Oct/98
Banjos binned, Stetsons set aside, country music has conquered Britain by - God forbid - not being very country any more. Mark Blake uncovers a vat of intrigue and bitterness behind the rise of the new MOR.
For many in the UK, the words "country music" are greeted with understandable hoots of derision, fueled by the memory of Billy Ray Cyrus and his Achy Breaky Heart. Yet 1998 has seen British hits for several artists reared in the country stable. Canadian starlet Shania Twain, Texan schoolgirl LeAnn Rimes and Miami country-rockers The Mavericks have all scored Top 20 singles.
Meanwhile in Nashville, Tennessee, America's country music capital, the likes of Trisha Yearwood and Mindy McCready are hoping to follow them. But this recent change in country's fortunes has raised the question: when is country music not country music? The answer, as one Nashville insider puts it, is "when it's selling in the UK". For the one thing these acts all have in common is that they don't sound the way country music used to - and the way some believe it should.
With the low-key presence of country's trademark banjos and pedal steel, Twain, Rimes and McCready have more in common with Celine Dion than country grandaddy Hank Williams, while The Mavericks' Latin singalong picks up the baton from Los Lobos rather than Johnny Cash. Often suspicious or of country music, British record-buyers have happily embraced these artists as purveyors of soft pop and MOR, while the acts themselves make no secret of the influence of rock and pop on their music.
Compounding the success of her recent single, How Can I Live?, the 14-year-old Rimes' debut album Sitting On Top Of The World has now been Registered Double Platinum (600,000 sales) in Britain, The Mavericks' latest, Trampoline, has just reached Platinum (300,000), while Twain's third album, Come On Over, has chalked up 100,000 sales. Until now some of America's biggest country acts had struggled to sell as little as 10,000 copies of their albums in the UK, making such figures all the more startling.
Mark Hagen, producer of BBC's Top Of The Pops 2, the first TV show to air Mindy McCready's and The Mavericks' videos, believes that taking the word "country" out of the equation has been the key to its UK success. "We didn't talk about country, we treated it the same as any other music. Over the last three years the singles charts have been dominated by dance and R&B, and out of this has come a desire for songs. There's been a void and these acts have filled it."
But while many in the industry applaud this success, some see it as evidence of country music's decline. US record companies, worried by the slump in country sales over the past two years, have flooded the American market with copycat acts, young males decked out in starched denim and Stetsons playing a thin imitation of mid-'70s soft rock with just the barest hint of twang.
"Those acts will always struggle in the UK because it's neither hard country or full-on pop," ventures Hagen. "It's soft rock with a steel guitar. With the acts that sell here there's something distinct for the audience to focus on - with LeAnn Rimes it's her age, with Shania Twain it's her looks... "
Moreover, back in the US those performing traditional country music have found themselves increasingly marginalized, often forced to labor away on independent record labels with little or no airplay. Some claim that country's desire to compete with pop has led to a terminal weakness in the musical gene pool.
"Nashville isn't interested in country music anymore. It's like the '70s when MOR took over," claims one industry insider. "The industry is only interested in image. It just wants to push this pop shit, call it country and hope nobody notices. What kind of business is it when someone like Merle Haggard is told he shouldn't have his picture on his album because he's too old and it'll put people off?"
One artist whose record company would never impose such restrictions is Shania Twain. Now guided by Bruce Springsteen's ex-manager Jon Landau, Twain leapt from relative obscurity to 10 million album sales with her second album, 1995's The Woman In Me. Privately, Nashville was appalled; many voiced concerns that the music produced by Def Leppard collaborator Robert John "Mutt" Lange - was not country, not least when Twain began trading off her good looks in a series of increasingly pop-styled videos, while her refusal to tour (heresy in country circles) led to whispers that she couldn't sing live.
Determined to break Twain in the UK, her record label, Mercury, arranged for a specially tweaked version of her latest album, Come On Over, to be released in Britain earlier this year. According to Dave Lory, International Vice President of Mercury Records, "Nothing was changed drastically - just a little remixing." Some country pundits however, claim that replacing the occasional fiddle with a guitar part is denying audiences "the real thing".
"Mercury don't want Twain perceived as a country act." claims another Nashville insider. "But British audiences would have bought the US version. That's why many country fans bought it on import after the UK version was made available."
It's the Mavericks, with their eclectic mix of country, rock and '50s pop, who are perceived as being the closest to the real deal. Yet ironically, the band (managed by former Studio 54 DJ and New Order collaborator Frank Callari) have been rejected by American country radio for "not being country enough."
"Country radio's definition of country isn't one shared by everyone working in this business," comments one Nashville music journalist. "Any attempt at originality is often heartily discouraged."
Publicly, the industry takes a more optimistic view. "With copycat acts the music has become a little diluted," admits David Ross, publisher of Music Row, Nashville's industry bible. "But right now country is climbing back up the mountain. The term covers a variety of different styles - you've got pop, you've got the mainstream but that's not all there is."
Oddly enough though, it's the so-called alternative country acts -Whiskeytown, Son Volt etc. -who, with their shared Gram Parsons fixation, are most at home with sawing fiddle, weeping pedal steel and shameless introspection.
Curiously, few of them work out of Nashville. "The tide may turn here though," believes Ross. "There are artists in town playing more traditional music and they'll still be heard."
For a music as steeped in history as country, maybe dissenters will look to the '70s for inspiration. In 1974 when Australian popstress Olivia Newton John walked off with the title of Female Vocalist Of The Year at the CMA Awards, country's equivalent of the Oscars, irate country musicians formed their own covert society dedicated to "keeping the country in country music". Inspired by the success of Twain, McCready, Mavericks, etc., the BBC will be screening highlights from this year's CMA Awards on September 26. Who knows, maybe there's an old school saloon brawl in the offing.