She’s Still the One

Sha­nia Twain is back with a new record and a con­fi­dent, sunny out­look. COURT­NEY SHEA

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - BY COURT­NEY SHEA

S ha­nia Twain didn’t start out with dreams of be­com­ing a coun­try-pop icon. Grow­ing up in Tim­mins, Ont., in the 1960s and ’70s, she faced poverty and fam­ily dys­func­tion; as a kid, she sang in lo­cal bars to make ends meet. It wasn’t un­til the mid’90s—with the help of Robert “Mutt” Lange, an in­flu­en­tial pop and rock pro­ducer and her then-hus­band— that Twain as­cended to star­dom. Fans were drawn to her plucky at­ti­tude and lively brand of fe­male em­pow­er­ment that put un­wor­thy men on no­tice in an­thems like “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” To this day, Twain re­mains the best-sell­ing fe­male coun­try artist in his­tory, thanks in no small part to the suc­cess of her 1997 smash hit, Come On Over, the top-sell­ing coun­try al­bum of all time.

But suc­cess had its down­sides: in 2000, she and Lange moved to a re­mote town in Switzer­land—an at­tempt, Twain said at the time, to “leave be­hind the whole ‘Sha­nia’ thing.” Nearly a decade later, the singer’s pro­fes­sional and do­mes­tic lives were thrown into up­heaval when she dis­cov­ered Lange was hav­ing an af­fair with her clos­est friend. The dev­as­ta­tion and stress from this be­trayal, she says, fac­tored into her 2010 di­ag­no­sis of dys­pho­nia, a dis­or­der of the vo­cal cords that causes hoarse­ness; it left Twain un­able to sing and deeply un­cer­tain of her fu­ture.

Af­ter so much tur­moil, find­ing her voice again has been as much an emo­tional jour­ney as a phys­i­cal one. In 2015, Twain em­barked on a farewell tour that was, she thought, a chance to say good­bye while still at the top of her game. It turned out she wasn’t quite fin­ished. As she pre­pares for the late-Septem­ber re­lease of Now, her first al­bum in a decade and a half, the Cana­dian icon opens up about weath­er­ing ad­ver­sity, nav­i­gat­ing so­cial me­dia and why, this time around, she’s stress­ing less, sleep­ing more and fi­nally hav­ing fun.

The first sin­gle on your new al­bum is called “Life’s About to Get Good.” Does that op­ti­mistic out­look en­cap­su­late how you’re feel­ing th­ese days?

That song is about tran­si­tion in my life—from sad to happy, lost to found, start­ing off feel­ing pretty dev­as­tated and then see­ing the light. Now has to do with all that I’ve been through— what’s im­por­tant and what I don’t need to take with me. It’s kind of like clean­ing house. That’s the phase I’m in at the mo­ment. I don’t need to rush into the fu­ture or run away from the past. I’m okay ad­dress­ing it all now.

You’ve said mak­ing this al­bum was about fright­en­ing your­self. How so?

It was scary for me to get back into the stu­dio af­ter 15 years—even just

on a level of get­ting my voice back, be­cause I had lost that. I also had to push my­self through that thresh­old of fear in terms of writ­ing alone. I was de­ter­mined to see how pro­duc­tive I could be on my own af­ter so many years spent col­lab­o­rat­ing. When that drops away it’s like, Where do I start? Where do I go from here?

Can you de­scribe that ex­pe­ri­ence?

I grew into my own skin, and I was very much in­volved and very much at home. I guess I’d gained enough ex­pe­ri­ence with Mutt over the years. I couldn’t have worked with any­body bet­ter to pre­pare me for this mo­ment.

It sounds like you’ve been able to con­sider even the most chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in a pos­i­tive light.

I came to terms with a lot of things while mak­ing this al­bum, not just the emo­tions sur­round­ing my di­vorce. Peo­ple get di­vorced every day, and it’s dev­as­tat­ing in most cases, but for me that sep­a­ra­tion was re­ally the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had so many years of pretty low lows and never re­ally dealt with them. I ad­dress things best cre­atively and cathar­ti­cally through song­writ­ing. I’ve never been as trans­par­ent as I have been with Now. My in­ten­tions were to cre­ate an al­bum that is re­lat­able. I don’t want peo­ple to think, I don’t get this.

Your last record, Up!, came out a decade and a half ago. In the years since then, pop cul­ture has gone through mas­sive changes, in­clud­ing

the rise of so­cial me­dia. As an artist who val­ues her pri­vacy, what has that ad­just­ment been like?

I use so­cial me­dia to com­mu­ni­cate with my fans, and I love it. You’re get­ting real, di­rect feed­back and thoughts and ideas. Be­cause I’ve got a teenage son, I kind of evolved with it. He had just been born when I re­leased Up!, so we’ve both grown up with so­cial me­dia.

Along with that di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion comes the ex­pec­ta­tion of greater trans­parency. How do you know where to draw the line?

Some­body asked me re­cently what I thought of Katy Perry [who livestreamed her en­tire life round the clock for four days to pro­mote her lat­est al­bum]. I said, Well, I would never film my­self sleep­ing and share that, be­cause I’d prob­a­bly fart and snore.

Why step back into the spot­light now? Two years ago, you em­barked on a so-called farewell tour. What changed your mind?

At the time, I thought it was a farewell. I was pro­cras­ti­nat­ing a lot with mak­ing the new al­bum. I was al­ways writ­ing, but my voice wasn’t there yet. I was floun­der­ing. Then I got busy with my Las Ve­gas res­i­dency and with the tour. It takes an hour and a half of prepa­ra­tion work for me to sing [due to the dys­pho­nia], and as I was get­ting through those re­hearsals I thought, This is one hat I’d bet­ter hang up. I wanted to leave at the top. But the tour went so well, and I learned about my­self and my lim­its. I re­al­ized I could phys­i­cally do it, and I was also mo­ti­vated by the fact that the al­bum came to­gether so well.

I sup­pose pre­ma­ture farewell tours are part of a grand tra­di­tion. Look at Cher!

I so un­der­stand that. I could never have known I was go­ing to be ready to go on.

In coun­try mu­sic, men can grace­fully evolve into hairy out­laws, while women are ex­pected to defy the ag­ing process. How do you han­dle that?

That’s my de­ter­mi­na­tion again. I’m not go­ing to be a vic­tim of that kind of dis­crim­i­na­tion. What do you mean women are not al­lowed to age? I’m ag­ing, I’ve got cel­lulite and I’m get­ting bags un­der my eyes. That’s just the way it is—take it or leave it. I’m still go­ing to make an

I’m ag­ing, I’ve got cel­lulite and I’m get­ting bags un­der my eyes. That’s just the way it is—take it or leave it.

ef­fort to look good; I al­ways have. And I be­lieve in self-care.

What does that look like?

Fit­ness is im­por­tant to me. I don’t want to see my­self in the mir­ror and feel like I’m turn­ing into a lazy blob, but it’s about health. If I’m tak­ing care of my­self and eat­ing well and ex­er­cis­ing and I’m still a blob, then that’s what I’ve got to live with. We just have to do our best, what­ever that looks like; that’s what we should love in our­selves. Oth­er­wise it’s not worth it.

You re­cently at­tended the open­ing of Sha­nia Twain: Rock This Coun­try, a ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hibit span­ning your ca­reer, at the Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame and Mu­seum in Nashville. What was that like?

It was great. It was truly an ex­hibit of my life since I started out so young, at the age of 10. Look­ing back at that early mem­o­ra­bilia gave me a com­plete sense of my jour­ney in mu­sic, not just the suc­cess­ful years.

The ex­hibit fea­tures some of your most iconic looks. What Sha­nia Twain ar­ti­fact would you save in a fire?

Oh boy. I’d want to save the [leop­ard-print suit from the video for] “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” I’d also want to save the bi­og­ra­phy my mother wrote about me when I was 12. She’s not here any­more, so it re­ally means a lot. It still has the cof­fee stains from her cup.

Speak­ing of iconic looks, I see you’ve got your dou­ble denim on to­day— a.k.a. the Cana­dian tuxedo.

Ha! The dou­ble denim is very in right now. I love it. Wool socks too.

You’ve said you didn’t take enough time to have fun while your ca­reer was ex­plod­ing. Are you do­ing any­thing now to rec­tify that sit­u­a­tion?

I sleep in when I want to. Not on week­days, be­cause I still get my son to school, but if I want to go back for a nap af­ter­wards, I do. Th­ese are things I never would have al­lowed my­self be­fore—I was just so dis­ci­plined. Now I re­al­ize some things can wait. And then there’s fun: I love go­ing to the movies, and I see more con­certs now.

Any re­cent high­lights?

Drake was amaz­ing—tech­no­log­i­cally awe­some and very com­mu­nica­tive.

One of Drake’s chief mes­sages is a sense of pride in his home­town— and his home coun­try. You now spend the ma­jor­ity of your time in Switzer­land and the Ba­hamas. In light of that, what does be­ing Cana­dian mean to you?

Canada means home—the smell, the feel, the sea­sons, the his­tory, my child­hood. It has stayed with me.

Twain ser­e­nades au­di­ences in 2012 dur­ing her res­i­dency at Cae­sar’s

Palace in Las Ve­gas.

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