Shania Twain: ‘I needed time, but I’m back now’

24 Hours Toronto
By Nelson Branco
September 28, 2017

A lot has changed in 15 years.

And we’ve had to endure the world evolving without one of the sexiest, soulful and strongest voices in our country soothing us.

But today that is all rectified when Shania Twain’s much-anticipated album, Now, drops.

It’s her fifth studio offering in a breakout career that has spanned decades.

After all, the Windsor and Timmons, Ontario native was a goldmine: The top-selling female country artist of all time sold more than 100 million records in the 90s and 00s. She’s also the only woman in history to score three Diamond-certified albums (The Woman In Me, Come on Over and one of the biggest selling albums ever, Up). Her style, voice and feminist lyrics became a part of the zeitgeist.

Not bad for a small-town Canadian girl named Eilleen Regina Edwards.

So why did the five-time Grammy winner drop out of sight and stop making music?

You can blame an 8-year battle with Lyme Disease and dysphonia, a vocal-cord disorder, as well as her decision to take some time to recover from the messy divorce from her husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange after 15 years of marriage. Turned out Mutt allegedly had an affair with Shania’s BFF, Marie-Anne Thiebaud. (She’s now happily married to Marie-Anne’s cuckolded handsome ex-hubby Frederic Thiebaud; they wed in 2011 in Puerto Rico.)

“I needed time,” the vegetarian tells 24 Hours exclusively. “But I’m back now. This album feels like closure for me. It’s one of those things when you know that you’re ready. It’s been a work in progress for a while. It came to a point where I wanted a new beginning, new phase. I just knew it was time.”

Fifteen years is a long time to be out of the music world. Social media and streaming are new realities artists must contend and utilize. Is Shania worried, ready?

She relays, “I was more nervous about embarking on the project in the first place. Diving in and committing myself to it was a bit scary. But now that I’m done with the process, I feel very relieved and anxious for the fans to hear it.”

Her creative process remained unchanged from her earlier days in the recording studio, she admits.

The creative genesis of Now turned out to be a mixture of classic/modern country and pop – a hybrid she helped create and cement back in the 90s.

“My process always starts with songwriting. At that stage, I’m not thinking about creativity,” she explains. “I’m more about expressing myself at that point before I move into songwriting. A lot of the ideas come from my life and the inspiration around me. Then, it’s time to move things into a more sensical, more relatable music. That’s when I’m thinking more about tempo, mood, instrumentation and production and all those things. The main inspiration is personal experience.”

Don’t dare ask Shania which new song is her favourite because it’s a Sophie’s Choice.

“I love them all for different reasons,” she exclaims. “ It’s like being a mother. A personal fave of mine is All in All. It’s a fun song. I really love the way I was able to capture the personal sentiment and my philosophical views on life. There’s another song that I like to play over and over again which gets me every time and makes me emotional and it’s called Soldier. It’s hard for me to choose one over the other.”

As for social media, she’s a pro thanks to a very special person. “Although I haven’t come out with an album in a while, I’m still apart of life [laughs]! I have a 15-year-old son, Eja! I’ve grown up with the process of technology and social media from the moment I had my son. It’s not a shock at all.”

Thanks to the Women’s March this past January, Shania’s iconic, Man! I Feel Like A Woman became popular again. Surprisingly, the super hit didn’t seem dated; the accidental revival cemented its status as a classic and it's now become a renewed anthem for feminism.

Why does Shania’s music library still resonate with the masses?

She’s not sure. “I didn’t intellectualize how a song like Man! I Feel Like A Woman would impact society. At the moment, I’m taking that as a compliment. It just adds to the new music I’m producing.”

Like Madonna, one of the reasons Shania’s music is universal is because she experiments with and marries various genres, styles and sounds.

“I’ve always been into multi-genres,” Twain confirms. “I’ve always melded my own music to various, diverse musical influences and styles. Everything from The Eagles to Stevie Wonder to The Carpenters to ABBA – you know, all over the place, really [laughs]! And then, the whole 80s rock movement happened -- and that was a big influence for me in my young adult years.

Which is why you would be hard-pressed to define Shania.

She concurs, "I don’t really know what I am sometimes because I’m a mutt when it comes to influences. I mean, I’m so diverse. I’m also a singer, writer, artist so that makes me a bit folky too. I can kind of make music on my own without production. I try to avoid trendy songwriting. I always end up going back to my earlier, diverse musical interests when I’m writing.”

So does she think country music has evolved in the almost two decades she’s been M.I.A? Since then, artists like Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have made country more mainstream.

She theorizes, “Listen, it wouldn’t be fun if we just had one style of music. Diversity is important. The distinctions that make country different than any genre should be celebrated; it’s wonderful. There is always all going to be – not for the sake of stigma – country music but there will also be artists who bridge those gaps. It depends where we are in music history too. It’s all a moving target, to be honest”

If a musical comeback wasn’t enough to get fans excited, Shania -- who was rumoured as a possible judge on the rebooted American Idol -- has joined CTV’s new musical competition series, The Launch, as a mentor. She’ll be joined by the boldface likes of Fergie, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder and music mogul Scott Borchetta to help burgeoning artists by sharing their collective experience and wisdom.

And just like that, with the world seemingly falling apart, we all feel a bit safer with Shania’s voice in our earbuds to distract us from the chaos.

Laughing, she says, “Well, there has to be optimism in there somewhere!”

And with news she’s touring – “I’ll be doing Canada, for sure – dancing through life just became easier and more fun.