HAPPINESS AFTER THE BETRAYAL
Vanity Fair - Italy
By Chiara Meattelli
August 15, 2017
“I’ve been writing songs since the age of ten: it’s like second nature to me. But after all those years of collaboration, I was willing to write all by myself. It’s been very liberating, like being a baby again.“
We’re in a hotel suite in London, Shania Twain, a long denim jacket with strass and black pants, is promoting “Now”, her first album in 15 years. It’s not a common return. This “queen of country pop”, who sold one hundred million copies, album strucks even more because of the odissey the singer went through during those out of the spotlight years. First, the divorce from her husband-producer Robert John Mutt Lange, with whom she has a son and with whom she gave life to all of her music successes (included “Come on Over”, gone in history as the best selling country album of all time in the United States and the best selling album by a woman). Then the discovery that the other woman was her best friend. And in the end, the disphonia, a vocal cord pathology that forced her to learn to sing again.
“My voice’s changed, there’s no point in denying it. But it’s not for the worse. And anyway, this is my voice now and I’m gonna accept it: why wouldn’t I want to enjoy it?” Her revenge desire against her ex husband was so strong that for the first time she produced, with the help of others, the album. “I wanted to decide the songs, their sound, the instrumentation. At the end I’ve found I knew a lot more than what I had imagined and I had the time of my life: I was experimenting, no inhibitions”, she says while adjusting her glasses. She’s so transparent. The new songs of “Now” have a great variety, from rock, to country to pop and the lyrics seems to be taken from her personal diary. “The longer my tears fell\The wider the river\It killed me that you’d give your life to be with her\It was time to forget you forever” she sings in “Life’s About To Get Good”, the single relesed back in June.
But the melancholy dissolves during the chorus, full of hope and words playing and it carries a precise message: to Shania Twain life begins at 50 (well, 52 on August 28).
“Why would we have to hide behind our humiliations and disappoinments, pretending that everything is great all the time, that we’re strong and everything is beautiful when it’s not like that? To be on defensive all the time it’s emotionally fatiguing, even more if you’re a public figure: I simply made my life easier”.
It was 2008 when she learned, after 14 years of marriage, that her husband was having an affair with her best friend and confidant Marie-Anne Thiébaud. Marie-Anne husband, businessman Frédéric Thiébaud, discovered them and informed her and with a soap-opera like cliffhanger has become friend and in 2011 Shania second husband.
He’s been the only one to understand my feelings, my pain.” Now they’re inseparable. While she gives interviews, he waits with her management in the next room reading tabloids with her wife in it visiting United Kingdom.
Shania Twain hopes that her betryal story going public, even if she already wrote about it in her autobiography back in 2011, may give “strength, courage and hope to those who lived something similar. Life’s full of highs and lows and everything in between but we must always remember that we can always get up.”
Talking about lows, her life spared her nothing: “I realized it was not the first time I was feeling betrayed, abandoned or disappointed. I’ve never met my biological father and that scar never healed. I’ve been raised by a step father (Jerry Twain), who died with my mom in a car accident. These things break you and you ask, ‘God, how could you take away from me two parents at once?’ My divorce has brought me to other destabilizing spots, but it also helped me to work on all those hits my life gave me ‘til then. It’s been a hit, but not the worst one, and I put things in perspective. Writing has been the best therapy: I realized I was a survivor and the strength that helped me to go through all those challenges would’ve help me to go through that one, too”.
Maybe that’s why in her new song “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed” she sees herself as a boxer fighting the pain, like a new born baby who hasn’t even opened his eyes for the first time but his fists are in the air ready to fight.
If in 2010 she founded the non-profit organization Kids Can, to help underprivilged kids in the United States, because her childhood has been extremely poor. As a kid, not having a coat to fight against the cold or not having enough food was the normality. If that’s not enough, her step father was abusive with her mother and those scenes traumatized little Eilleen (her real name), her sister Carrie and her two younger brothers. “I’ve lived so much pain, humiliation and embarassement that I had to learn to hide everything, to keep everything to myself. Now I’m at a point in life where I don’t feel ashamed of who I am, or where I come from. I don’t want to relive those moments, but I’m ready to free myself of all that pain, singing about it, too”.
It looks like Shania has found a new dimension in her concerts, after completely walking away from them in 2004 to retire with her husband and son in Switzerland. Now that she’s found a new voice (“You can’t heal from dysphonia, but I’ve learn to live with it”), the Canadian songwriter is ready to tour again and being a tennis fan, she can’t wait to sing at the US Open at the end of August.
What will never change, she assures us, is the compulsive isolation she needs to write new music. “I have to be completely alone, no one needs to know I even exist”.
Like when she was a child, when she walked 45 minutes in the woods with her guitar to sing and play around a campfire. She’s a child again in the new ballad “Light Of My Life”, in which she imagines to fall in love with a person who ignores her; but she keeps on dreaming and hoping that that person will change his mind. “I love to dream, and now I’m in a positive phase that allows me to. When you live in the past, you can only hope in the future. But what’s the point? You will lose what’s in between, the “now”: the real life”.