Total Style: Your recent tour was also your live debut in Europe and you performed to loads of people. For instance 12,000 in London alone. Were you apprehensive about it?
Shania Twain: No, not really. I didn't find it difficult, it was more of a challenge. It is so nice to go to these places where I'm still a new name and perform for fans. It was a really incredible tour and I loved every moment of it - everybody responded so well and with such enthusiasm. I was really taken aback. I honestly didn't expect such a great response. I admit that I felt a bit of stage fright, but that is normal. It gets my adrenaline flowing which adds to the performance from the moment I step on stage. Now that I've experienced such an incredible reception I'll be coming back to Europe more often. Obviously as long as there is a demand, that is.
TS: In America you donated part of the show's earnings to charity. In London you donated to the War Child fund for Kosovan children. Why do you feel the need to do it so publicly while a lot of other stars prefer to do their charity work in secret?
ST: I started donating to charity way back in America and Canada - I usually donate to a local charity of the city I'm performing in. In Europe it had to be Kosovo because this was a huge disaster. I've been so touched by the plight of the Kosovans, their poverty and the lack of basic things. A lot of stars support different charities, but only a few deal with poorer families and underprivileged people. One reason that I contribute so publicly is to raise awareness. Only a relatively small part of society can really understand what it means to be truely poor, when you can't afford the most basic things...Other charities are fine, but they often don't deal with people who are in a really needy situation. And I know from personal experience what it means to be poor. I was one of those people who couldn't afford basic essentials. People who are well off don't know what it's like. They can be ignorant of the fact that there are people out there who are really hungry. Food is one thing you can't get by without and there are a lot of people, including orphans in Kosovo, who can't afford it.
TS: In all your interviews you mention your past and how poor you were. Do you do it to give less fortunate people hope, to show them theres a possibility of getting out?
ST: I suppose in a way I do. I hope that it allows people to see that it is possible to achieve things if you want them and work hard for them. If it is show business your after, it takes a bit of luck to break through as there are many great performers out there. I talk about it also to be able to express my gratitude to have succeeded in the way I have. Mine has been such a widespread success which I'd never imagined. All I ever wanted was to make a living by singing.
TS: You lost both your parents in an automobile accident when you were 21 years old. What effect has this had on you?
ST: I'll tell you what this has done and I understand why it has given me extra drive, a drive that no one else has. As you know, when I grew up my family was very poor. My parents often sacrificed grocery money to get me to lessons, to get me to gigs, things like that. I'm telling you, when your parents do things like that because they want you to be something and they have such faith in the fact that you've got talent, it means alot. That they would sacrifice the grocery money for me! Later on when I realised what they had done I vowed not to let it have been done in vain. Not for anything in this world.
It gives me the drive to make sure I follow everything through. Especially everything that they would have wanted me to do. They're gone, and they sacrificed lots of things for me, and they're not even here to enjoy it and to see it come to fruition. After all the efforts that they made while I was growing up over the years, I'll be damned if I'm going to let it all be in vain.
I'm not in this for the competition. I'm not in this to beat the next guy. I think theres so much room in country music right now. Theres room for all of us. I don't care who I beat. I'm not competitive that way - I don't find music competitive. To me it's like a golf game - I set my own personal goals. I don't sit down and think my personal goal this year is to beat someone in particular. To me, succeeding is fulfilling my own personal dreams, and one of these is to make my parents dreams come true. We all shared the same dream. My whole family has this dream. Now I am fulfilling many people's dreams and it's very gratifying - much more so than just satisfying my own dreams.
TS: Success has certainly knocked on your door big time and you've achieved something to become one of only four women who've sold more than a dozen million albums apiece. What has that done to your ego?
ST: Nothing really, it is a fact which hasn't sunk in yet. I've been so busy I haven't had time to enjoy it and my ego remains in check because of it. I guess all that it means to me is figures on a paper - statistics. I live in a bubble with a very small group of people who don't go around praising me all the time. Because of them I really feel just like a member of the band, so I don't feel any different. The environment I've been in over the past few years hasn't really encouraged egomania but there is still time! Perhaps when I take time to sit back, or in a few years from now, I'll realise how big a deal it all really is. At the moment I've no time for it. Right now I'm busy doing things and am very pleased with the reaction of people who come to my concerts, and happy that they like the music I've been putting out.
TS: Why do you think you are so incredibly popular, and evidently with people of all ages?
ST: I think my music is easy to relate to. It appeals to all ages, from children to grandparents. This is what I find the most amazing, that it bridges the generation gap - whole families come to my shows! I think that it is great that I am able to write, record and perform songs that are appealing to all ages. This means that each household must have bought two or three copies and very soon the quantites mount up.
I think a reason my music crosses over generations is because I have been influenced by so many genres. I've always listened to a lot of different styles of music. And I didn't know what type of music I wanted to pursue when I first started out. I think it was by chance that the country fans in the states embraced me and I'm thankful for it. But my music has never been just country. I don't think I represent country music very well. There is too much of a pop element in my sound, but it is country based so the fans must have their say. I'm very pleased with the way my music is diverse enough to appeal on many different levels. I have no secret to pass on and don't know why or how it happened. I'm just thankful for my popularity.
TS: Success and fame usually mean giving up something. What has been the greatest sacrifice in your case?
ST: I'd have to say life itself! Working to get where I am now I had to sacrifice everything. All the things most people take for granted are not available to me and I haven't experienced the most basic things in a long while. The first step in regaining my life is cutting back on promotion and time spent posing for the cameras. The little bit of life I've experienced has made me feel great, I really enjoyed it. What taking a back seat will do for my career I don't really know. But I guess I'll find out soon enough. So, less work and more play is what I intend to aim for right now.
At the same time I will continue to write new songs, song-writing is an ongoing process and I don't need to make time to do it. Writing songs come very naturally, it is easy for me...it might not be easy to write great things but I write all the time and it's only when it's time to record that I make a selection. Writing songs is like keeping a diary for me. Not exciting every day - but that's how life is and my songs reflect that.
TS: The way you presented your music and yourself was to 'sex-up' the country scene. What would you say in your defence?
ST: I don't see anything wrong with it, it's just the way I am..when I first started out, my image horrified my record company. They kept telling me that I was intimidating to women but I couldn't see how. I was young and just felt like looking that way. There was no ulterior motive...I hope I've liberated other female stars to express themselves in whatever way they feel like it.
TS: Your songs are a bit risque with their sexy content and 'knowing' attitude. What's behind this?
ST: Well, that's what life is all about... For example a song like That Don't Impress Me Much is about guys going over the top to impress girls. And that happens so much and has never really impressed me. I'm sure many other women agree. While you might have an ideal man in mind it is not beauty that keeps you by your man but attention being paid to you, being made to feel
wanted and being made to laugh. That's what counts, not only external beauty. It is the inner self, the strength of character...
TS: Keeping to your hit That Don't Impress Me Much, the song mentions Brad Pitt; how did your husband react to this?
ST: I don't really know, to be honest he's never commented on it... I don't think it bothers him because it is just a song. I think Brad is a very handsome man, very attractive, but unfortunately I've never met him and so have no idea what he is really like - but I do wish to find out one day.
TS: There is another thing that is unusual about your music: having dance remixes of your songs, which is almost unheard of in the world of country music.
ST: Well, it's my husband who does this, it's a bit of fun. I don't think it is that strange, although I suppose it is a bit unusual. We've been doing it for a while and it really works for my music. There are several remixes and dance mixes of the songs from
my album, (Come On Over) and I really don't see it as a big issue.
TS: How about the fans who come to see you, who are perhaps locked into country but turn away from rock, jazz and blues. How do you think they can develop their musical range?
ST: With country music today, there are people who just listen to country. There are radio stations out there that have a mix, and I think there are a lot of people who listen to a mix of music. I grew up listening to a multi-format station. A lot of small towns only had one station so they played multi-format. They had to please everybody. You shouldn't underestimate the audience and I think there was a bit of something for everyone.
The reaction to me depends on where I play and however they've been influenced by the music that's played on their local radio station. Radio plays a very important rold in influencing people and the kind of music they like. I've always listened to different kinds of music. But it's been more of a training thing for me. I would sit there and listen to a lot of male singers, even in
country. A lot of the artists I listened to were male. I work with my voice. I practise using it, get to know it. Push it to the limit. This is kind of an exploring thing that I do. Music is such a fun thing. I like the best of all kinds of music really but I've always
been country based. I grew up listening to eight-track tapes of Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, just everyone.
TS: In a recent interview you were quoted as saying that married bliss has made you softer and with less drive to press on. Also, it was reported that your husband would like to see youmore at home, perhaps bringing up children. Is Eilleen going to resurface instead of the sex symbol, Shania?
ST: I have to admit I would like to play a housewife for a while, I Like cooking and doing other domestic chores...And it's been a long time since I've done that, about five years I'd say. I've been touring and now it's time to ease off. My husband has been encouraging me to do my own thing and it is time to slow down and dedicate a bit of my time to home life. As far as going softer is concerned, it is true... I think marriage does make you lose a bit of aggression and become more emotional, which is something I've noticed and don't like really. It's not that I've lost drive but I've become gentler and less angry.. I can't say I like the person who is emerging..it is neither Eilleen nor Shania and I have to learn about this new person I'm becoming.
Total Style, March/April 2000 cover