Shania Twain: All Fired UP! about Smoky Bars, Mustard Sandwiches and Growing a Beard
Selling upwards of 50 million records worldwide might give lesser mortals a crisis of confidence. But Shania Twain? "Nah!" For her, there's only one way to go: UP! The title of her fourth album boasts capital letters and an exclamation point. The disc's leadoff single, "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" (one of nine tracks with exclamation points), bristles with Shania's signature sass and spunk, so it's no surprise it debuted in the upper reaches of the Billboard country chart. And more than 4 million viewers curious about what Shania's been up to these last five years tuned in and cranked up CMT for the launch of her spaced-out single's video premiere and the "making of" special from London.
Sure, there were head scratchers who couldn't find much about the clip that had any relevance to the song itself, but she is after all the only female artist who could pen the line, "I wish I could grow a beard," and get away with it. Clearly the country crossover act by which all others are measured, yes, Shania's music sparks the pop-vs.-country debate, and her lyrics take unexpected turns, and that's just how she likes it, thank you.
"I like contrasts in everything," she explains, "It's just a very natural way for me to write. I always try to find an interesting way to say the same thing. I like taking negative terms and turning them into something positive. "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" is really something you would say to someone if you wanted to get back at them. So it's interesting to use it in a love song, especially a rock -n- roll-y kind of love song.
Though influenced by favorite artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to the Bee Gees, she attributes her hallmark hook-laden songwriting style and keen sense of wordplay to her many country influences. "I've always listened to so many different styles of music, but the best lyricists were always the country artists. They always have an interesting way of telling a story. I think I probably follow that lead more than anything and really try to be a creative writer and not just rely on the melody."
Also key to Canadian-native Shania's creative process has been her relocation to Europe. In Chateau de Sully, the 19th-century cliffside residence on Lake Geneva in Tour-de-Pielz, Switzerland, Shania and husband/producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange have found privacy and solitude. Both attributes are clearly conducive to the couple's intense work ethic, shared philosophy of finding inspiration in unusual places, and express desire to keep their own company. Neighbors include other showbiz types, including singer Phil Collins and actor Peter Ustinov. But according to Shania, that don't impress the townsfolk much.
"Some know who I am; some don't. Music is pretty much a pop-cultural thing around the world, and a lot of people in these small villages are really only familiar with what's going on locally. So, that benefits me greatly, because they don't know who I am. And then the people who do know take great pride in being very discreet. They really don't make anything of it."
Another advantage for Shania has been the ease of travel within Europe. That freedom feeds her soul, she says. "I'm not as creative at home. I'm always answering the phone, or I'm putting a shopping list together or making dinner or just everyday stuff. It's better if I isolate myself and go somewhere exciting. The beauty of living in Europe is you really can travel around a lot and see different things in a short period of time. We go to museums or out to eat, or we go walking as tourists and get inspired by that."
And what does Shania shop for?
"Just basic everyday things. I'm not the type of person that needs to fill my time with shopping. I'll avoid it. I do enjoy the markets. They've always got a lot of fresh food. Since there's a lot of farming, all the villages have farmers markets, so that's really nice. Everybody eats fresh bread."
(Excerpted from Country Music Today January, 2003)