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Shania Twain - CloseUp cover

CloseUp Apr/96 In the Country Music family, Shania Twain is the sultry little sister who's taking the town by storm. She's sold five million copies of her second Mercury Records album, THE WOMAN IN ME, and gained fans around the world.

Did she ever think it would get this big?

"When it got to three million, or when we were close to three, I thought, 'What more can you expect?' Then it kept going, and it happened so fast. If you're looking at the life span of an album, you're looking at so many million sales, it can only happen within a certain period. We're just really, really lucky. It's always risky when you're coming in with something that's a little bit different sounding. You're putting yourself in a very vulnerable situation."

The vulnerability was two-fold, Shania says, since she wrote nearly all of the songs herself or with producer/husband Mutt Lange.

"This whole album is original, so you're definitely putting yourself up for criticism. And if it doesn't work, they're gonna think I'm a terrible writer. It was really taking a chance."

Sitting across from the articulate young Canadian, you get the feeling she does few things without first weighing her options. Though Country artists are traditionally known for their relentless tour schedules, Shania has not toured in support of THE WOMAN IN ME. With Lange as producer, the album's sound is pop entwined with Country. Somehow she's managed to take the risks without being alienated from the "Nashville establishment".

"I think that we underestimate Country listeners and the Country industry in a way. I think they're just interested in being entertained. They want their music, and they want to be entertained visually. They are going to accept and support something that does that. I don't think that there's a road that you have to follow exactly. They're just saying that if you're gouna go off that road, you have to prove yourself. If you can do that, then we're behind you. The fans have definitely proved that right. I can't tell you how great it feels to be a songwriter that has put out an album, and the album is selling under the merit of the album itself and not because there was a big marketing tour and all the hype that goes along with touring. That means that the music stands on its own. I'm totally blown away by the fact that I've been able to do that."

Shania recently began a fan appreciation tour. The first event attracted 20,000 fans for a performance at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. "What it's going to do for me, in a big way, is get me in touch with the people that have supported me all this time without a tour. For me to have a chance to say, 'Thanks for being there, there is a tour coming, I'm glad you waited. Thanks for being patient and supporting me anyway and going for the music and not the icing that sells the music.' It's very cool to me."

Her videos have taken viewers from Bo Derek's ranch to the Egyptian pyramids. Haven't they contributed to the success?

"I've entertained all of my life, so it feels natural for me to express that on video. It hasn't been an effort to sell. As a matter of fact, a lot of people who buy my records don't even have access to Country Music Television - either they don't have access to it or they're not necessarily Country fans. So how do you explain that? There isn't a way to explain it. People think that we're trying to sell the music through the visual. No, if I was trying to do that, I'd be on tour making money. I'm not making money from not touring."

Certainly she will have a lot to live up to once a tour begins.

"Yes, but I will have a lot of ammunition. I'll have hit songs. Six months ago I was just getting started. A year ago I didn't have any hits. What kind of tour would that have been? It would have been like putting the cart before the horse. You can't have a great show if you don't have hit songs. Sure, I could have put a show together, could have put a great visual thing together. That part, to me, is the fair and easy part. Anyone can put a great visual together if you're energetic. I'm very athletic... I dance and I move. OK, great, I could have done that, but I wouldn't have had any hits to do it with. Then I would have been selling visual. I would have expected the visual to sell the music.

Shania "I still think it's the songs that sell the show. You can be an artist that does just stand there with great songs and captivates your audience. So that's what I kind of wanted to build my tour on. I wanted to build it on hits. Then I'm going to put on all the icing I want. I'll put it as thick as I want afier that, but I just wanted the cake to be there first."

Shania says she and Lange will take their collaboration another step for her next album.

"My husband and I will do the whole album again. We'll write in a very concentrated way come springtime. This summer we're gonna do the studio...I think you're gonna hear very much the same sound and feel, but it's going to go way deeper lyrically. I think it's gonna stretch out a little further in every way... in a fun way, in a deep way. We've had more time, we've matured as cowriters, matured as people, and I think we're gonna be able to give something that's just stronger all the way around because of that.

"This album is even more exciting because (THE WOMAN IN ME) has kind of given me confidene to believe in my ideas, even though they're a little different and maybe a little bold and a bit raw or whatever, but Mutt thinks they're great. That gave me the confidence to kind of lose my inhibitions if you will, creatively and it ended up that he was right. The way he looked at it was the way everyone looks at it. I realize that now. Part of his talent is that he kind of thinks for the fans. He's really great at that, and it's a very hard thing to do."

Shania's future will unfold without the guidance of her former longtime manager, Mary Bailey. The recent split was not a sudden decision Shania says.

"I'm not much of a procrastinator, but I always feel that there's a certain amount of loyalty that you feel when someone is with you from the beginning. Whether they're the right person or not, you feel loyal to that person. There was a very long period of just discussing it back and forth, so it ended up being a very slow and casual kind of thing... She'll remain a dear friend for a very, very long time.

"I don't know if I necessarily believe in one manager. I think there are a lot of people out there that excel in specific areas, and I'd like to take advantage of that. I have different people that work withme that are really good in different areas, and we all work together as a team. I believe in that system a lot more, and because I'm so involved creatively, I don't feel, at this point anyway, that I need a boss to boss around the people that work with me. I've got people working with me that I'm very confident in and who are very capable in making decisions on their own and just working with me on a one-on-one thing.

"I'll involve somebody at some point when it comes to touring time, whether it will be a manager, or who knows who it will be. I believe in just one thing at a time. If anything, we're trying to keep up with the pace. We're not trying to hurry it on. We're just trying to keep up with it and follow the music.

"Long-term, I really don't know what's going to happen. Eventually I would like to see my career go more into the songwriting end of things. I don't know if I'll ever get involved in movies. I might, so that might be a phase I go through or a part of my career that I develop. Certainly the songwriting is something I want to spend more time at. That and more of a family life."

It's hard to imagine she'll have the time.

"At some point, I will make time. I meet so many women now that started their families at 35, so I'm thinking I can handle that."
by Shannon Heim, CloseUp, Apr/96 cover


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