Shania - Ready to Rock This Country
Shania Twain's sultry smile beckons from every newsstand. Her life-sized cut-out elbows you in record stores. Her videos enjoy endless rotation on country television. And since its release in 1995, Twain's last album The Woman In Me has sold over 12,000,000 copies
worldwide. Shania Twain has become Canada's hottest export since Trivial Pursuit.
There is however, nothing trivial about her appeal. Her latest album Come On Over has been embraced by a Shania-hungry audience and once again, the unlikely pairing of a heavy metal producer with a country singer continues a cross-over phenomenon of historic proportions. You might suspect that riding this kind of a comet could be a little scary.
"NO! It's really fun. It's opened up so many new doors. It's great that I have so many types of listeners. They all hear (my music) a different way. It makes me very excited to know that I might be in someone's record collection who has no other country records. And then at the same time, I'm in another record collection of people who just listen to country music and they wouldn't dare listen to anything else. They both have my record. I'm very flattered by that. Isn't it great that music can cross those boundaries?"
Bubbly and enthusiastic, Twain comes across the phone line as a driven, clear-thinking young woman. Just off a flight from Europe, she seems unruffled by jet lag and eager to talk. In a half-hour chat stolen from her Sunday afternoon, she talked candidly about the woman she is, the child she was and the star she has become.
"I think when I was younger, my ambitions were more to be successful and independent through my career. Now you don't need to be a star to achieve that, so I'm not really sure how high my sights were set. I definitely wanted to become successful. Of course, I knew (stardom) was out there, and this was something that
could happen, but I was set on becoming independent financially, and never having to rely on anyone."
Songwriting has always been a part of her life. Since the age of eight, she kept her songs in boxes where they would be safe. Then at 16, she was given a birthday present which she still has today.
"When I was in this band, the drummer, as a birthday gift, gave me a black ledger and said, 'You've gotta stop collecting all your songs on loose pieces of paper. You should put them where you're not going to lose anything.' So I rewrote all of my songs into this ledger and I've kept that. I've been a little more
organized from that point on. (Laughs) I look back at that book and I look at all the different handwriting I've had over the years. It went from being really neat to really messy. I can see the progression of the lack of patience that I had in writing my songs in so neatly. It is quite funny."
It isn't always easy to present new song ideas to your producer -- even if you are romantically involved with said producer. Twain admits that when pitching a song to Mutt, timing is practically everything.
"I don't know if it's a man/woman thing, but I suppose it is. Sometimes I'll play him something or I'll talk about a song concept and he's not into it. He doesn't hear it. Then a few months later, I'll reintroduce it and he'll like it! (laughs) I'm telling you, it's
a very funny thing. I'm very independent as a songwriter. If I like something, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm not going to NOT write it because Mutt
didn't think it was a good idea. That's what a partnership is all about. I don't get discouraged at all by something he's not interested in. I go away and live with it on my own for a while."
Although acting hasn't really attracted her, offers do come. Twain admits that if the right person, say, Jodie Foster called and asked if she'd star in her next film, acting would certainly get some serious consideration.
"I never really wanted to and it's not a goal of mine but I think if I was ever approached by anyone as credible as (Jodie Foster), then I would be interested. She's someone who's very serious about what she does and I think I could learn a great deal. That's more the point. I don't know anything about acting but it would be something I would try. I almost have to try new things just for the sake of trying, as long as it was within my own moral boundaries. I'm only interested if it's the right situation."
Which leads us to another aspect of mass-marketing: Sex. Her videos often deal with love's playful side. This sexy innocence has made Twain one of today's most desirable girls-next-door. However, just because she loved the movie, don't expect Shania Twain to ever do a "Full Monty." Those offers don't even make it as far as the "in" bin.
"I stop it before it even starts. I've told my agency that I'm not interested in movies where that's the requirement. I don't even get those scripts. I've already told them that right off the bat. Don't even approach me with something with that requirement. It's as simple as that."
Stardom comes with a darker, ominous side-effect. In their quest to sell tabloids, publishers sometimes print stories that are... (a-hem)... less than accurate. Twain would like to set the record straight about some fiction recently splashed along grocery store check-out lines.
"The story that Mutt and I are divorcing. To anybody who has read that, it's absolutely false. We're very much in love and we plan on being a team for the rest of our lives. So everybody can rest easy about that."
Even when you're the biggest, people still can't resist offering you advice. Most of the time you smile and nod. Sometimes, as Twain points out, it's advice worth taking.
"I think the best advice anyone could ever give me, and I get advice from left, right and centre (laughs), is... humility. It's so easy to get flattered by everything that's going on around you. And it's okay to be flattered, but it's not okay to lose a true sense of humility. And it's hard. Sometimes you're trying to build your confidence and confidence comes from ego. In order to be really confident, and do a good job, it's
kind of an ego thing. So, how do you do that and stay humble at the same time? There's a lot of vanity involved in what we do. We do it so that we can get a
response. We want people to like it. So, it's tough. I think humility is the most important thing for me to remember."
The next big test for Shania Twain will be the stage. Can she perform live? Although she toured extensively in the past, that was before The Woman In Me. Once again, the diminutive heavyweight dismisses the skeptics and becomes giddy at the thought of planning her very own concert tour and for the first time, doing it in style.
"It's going to be fun! That's the thing I'm most looking forward to. I've never been on a tour of this magnitude before. The show is not going to look like a music video for instance. It's going to be more performance by the band, myself, great lights, great
sound, and great live arrangements. The music is going to be slightly different from the record. More exciting, more dynamic. I think the show is going to be... dramatic. I'm telling you, it's gonna be so great!"
By Wray Ellis, Country Wave, Feb/98