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Shania Twain kicks into a higher gear

countryweekly cover 03-99 With a globetrotting tour, awards shows and her own TV special, Shania Twain is a whirlwind of activity.

"This tour's been quite long," Shania adds. "It's been between Canada and the U.S. for this last year. And for this year I will be back into the States, Canada, Australia and Europe."

Shania, whose nonstop schedule includes a spate of TV shows with David Letterman, Rosie O'Donnell and Jay Leno, will finally get a break this summer when the tour ends. But not before she stars in her upcoming CBS special, Shania Twain's Winter Break, March 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern. It's unlike anything she's ever done for television.

"On most TV things that I've ever done, it's been 'This is where we need you to stand. This is where we need you to walk,'" she explains. "There's so much instruction that it makes you nervous.

"With this show I had free reign. It was my own stage that I have every night in concert. I dressed the way I would dress onstage in my own concert.

"Everything was very normal and real. I didn't have to edit any of my songs, or do anything that was unfamiliar. I said at the beginning, 'It's very important that we can capture the way I do it live, or else I'm not going to be comfortable with it.'

"I wasn't even stressed at all. It was great. I had a real audience out there. Real fans. So it's pretty much as real as you're going to get it. It's the 'live Shania' -- it wasn't staged."

Shania lets her hair down in this special.

"Who cares if my hair's a bit messy? I just wasn't as particular on this special as maybe I would be on other television things that I would do. When you're live it's OK if your hair's not right all the time.

"Maybe your chin is shiny -- or whatever. Because I don't really pay all that much attention to myself in that regard when I do my live concert."

Shania's excited about sharing the stage with two of pop's hottest entertainers --- Elton John and the Backstreet Boys.

"These are people that I am truly a sincere fan of," Shania says. "I listen to the Backstreet Boys before I go onstage at night because it pumps me up.

"And Elton John is somebody who's always in my CD player. He's someone I've listened to my whole life. It was a dream come true to have him there."

Shania recalls her first meeting with the pop megastar. "It was just a fluke that we both were visiting this radio station within the same hour. I was actually in the car on the way to the radio station and somebody said, 'Elton John is here and he's just about finished.'

"I was thinking, 'Wow, maybe I could run into him in the hallway.' And lucky for me, he was just leaving. I ran into him and the first thing he did was start singing 'You're Still the One.'

"I was just so flattered that he knew my song! From so many miles away and so many worlds away, it seemed somewhat of a fantasy for someone like Elton John to be singing my lyrics and my music. It was great."

Shania remembers the days when no one -- least of all Elton John -- knew who she was.

"In my early days of touring," she says, "I was pushing amps around and traveling in vans. It was a very crude lifestyle. I wouldn't say that it was necessarily difficult. I was young and having fun.

"Now I'm just more comfortable, but I'm still having fun. I've always enjoyed live performance with my own stage, my own band and an audience.

"What's exciting now is that the audience knows my music -- and it's my music. So that's the biggest difference. It's as exciting as I always dreamed it would be. It's never tiring. I never get bored when I'm out there onstage. I do the same songs every night -- and I love it every night."

Shania's not the only one who loves it -- Grammy voters handed her six nominations. Trouble is, she's been too busy to realize the star she's become.

"I'm working very hard and I take very little time to myself," she says. "So it's not like I'm taking time off to play and to enjoy the fruits of my labor."

She is, however, enjoying seeing her name on the ballots.

"It's an extended celebration -- like a birthday that lasts for many weeks," Shania says.

Despite her wide appeal, Shania will always have a special place in her heart for her country fans.

"I can honestly say that I would be disappointed if I wasn't being recognized by the country world," she says, "because we've come such a long way together."

Country Weekly, March 2/99


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