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The Shania Twain story has opened on a new and exciting chapter, and the only way is UP! That's the title of the much anticipated follow-up to Come On Over, the most successful female solo artist album of all time with world-wide sales of an astonishing 34 million.
Follow that? You bet. The great news for Shania fans across the globe is that she's completed one of the most exciting and ambitious recording projects of the new millennium. Not to mention that she's totally energised by a fresh creative momentum that has led to her completing a spectacular new record, co-written with her husband and producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange.
Refreshed and ready to rock after a sabbatical at home in Switzerland in which she and Mutt became parents for the first time, there's a buzz coming from Shania like an electrical charge. "We wanted to put something together that was bigger and better," she glows, "and the whole thing IS so much bigger and better than anything I've done in the past.
"The whole record has been made differently, we travelled around a lot more, we used musical influences from all over the world. We used Indian musicians recorded directly in Mumbai, India, some of the American musicians were recorded in the Caribbean, a 40 piece orchestra recorded in Ireland, other musicians in Italy, and we literally hopped from city to city song-writing, including Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Rome, Provence and The Grenadine Islands. This music came together in smaller pieces over a longer period of time."
Leading the way as the first single from this extraordinary new project is the absolutely irresistible I'm Gonna Getcha Good! "That was an obvious single," she says. "There is a typical Shania attitude in the lyric, a definite female confidence. It's all about a girl who knows what she wants, she not only knows how to get it, but she's going to get it good.
"In my experience it's more typical to run into guys with such confidence when it comes to women, once again I thought it would be fun to write with that same confidence, but from a woman's point of view. I wanted the first single to reflect that playful attitude, because I want people to relate to the Shania they already know, at the same time as hearing a new, fresh sound."
Shania is thrilled with the development of her vocal technique on the album, an evolution that Mutt wholeheartedly encouraged. "It is different. Mutt was able to bring out a presence in my voice that I usually only use when I'm song-writing with my acoustic guitar. I didn't realise that I was singing with a slightly different voice on the microphone. It's like being in front of a camera, unless you forgot it's there, you kind of act a little differently. Mutt stayed on it until he got the natural, more intimate vocal sound he loves in my voice."
Other highlights on the album? Shania could name as many as there are tracks, but here are a few particulars. "Ka-Ching! is one of my top five, probably one of my top three, because it does have the Shania cheekiness to it, but I think it's a pretty fair observation of where we're at, in terms of how commercial society has become, almost globally."
"I also like the lyrics on In My Car (I'll Be The Driver) - 'don't care if you sleep with your socks on, you can hurt my head with your favourite rock song.' In other words, you can be in control of all the other things in our lives, but in my car, I am the driver! UP!, the title track, has some really fun things, 'even my skin is acting weird, wish that I could grow a beard'. One of my other favourites is I'm Jealous, it's one of those songs that's so descriptive, you can see and feel it happening. Juanita is a song I got a bit deeper with lyrically. In our most vulnerable times, whether we're searching for strength, courage or freedom, it's our female power (our Juanita) that we need to connect with."
"It's keeping it real lyrically, that's just my approach, it is very conversational which is very much the way the last two albums were written and those were the songs people related to the best, saying things the way I would have spoken them."
Shania plans to start pre-production for a new tour early in 2003, eager to make the same personal connection with her fans that produced such sensationally successful results on the Come On Over world tour. "I have a lot of fun with the touring, it's the biggest reward," she says. "I can see on their faces what the songs mean to them. I'm affected by music, when I sit and listen I'm high by it, so when I see I'm affecting them the same way, I really feel I've done what I came to do."
Meanwhile, is one of the biggest-selling recording artists in the world feeling the pressure of following a 34 million-seller? In short, no. "I don't have any anxiety about the success of this record. My goal isn't to outsell Come On Over. I just really want to know what people think of it. I'm excited to get the feedback."
That's why, even with her place in the world's musical Úlite guaranteed and undisputed, the only way is UP! for Shania Twain, because of the creative goals she has already achieved with the album even before it starts flying out of the stores. "Mutt and I as a team put more into this record than ever before," she confesses. "We really have gone totally all out, we've laboured over it and I'm completely thrilled with the results."
"I put this music on and I'm overwhelmed with emotion. It's been such a labour of love, and as I'm listening back sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry."