Back To The Root: Shania Twain Interviewed
Record-breaking singer Shania Twain is back with her sixth album ‘Queen of Me’ which is a kaleidoscopic, effervescent and exuberant affair that is the epitome of a ball of sunshine. The celebratory mood is evident throughout this album and it’s easy to see why Shania is understandably in the party spirit.
It’s been a long road for Shania Twain after overcoming serious open-throat surgery to repair nerve damage after the country music stalwart contracted Lyme disease back in 2003. Fast forward to 2023 and Shania is riding high after completing a residency in Las Vegas in 2021, she has her much-anticipated UK tour in autumn and of course, her brand new album ‘Queen Of Me’, which is her first studio album since 2017’s ‘Now’.
This is a slightly different Shania than what we are used to. Of course, there’s still plenty of sass, humour and her general joie de vivre which is in abundance throughout. But, this is a more liberated, fearless and empowered Shania who has created some of the most memorable lines in country-pop music, delivering lyrics like “Let’s go girls”’ along with “OK, so, you’ve got a car?!” and of course, the ultimate knockout line ”Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt? That don’t impress me much!” which has impressively (pardon the pun) immersed itself in our vernacular for the ultimate empowering ‘kiss off’.
Shania’s spectacular storytelling influence can not only be found in the songs of country-pop singers like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, but also in other artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Harry Styles too. Without doubt, Shania is a trailblazer who is the best selling female country artist of all time and she’s back with a bang!
The Grammy award-winning singer spoke to Emma Harrison about her new album, the importance of taking charge of your mood, body confidence and why you need to put some ‘up’ in your giddy.
Clash: Congratulations on the new album ‘Queen Of Me’. It’s so joyful, uplifting, and upbeat. It’s just like a ball of sunshine! How did the album come about and what inspired you to make it?
Shania Twain: Well, you are correct that it’s a very sunny, joyous album! I wrote the songs for the album during COVID and even though it was a very restrictive time, the irony of that is that I was really looking to my music and songwriting as an escape to really feel like I could still go anywhere in my imagination and take my mood to another place.
So, I decided I would write happy music and music that I wanted to dance to and it made me feel uplifted. So, all of the album is related to taking charge of your own mood, and taking responsibility for snapping out of any sort of stress, or anxiety that the period of COVID was weighing on all of us.
Clash: If that was the remit, then you’ve definitely achieved it. I mean, you can’t fail to smile when you listen to it. What did you learn about yourself when you’re making this album?
Shania: Well, the funny thing is, I actually like to be isolated! Not in a forced way, because obviously, that’s very strange, this forced isolation! But, in order to really focus on writing, because writing is such an escapism for me, I like to be alone and I like to be isolated.
I like to turn the rest of the world off and of course, I’d never been in a forced isolation scenario, and I wasn’t sure if that was going to affect me in a negative way, but it really did work in my favour in the sense that I got very productive.
I wrote probably three albums worth of songs. So, I guess it was just really innate on my side too. You know, the more I’m bored and the more there’s no distraction, the more productive and creative that I am!
Clash: It’s really about going back to the very core of things isn’t it? In terms of when you are songwriting what comes first for you – is it the lyrics or the music? Or does it depend?
Shania: For me, it could be anything, it could just be a chord progression, it could be a title. Often, it’s just a concept that I just want to write a song about a certain thing.
Then I’ll just start putting it together conceptually before I have any song structure there. I might start with a melody. So for me, there is no one way to start a song. It all starts with usually just me sitting there with my guitar and working through ideas.
Clash: I love that! There are so many incredible tracks on the album and the songs that have been released so far are just wonderful. Like, ‘Giddy up’. I mean, you can’t fail to smile when you hear that song. It’s so infectious and celebratory!
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
Shania: It’s difficult because I really enjoyed putting this album together. Part of that joy is that the music is so fresh and feels good. But I would say the most inspired song on this album is ‘Inhale/Exhale’ which I just call ‘Air!’.
I mean, the whole album is quite celebratory, but on so many layers and levels, ‘Inhale/Exhale’ is really a very meaningful song for the times. In me having a new appreciation for the air itself, you know, one of the most basic necessities to life!
Clash: It’s pretty fundamental isn’t it?! Focusing on ‘Giddy Up’, it feels like that’s such a strong message there. You’re always inspiring people to go out there and have fun and be the best version of themselves that they can be. It definitely feels like a “Let’s go girls” moment (from the song ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman!’) but for a new era.
Shania: Yeah, very much so! I mean, it’s like, don’t let things get you down. All you gotta do is put some up in your ‘giddy’ you know! You gotta put that spice in your life!
Clash: That’s so true Shania! There are so many brilliant songs on this album (and on previous albums too) Is ‘Queen of Me’ out of all the albums you’ve created, the one that means the most and that you have been wanting to make?
Shania: Oh, I think this album has been very liberating! Because of the timing of it being made and written, particularly during COVID, it affected me more than I realised. You know, that period of being so productive, because when I’m being productive and creative, I’m reflecting a lot.
I did a lot of reflection because it’s quite meditative, just sitting in with the music and I really reflected on things thinking ‘wow, there is no time to waste’.
We don’t know what’s coming. We have to enjoy everything while we have it. Every song touches on that, and it touches on not hesitating and this is where the ‘let’s go girls’ thing is – let’s do it. Let’s just do it! That’s all over this album and it’s amazing!
I guess the self empowerment element of it is the strongest on this album than on any other album I’ve ever made.
Clash: I love that you’ve made three albums worth of songs in lockdown! I mean, a lot of people in lockdown were watching Netflix, going for socially-distanced walks and making banana bread, but you’ve made three albums worth of music, that’s incredible!
Shania: I mean, I got more creative than I expected – it was great!
Clash: I love that! It’s so interesting that you used the word liberating earlier. Especially with regards to the single cover for ‘Waking up Dreaming’ where you pose topless and you look absolutely stunning. What prompted you to do this?
I know you’re a huge advocate of having body confidence. It must have been incredibly liberating for you.
Shania: It’s so true! I’ve always struggled with my own body confidence and I have to say that I’m one of those people that doesn’t love looking in the mirror when I’m naked.
I don’t want to turn the lights on and I hear that from so many of my friends as well. I thought I really have got to get past that block in my mind, because I write so much about self empowerment and finding your own confidence and expressing it and I wanted to take it to another level personally.
I’m 57 years old, it’s ridiculous! Of course you should be able to look in the mirror and appreciate your body and be comfortable literally in your own skin. So, it was kind of a fear that I had taken head on.
So, I decided that I would do that especially because this album had been focused so much about self awareness and self appreciation. So, I plunged into this photo session naked and thought, ‘okay if I can get through a photo session I can make it!’.
I’m really grasping the purpose of this and the intention, which was not to be an exhibitionist, but to really be an example of someone that is comfortable in their own skin.
That’s the message. Are you really comfortable in your own skin? In the deepest way, it was just one of those fears that I had to face. It was a huge success for me mentally, I just feel like I’ve put that behind me now. I just had to get over it and face it head on.
Clash: I think you have definitely achieved that! I think it’s just a case of stepping outside of your comfort zone and letting go and saying ‘let’s just go all in!’.
Shania: It’s absolutely that! ‘Go all in!’ Yeah! That’s what it takes and it depends on the person. But for me, it just meant you forget about testing the waters, you are just jumping right in!
Clash: I love that! You have so much success in your life. You are the best selling female country artist of all time. You have had 100 million global album sales, are a five-time Grammy winner and have done your residency in Vegas and of course you’ve had your documentary from Netflix which aired last year.
What is the secret of success in the industry?
Shania: For me, personally, I would say it’s being consistent with my intentions and not being wishy washy about that.
My intentions have always been to stay inspired by what I’m doing and in doing that, inspiring other people and being able to relate to the masses. It’s been very important to me, because I don’t just make music for myself.
The indulgence of what I do is sitting alone in a room and writing music, that’s definitely something I can do very happily by myself and I love that.
Once I record the music and start making the visuals and putting together a whole theme and I’m getting really artistic about it, I really want to share it.
I want to relate – it’s my way of communicating with people. That’s always been my intention. It’s never been to change anybody’s mind about anything. It’s never been to influence anyone. It’s always been to inspire. And I’ve just stuck by that. That makes for a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work! You have to be very committed!
Clash: You’ve essentially answered what was going to be my next question which is what keeps you wanting to make music. Clearly the passion and the desire is still there. Is there anything else that keeps you wanting to carry on?
Shania: It’s the fulfillment. Yeah! That when you do achieve, sharing it with so many people, then the gratification is enormous. It just feels so good to have been able to relate and relay your most vulnerable feelings and in every way – your happiness or sadness, all of those things with other people.
I can’t stop this thing that I love. It’s just what it is. I’ll always find an outlet and I would feel crazy if I didn’t have an outlet.
Clash: That makes complete sense. I mean, it’s almost like an unstoppable train, isn’t it? You’ve been very open and brave about your health issues, which include going through open-throat surgery. It must have been very scary for you. Did you ever have any doubts that you wouldn’t get back to what you’re doing now, especially with the Vegas residency and the tour?
Shania: Oh, absolutely. I was facing this for several years and spent a lot of time preparing myself to never be able to sing with any quality again.
I’d only been able to manage a few studio recordings that were just one off things and it was so difficult. I knew I would have to give up on touring or any serious record making, unless I found a solution – and I never gave up looking for a solution. But it was just so unlikely that I was going to find one.
I guess perseverance is what led me finally to the solution, which was this open-throat surgery and that was a very scary solution – and it wasn’t guaranteed to work. But it was the only option.
I just feel very lucky that I can sing again. So I’m making the most of it while I can!
Clash: I think that’s a very admirable attitude to take and of course, you’re coming to the UK on tour in September, what can we expect from the tour Shania?
Shania: Well, it’s going to be a very energised show. I will be in a spirit of appreciation and celebration. This tour is all about celebrating so many things; celebrating being on the other side of this COVID and celebrating the music that came out of it.
So, I will put quite a bit of the new music in there, but I’ll never abandon the classics.
I’m celebrating that I can still get up there and do this and enjoy the music in a very intense way. Probably like never before. So I’m just super excited, especially to sing new music with the fans. So I feel like I’m in a rush to get the fans familiar with the new music so we can all sing it together, that’s gonna just blow my mind!
Clash: I think there’s nothing better than that! When I’ve interviewed other musicians and singers over the years, the one thing they all seem to say is the best thing is when they can see a huge crowd of thousands of people singing their songs back at them. It’s just such a special moment.
Shania: It’s just incredible. there’s nothing like it!
Clash: Last year, you joined Harry Styles on stage at Coachella and you’ve indicated you’d like to collaborate with him on a record. Is that on the cards? Or do we have any other collaborations in the pipeline?
Shania: Well, I guess, being on stage singing with Harry Styles is a once in a lifetime thing which is probably more than most people get! So, I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance again, but I sure hope I do!
I’ve rediscovered one of his songs ‘Falling’ that I would love to do as a duet with him – even if it’s just a backstage jam, that would be a fabulous thing to do!
Clash: That would be amazing! Is there anybody that you haven’t yet duetted with that you would love to collaborate with at all?
Shania: Wow! The list is very long so it would be difficult to narrow it down! You know, I’ve never done it with Taylor Swift and we have so much in common. I think that would be very satisfying to be able to do that with her and that it would be very interesting.
Clash: That would be amazing! Looking back at your career, do you have one standout moment in your career that strikes you as ‘well this is a thing I’ll never, ever forget!’
Shania: Well, I do! Elton John came and sang on one of my television specials one time, and that was really one of the most memorable moments of my career because I was and still am such a huge, huge fan.
I couldn’t believe that he accepted to come and do that with me. It was really, really remarkable! Oh, and there’s another one! I would say that it’s right up there with Gladys Knight too. I sang with her on another one of my television specials. They are just the icons of my youth and these are the moments that blow me away when I had the opportunity to sing with them.
Clash: That’s incredible! If you could give your younger self any advice about what you know now about the music industry, what would it be and why?
Shania: It’s hard to say, I would love to do that. I would say that it’s so important to try to enjoy the ride along the way. When you’re looking back in retrospect at all of the fabulous things that have happened, to be lost in the moment. If you’re not lost in the moment and are absolutely working your butt off all the time, there’s no time to enjoy those things in the moment.
So, it’s one of those things where I guess I wished I enjoyed so many of the moments in the moment possibly!
Clash: I think that’s such good advice. So what else can we expect from Shania Twain in 2023? You’ve got the tour. You’ve got the album. Is there anything else that we should know about?!
Shania: Oh, my gosh! Well, there’s lots of things still to come. I did a season for the TV show Star Struck that is airing soon here in the UK. That was a lot of fun and I’ve always loved spending time in the UK.
The tour is really all-consuming, but I’ve got more records to make! There’s also a play in the works of Shania music which is so exciting, so there’s all kinds of things coming up. So, I’ll just keep on trucking! And hopefully, I’ll also be back in Vegas, and I’m looking forward to that!
‘Queen Of Me’ is out on February 3rd.
Words: Emma Harrison / @EmmaHWriter