Shania's still the one to inspire
Twenty-five years since Shania Twain first struck up the punchy opening chords and exclaimed the rallying cry “Let’s go girls” on her hit Man I Feel Like A Woman, she continues to embody the female empowerment and resilience she instilled into her lyrics, and consequently generations of fans.
The record-breaking Canadian singer, whose moniker “the Queen of Country Pop” remains unchallenged to this day, released the track alongside her 1997 studio album Come On Over – which featured 12 singles including You’re Still The One and That Don’t Impress Me Much.
It went diamond-certified (sales of 10 million or more), earned her four Grammy Awards and it remains the biggest-selling studio album of all time by a solo female artist, propelling her career to stratospheric heights when she was in her early thirties.
“What the album means to me now and what it meant at the time are very different because so much has happened in 25 years. You can imagine,” Twain, now 58, muses.
“At the time, I was obsessing over writing the best songs, and I was thinking as a songwriter-performer, I was in the mode of creating, and at that time, of course, not imagining that it would ever come to this… the fact that it even went diamond was beyond my imagination at the time.”
The singer admits she felt motivated to “outwrite” herself as it was following on from her 1995 diamond-certified record, The Woman In Me. However, amid the album launch, press and touring, she reveals she became emotionally drained and never got the chance to enjoy its success at the time.
“But now, 25 years later, I’m celebrating it and really being able to reflect on how amazing it was and how amazing it is that it’s had such longevity,” she says as she shares her excitement about marking the milestone with a remastered re-release of the record.
“I’m really grateful that I’m still so active and looking back on it. It’s almost like I’m not necessarily looking back to my history, it’s still a part of what’s happening to me now. I haven’t retired, I’m enjoying it in a different way. I’m not looking at it so much in a nostalgic way. I’m looking at it as part of the excitement of everything that’s happening around me now.”
Twain’s resolute attitude was forged from a young age when growing up in the city of Timmins in Ontario – a hardscrabble upbringing where food was sometimes scarce and she witnessed violence at home.
In later years, the singer experienced the loss of her mother and stepfather following a car accident, battled through Lyme disease as well as her divorce from producer ex-husband Robert “Mutt” Lange.
“It’s never worked for me to just say: ‘OK, this is a terrible thing that’s happening, get over it and move on’,” she tells me over video call while curled up on her sofa in her home in Switzerland.
“I do believe that it’s better to address whatever it is that is going on and to allow yourself to feel whatever that grief is. Allow yourself to go through those things.
“In my youth I was a little bit more, ‘just forget about it and move on’. Now, with more maturity, I feel it’s better to absorb it, to allow yourself to reflect and think through it.
“But knowing that you will find a solution, knowing that your intention is going to be to find a way to get yourself in a better place, knowing the direction you’re headed, and knowing that you’re not going to stay there, and that’s up to you.”
Twain did not release music for 15 years following a bout of Lyme disease that caused her to lose her singing voice. In 2018, she underwent open-throat surgery to repair damage done by the debilitating illness.
She returned from her hiatus with 2017’s Now, which shot straight to number one on both sides of the Atlantic, and followed it up earlier this year with the joyous and equally successful record, Queen Of Me.
The vocalist’s new-found confidence is sewn into the tapestry of the album, which is bursting with positivity and hope.
“I’m somebody who just wants to write music that makes me dance and makes me laugh at myself, and makes me feel happy,” she says.
“I nicknamed the album ‘My Happy Album’ because the purpose of writing the songs was to keep me in a really positive, happy spirit. And it worked. It’s my therapy.
“It’s all about taking charge of your own frame of mind, hence the song Queen Of Me, that’s what the title represents. Putting the responsibility on myself to keep myself in a positive frame of mind, and finding a way to do that.
“For me that was writing uplifting, happy songs that had a message of inspiration and self-motivation. And living and singing through example of not letting fear get in your way. And I live that. I’m living that right now.”
Twain has imbued this positive message into the album’s current tour, which will continue in the UK and Ireland from September 14.
“This tour is the most fun I’ve ever had onstage,” she gushes. “The Queen Of Me period is more about self-expression than anything else I’ve ever written. Even when I’m doing the classic stuff, I’m having more fun.
“Part of it is because I’m really just enjoying getting out there and belting out my voice, I’m just enjoying my voice more than I have in a very long time.
“And then just looking into the audience and watching how the music has bridged generations through my career. And it’s right in front of me.
“So I’m seeing the parents that are probably now somewhere in their 60s who brought their kids, who were then under 10, and they’re now here with their five-year-olds. It’s crazy. It’s such a fabulous experience for me to see in person.”
And the exciting times keep rolling for Twain as she is set to lead her third Las Vegas residency next year, which will provide a stage for the country star to honour Come On Over and all her hits with a dazzling, “high-energy show” across 24 dates.
The singer plans to have fun with her performance at the Bakkt Theatre at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, which she says will be “bright and beautiful and fun” paired with “romantic moments”.
As she reminisces on her career, which stretches back to the 1980s, Twain admits she does not think there is a secret to her longevity but thinks her aim to connect with her listeners might have something to do with it.
“I mean everything that I do in my career comes from a very sincere place,” she reflects. “I do care about relating to the people that I am entertaining for, singing to, writing for.
“I can be a very solitary person so when I’m sharing a part of me, it really means something to me. And I wanted what I’m doing now, I want it to engage, I want it to be a genuine communication.
“So maybe that is part of the longevity, maybe people sense that and they feel connected to that.”
Shania Twain’s UK and Ireland tour kicks off on September 14 and her Las Vegas residency opens on May 10 next year.