Shania Twain: I may let go of singing at some point, but I have more records to make first

Handout photo of Shania Twain. See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Music Shania Twain. Picture credit should read Louie Banks. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Music Shania Twain.
Alex Green, PA Acting Deputy Entertainment Editor

It's been a tough few years for Shania Twain. The record-breaking Canadian singer, whose moniker “the Queen of Country Pop” remains unchallenged to this day, has faced heartbreak and nearly lost the ability to sing. But her new album, amazingly only her sixth despite a long career stretching back to the 80s, is bursting with positivity and hope for the future.

“The exercise of songwriting is my go-to therapy,” she explains from Las Vegas, where she keeps her stable of beloved horses. “During Covid I was deliberately writing music that would cheer me up, keep me in a positive frame of mind. The album ended up being very chirpy – managing my own mood through writing positivity.”

Few country musicians have transcended the genre like Twain, who grew up in the city of Timmins in Ontario – a hardscrabble upbringing where food was sometimes scarce and she witnessed violence at home.

Late last year her enduring influence was highlighted by a Netflix documentary about her rise from “Nashville newcomer to international icon”.

Over the phone, the 57-year-old, whose numerous hits include That Don't Impress Me Much and Man! I Feel Like A Woman!, explains how watching the film back made her feel.

“This was definitely a long succession of hard work and dedication,” she offers. “A lot of desperate times. And here we are, so let's celebrate.”

Now comes the accompanying album, Queen Of Me, which mixes the attitude and optimism of her youth with the maturity brought on by recent years.

“It's about moving past a difficult time and into a time of joy,” she says. “And celebrating ownership of your mental spirit and also just being in a very inspired place, a very grateful place too. A lot of the album is celebrating a lot of self-empowerment and inner strength.”

As she tells it, the album features her singing about “heavy-ish things but genuine things” – and you can hear the influence that her battle with Lyme disease and her divorce from producer ex-husband Robert “Mutt” Lange has had on her songwriting.

“It's not just a fluffy lyric album,” she adds. “It's got a fun lift and skip to it, so that it keeps you feeling up and chirpy the whole time. There's some sense of humour to it – that sass and sense of humour that I like to weave in and out of an album.”

In trademark style, the album contains songs about female empowerment. Not Just A Girl was written after she observed some other women in the media apparently attempting to shift blame for their actions.

“It was born out of the idea that there was a period where there were quite a few female songs or lyrics that were more about: ‘I'm not to blame, it's not my fault if I'm pretty. I'm just a girl, I'm a vulnerable girl.' And I thought: I just can't relate to that. I'm not just a girl. I just thought, no, I'm totally responsible for what I think and what I wear and what I do and for my mistakes.

“It's nobody else's fault. If there is any fault I'm not going to spend my time determining that. I'm just going to do something about it or at least manage my own attitude about it. So it was really more about that.”

Recording the album also functioned as a kind of rehabilitation after Twain underwent open-throat surgery in 2018. The vocalist had been unable to sing following a 15-year battle with Lyme disease after she was bitten by a tick in 2003 while in the US.

“I have come out of a very, very challenging time of believing that I probably would not sing again, that I probably would not find a solution to the voice problem. Because the nerves to my vocal cords were damaged – both of them – and it's irreparable.”

Twain now has two implants. “I have two new body parts,” she says with her girlish laugh.

She had to relearn how to use her voice – to sing in a new way and place certain sounds differently. “It's been a lot of experimenting. I used the album as that experimenting ground. But it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of really fun discovery. Some things I just can't do any more. But other things I'm discovering that I never did before. I'm just feeling good that I can sing and that I can project and that I have power and I can express to music.”

The track Last Day Of Summer features some of these new tones and she tells me she has been enjoying her new “roar”. But her voice trembles with emotion as she looks to the future.

“What all this has done for me now is that I'm saying I don't know how long the procedure will actually hold up, because the anatomy is changing all the time,” she admits.

“So these implants could shift, they could just not be effective any more, at some point, if my own anatomy continues to give way. So I'm just making the most of it right now. I just can't wait to get back in the studio and make more records while I still can.

“I can always get another surgery – I don't want to have to do that. I may just let go of singing altogether at some point, if it comes to that. But I have more records that I want to make first. So I want to get to that.”

She wrote a whole treasure trove of songs during Covid and is still writing all the time. If she loses her voice before she can record of them all, she plans to ask other artists to do so.

Twain has sung for many reasons over the years. Sometimes it was to feed her family. Sometimes it was for the pure joy of it.

“Right now, honestly, it's while I have it,” she explains. “I have it now and so I'm going to do it. So it's out of absolute appreciation. I want to get on the mic more than ever now.”

Queen Of Me by Shania Twain is released on February 3.