Shania Twain talks farewell tour, personal heartbreak reflected in 'raw' new sound: 'I must be haunted'

New York Daily News
By Jim Farber
June 27, 2015

Shania Twain laughs when she recalls how little skin she used to have to show to start a scandal.

Fifteen years ago, the mere sign of her bare midriff - a sexy staple of her photo shoots and live shows - drew scorn among conservative audiences and country traditionalists.

“My gosh, it’s laughable now,” she says. “It was so tame. It just shows how times change.”

That holds true both for the culture and for the star herself.

Amid what the Twain has called her last ever tour - which includes three New York dates starting Tuesday at The Garden - she told The News about the next phase of her life, one which will reflect the hardest years of her life.

Twain has been struggling to finish a new album - her first in thirteen years - whose songs were inspired by a nearly ruiinous range of problems that plagued her over the last decade.

In 2008, her husband, and the man who produced all her hits, Robert “Mutt” Lange left her for the woman who had been her best friend, Marie-Anne Thiebaud. In a weird twist, in 2011, Twain married the ex-husband of that friend, Nestle executive Fredrick Thiebaud.

The singer says she knows that looks crazy to outsiders but insists she “would never get married out of revenge. Happiness is important, and I just followed my own path.”

The double betrayal of her husband and her friend not only smashed Twain’s heart, it caused her to suffer from “dysphonia,” a psychological syndrome that caused her to lose her voice for years.

On top of that were lingering traumas from her childhood, including growing up in poverty in rural Canada, dealing with a father who both physically abused her mother and sexually abused her, capped by the loss of both parents in a fatal car accident when she was 22.

Twain says she channelled all this into as-yet-unreleased songs she describes as “raw”, “exposed” and “very telling emotionally.”

“Everyone who hears them keeps telling me they sound haunting,” she says. “I must be haunted.”

It’s a stunning admission for a woman who built her entire career on the zippiest possible hits, ones which have given her top selling album ever by a woman (1997’s “Come On Over,” which moved 15.5 million copies).

Many of her songs are so upbeat, they include exclamation points right in their titles, from “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” to the double-whammy “Waiter! Bring Me Water!”

“I’m a different person now,” says the singer who will turn 50 at the end of August. “It’s a lot of years later.”

In fact, her major label career snakes back over two decades, when she released her 1993 self-titled debut. It garnered the attention of producer Lange, previously best known for shaping rock hits for Def Leppard.

After meeting, they quickly became close, marrying by the end of that year. Lang created an album for her, “The Woman In Me,” that not only became a smash, it re-wrote the rules of country.

Setting a pattern later followed by Taylor Swift, Twain brought to Nashville a far more pop-friendly sound and look. That didn’t please the powers that be.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t pay attention at the time,” Twain says. “I might have been really discouraged. By the time I realized what I was up against, it didn’t matter anymore. The public already had their hands on it and it took on a life of its own.”

Twain rode a non-stop wave of popularity through her last album, 2002’s “Up!,” with every hit guided by Lange. Twain says that having to create without him, after the divorce, was “very, very scary - like jumping off a cliff into the abyss.”

To help her make peace with her troubles, Twain published a candid memoir in 2011, “From This Moment On.” When writing of the marital split, she expressed more anger at her friend than at her ex-husband.

“I guess, as a woman, I related more to what I would have done,” she says. “I wrote what I felt.”

Twain also may have tempered things out of concern for the son she has with Lange, Eja, now 13. She says her son was her inspiration for writing the book to begin with.

“I needed to document (my life) for him,” she says. “I lost my parents so young and there was so much I wanted to know that I’l never know. I thought ‘what if I die prematurely and then don’t get to share this with my son.’”

Twain says that writing of her hard past wasn’t “a way of putting it behind me. If anything, it’s about keeping it alive as a part of who I am.”

Now she means to reflect that rough reality in songs she vows to release in this, her 50th year. “My goal,” Twain says, “is to make an album of my life now. It’s about survival, about how to come through the other side.”