Lavish tour may not be Shania Twain's last stand
By Lynn Saxberg
June 26, 2015
When Shania Twain appears on the stage at Wesley Clover Parks Saturday night, she will be at the centre of an elaborate spectacle involving multiple costume changes, a seven-piece band, dazzling lighting and pyrotechnics, and even a flying saddle. Thousands of fans will cheer wildly and sing along to hits like Man! I Feel Like a Woman, That Don’t Impress Me Much and Any Man of Mine.
The fans won’t be the only ones having a blast. Twain says she’s having “great fun” on her Rock This Country excursion, her first concert tour in more than a decade, although she’s still calling it her final tour.
Part of the reason is that it’s such an ambitious production it would be difficult to repeat, Twain explained in a rare interview on Friday. Adding extra dates to the current tour is a possibility, but mounting another big adventure sometime in the future? Not likely.
“I could see myself carrying this tour on longer,” said the 49-year-old pop-country superstar. “It might be hard to stop it, that’s for sure. But I just don’t see myself starting over again with it. To do this from the ground up, it’s just not where I see my future.”
Instead, Twain wants to focus on her songwriting. So far, she has two albums’ worth of new material ready to take into the studio, but not yet ready for the stage. “I want to make more records, and the songwriting is a very important part to me,” she says. “I don’t think I can do both at the same time. I can only wear one hat at a time.
“It’s very distracting being on the road and the things that come with that. All the songwriting that I did for this album is done. I did it beforehand, and it’s just become very clear to me that when I’m performing, I’m not writing and when I’m not performing, I’m writing. I’m in a different zone. The performing artist is a different person than the writer. That’s a whole other part of my brain that just can’t have all that distraction. I have to isolate myself to make that happen.”
With more than 75 million albums sold, the pride of Timmins, ON is considered the biggest-selling country female in history, and an artist who’s had an influence on a generation of younger stars, especially Taylor Swift. But she hasn’t released a new album since 2002’s Up!
No wonder there’s pressure to come up with new material. All eyes are on Twain to see if she can craft the hits without the help of her ex-husband, super-producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange, who was instrumental in co-writing, producing and shaping the multi-million-selling sound of her top three records, starting with 1995’s The Woman In Me. (In one of music’s most complicated soap operas, he left Twain for her best friend about seven years ago, and then Twain later married the ex-friend’s ex-husband. Lange and Twain have a 13-year-old son who spends time with both parents and will be joining his mom’s tour later in the summer.)
But the Canadian Music Hall of Famer is quick to point out that she’s done plenty of songwriting on her own. “I wrote my whole life,” she says. “I’ve always written by myself, since I was a kid. Mutt was my first co-writing project. But as a recording artist, this will be my first independent writing project.”
As for new directions, the songs that are already written are some of the most personal she’s ever tackled. “I think vocally it will be very identifiable,” she says. “I don’t think I’m that different there. Anybody who’s heard it so far says it’s very haunting, inspiring. It’ll be more soulful than anything I’ve ever done.”
Twain was initially hoping to release new music in time for the tour, but didn’t get it done during her two-year residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, which ended late last year. Then she opted to let the momentum of the Vegas show propel her into the tour.
“The hope was to get the album done sooner,” she says. “I really thought by the time I was in my second year, I would already have new music to play, and that didn’t happen. It’s just really hard to do both at the same time, but I decided to do the tour because the team was already together. I thought, ‘Oh, brother, if I shut it down now, I really don’t think it’s ever going to happen’ so I’m glad I kept everybody together and we did get this tour together. But the new music didn’t happen so this is where the timing didn’t work out very well for me.”
When the tour was announced in the spring, Twain was hinting she’d have new tunes out by her 50th birthday on Aug. 29. She’s now extended that deadline: “I’d love to at least get the first single out by then.” If the rest of the album emerges before she turns 51, she’ll be happy.
The half-century mark feels like a milestone for Twain, at least partly because her mother and stepfather died in a car accident in Northern Ontario before they reached the same age. Fit and healthy, Twain says she’s probably more active now than she was 10 years ago. “I don’t feel any age, to be honest,” she says, agreeing with the notion that 50 is the new 30.
Still, one thing that’s been widely discussed is Twain’s newly blonde hair. Evidence of a mid-life crisis? Nope. “I don’t mind playing around with colour a little bit,” she says. “In Vegas, my hair was quite red. I’ve got two blonde sisters and I was always the only brunette, and my own son is blond so I figured ‘Hey, it’s in my genes, I’m going to play with it and have some fun with it.’ It’s just a fun thing to do.”
Whether blonde, brunette or redhead, Twain will have her work cut out for her in cracking the male-dominated landscape of the modern country scene where bro-country is all the rage. “I think it’s a phase,” she says. “I think music goes through those phases, all genres do. I think it’s just that time for country right now.”
Given the cyclical nature of the music business, things might work out in her favour in the end anyway.
“It could be great timing for me. Maybe it’s time to make way for women again.
“Maybe you’ll see me in a coffee house somewhere doing my new music.”
With the Doobie Brothers, Dan & Shay and Wes Mack
When: Music starts at 4 p.m. June 27. Gates open at 2 p.m.
Where: Wesley Clover Parks. Shuttles available from the Canadian Tire Centre or the Nortel Campus.
Tickets: $89.50 to $179.50, still available at www.capitaltickets.ca or by phone at 1-613-599-FANS (3267) or toll free at 877-788-FANS (3267)