Shania Twain embraces acting and getting older: 'Aging comes down to attitude'
By Mark Daniell
March 12, 2020
Shania Twain never had an itch to act.
Sure, she liked movies and television, but the multiple Juno and Grammy-winner knew she had a lane and figured she’d stick to it.
But when John Travolta asked her to join him in last year’s race car drama Trading Paint, stepping in front of the camera as an actress turned out to be a job she found she loved.
"Really, it started after I had my cameo on (the Comedy Central series) Broad City,” Twain says down the line from Las Vegas where she kicks off another round of her Let’s Go! residency dates at Planet Hollywood this Saturday. “I had such a great time and it felt so comfortable and natural that when John called me up and said, ‘Are you available? I need a girlfriend in my movie,’ I jumped at the chance.”
The experience impressed her so much that when directors Jon and Andrew Erwin asked her to be a part of I Still Believe, a Christian biographical drama that opens today, she decided to dive in.
“It’s a wonderful film,” Twain, 54, says. “Now, acting is something that I love.”
I Still Believe revisits the true story of country music star Jeremy Camp’s early rise and his relationship with his first wife, Melissa, who died of cancer in 2001, shortly after they married. His chart-topping song I Still Believe encapsulated his emotions following her death.
The film features Riverdale star KJ Apa as Jeremy Camp and Britt Robertson as Melissa. Twain plays Jeremy’s mom Terry.
“I was moved by the bravery and courage and commitment to love that these two young people had for one another,” Twain says, “I was just inspired by that. I felt very privileged, to be honest.”
The singer-songwriter from Timmins, Ont., says she “wasn’t terribly confident” she could act. “Of course, I had never played an actual role outside of myself (onstage) before.”
But pushing herself in new directions is something she has embraced in her career since she burst onto the music scene in 1993 with her self-titled debut album.
A Lyme disease diagnosis in 2003 almost sidelined her permanently, leaving her with barely a singing voice. But she persevered, taking to the stage for her first Las Vegas residency in 2012 and mounting large-scale tours in 2015 and 2018. In 2017, she returned to the studio to release her first album – Now – in 15 years.
Married to Frederic Thiebaud, whose ex-wife had an affair with Twain’s former husband, Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the mother of one says life nowadays couldn’t be better.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m having a great time.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, Twain spoke more about I Still Believe, why she has embraced getting older and the albums that have meant the most to her.
I Still Believe is going to draw in people who are fans of you and KJ, as well as Jeremy Camp. What do you hope they take away from the experience?
These are two people who walked straight into the fire, courageously. I think there’s something to learn from that. Putting love first and making it a priority is something everyone can learn from. As painful and difficult as it might be, I think there’s something to learn and take away from that, and from them. Even the parents of these two young people learned from their own kids. Our children have a lot to teach us and I think this is a good example of that.
The last few years have been great for fans of your music. You came back with Now and you’ve returned to Vegas with the Let’s Go residency. What’s it been like for you to be back on stage?
I’m having so much fun. I’m enjoying the audiences. I love the informal environment of the Zappos Theater. It’s just a really fun room. I can see everyone so well and I can tell that they’re having a good time. I’m very proud of the show. It’s been a rewarding, creative experience and to see it all come together makes me so satisfied. But the audiences that are coming to see me now, I feel more connected to them than ever before.
You started off in country music in the 1990s and then morphed into pop stardom in the 2000s. Here we are in 2020, and you’re bigger than ever. What was the key to your success?
Well, I certainly don’t take it for granted, so I’ll start with that. It’s pretty rare and exceptional to have had a career that has been going for such a long period of time. So I feel a lot of gratitude, to be honest. I’m not sure there’s a recipe or an actual answer to it. But my longevity motivates me to be my best all the time. I put a lot of work and effort into my new work. I approached Let’s Go! as if it was my first show ever. I take a lot of care. It’s important to me that people enjoy themselves and enjoy the music. It still means so much to me. There’s probably something in that; not taking it for granted. Perhaps people have sensed that and related to it and it has led to a genuine, mutual appreciation.
You came from humble beginnings in Timmins, playing in bars late, after they stopped serving alcohol. What do you imagine young Shania would think of where she ended up?
She couldn’t have imagined this. I can’t imagine this. It just wasn’t fathomable. I knew I was going to strive to make it, but I didn’t know what making it was. I didn’t know what that could be. My child self was thinking, “If I can support myself with music, then I’ve made it.” As I got older, it became, “If I can make a record someday, I’ll have made it.” Later, it was, “If I can take care of my family, then I’ve made it.” But I always told myself if I made it, I would help out kids like me that needed food, proper clothing and just the basics. So to me, as a child, I viewed making it in more practical ways. Certainly, where I am now is not something I could have ever imagined.
A lot of people take inspiration from your music. What lifts you up and inspires you?
I listen to music for inspiration. That’s a huge part of my motivation in everything I do. I look to music almost like therapy. If I want to feel happy, I listen to happy music. It enhances my mood in whatever direction I need it to. Music is miraculous in that way. I really understand what a fan gets out of music because I’m a fan too. I look to other people’s stories and I read and watch primarily non-fiction to inspire me. Things that make me say, “Wow, if that person can do it, I can do it.” That’s why I’m so personal (in my songwriting). I think it’s important to motivate and inspire and give other people the motivational energy they might need.
You made headlines recently for saying “aging is a battle you can’t win.” You’re someone who has grown up in front of everyone’s eyes. How have you embraced aging?
When I said that, it was exactly what I meant. You have to embrace aging because you can’t change it. Why fight it? I’m fine with it because there’s no other choice and I think it’s a waste of energy to try and fight it. There are so many other things I could use my energy towards that bring me pleasure and satisfaction. Getting stressed about aging is a waste of my time. I think it was more difficult when I was younger. I felt more pressure and I know a lot of young people do when they see their first wrinkles or their first grey hair. Now it’s different. You can’t win, so I’ve moved on to things that are a lot more fun than counting grey hairs. Aging comes down to attitude and how you look at it. I have so many other things to do. I’ve scripts to read, horses to ride, songs to sing, I’ve got a beautiful family. I’ve let go of worrying about aging.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
Be yourself. That has served me well. I’m a mom and I’m always thinking about what advice I can pass on and it’s really just, be yourself. Be natural and don’t overthink it. By being yourself, like-minded people gravitate to you and you’ll be in good company.
What are the records that mean the most to you?
I would have to say Rumours, Fleetwood Mac. Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits. As a song, Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon & Garfunkel. Anything by Dolly Parton, especially the songs from my youth. Her music was extremely inspirational in my life.
You have so many classic songs, which is your favourite to play live?
I never get tired of Man! I Feel Like a Woman! I really love watching people enjoying that song.