Shania Twain on Her Final Tour and 'Introspective' New Album

Wall Street Journal
By Mike Ayers
June 1, 2015

It’s been eleven years since Shania Twain last toured. That will change starting this Friday, when the country singer kicks off her “Rock This Country” tour at Seattle’s KeyArena. For Twain and her fans, these shows will be a bit bittersweet, as she’s stated that she’s retiring from touring life when the run comes to a close this October.

Twain is one of the biggest selling artists of all time, with more than 75 million albums sold worldwide - her late ’90s and early 2000s hits included “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “You’re Still the One.”  Though she was sidelined for latter half of the last decade due to vocal problems, Twain finally re-emerged to the stage in 2012, with a two-year residency at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas, that concluded this past December.

Even though her touring life is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean Twain is retiring altogether. She’s been working on a new album, her first since 2002's “Up!,” which she hopes to have finished this fall.

Speakeasy recently talked with Twain while she was on vacation in the Bahamas. Below, an edited interview.

You’re about to start your last tour.  Why is now a good time stop?

I initially thought Las Vegas would be my last. Not that I was saying that publicly, but it was what I was thinking in my head. It was such a challenge getting back up on stage, getting my voice in order, getting my confidence back up. The whole mountain was pretty high. I figured if I could accomplish that, then I’d be very happy and I’d end on a high. [But] I felt it was a strange way to finish my performance career, not being able to get around to the people. I want to feel that again.

Why was your confidence so low?

There’s a few reasons. I had not been performing for a long time. That does it. Maybe not for everybody, but you know, when you haven’t been doing something for a long time, you have to build back up again.

My voice was giving me a lot of problems. I was having a lot of problems projecting the sound. I didn’t have any problems with my vocal chords. I don’t have any surgical problems that are more typical for singers. The problem was more mysterious and took a lot of rehabilitation.

Will this tour mirror the Las Vegas shows?

The show will be a completely different production. It’s an entirely different show, other than the fact the music is still the music. A whole different feel to it altogether.

Is designing the tour a full-time job in itself?

It’s a daily thing. I work on it every day for several months. I’m involved with every department, from lighting, sound, music direction, the visual direction. The set list is something I create myself and that’s the root of everything.

The crowds you were playing in front of during the “Come on Over” and “Up” days were massive. Do you remember being nervous?

I always have a little nerves before I go out. I do like the freestyle of that environment. That was why Vegas was a new challenge for me – a lot of choreography and everything is timed to the second. All the years of being out on the more “freestyle” stage where I set the pace for the night…everything was breathing under my pacing. That makes it more comfortable. When I got on stage, it was about having fun and being in party mode.

Were you a partier? A lot of country music now is very party-centric.

I missed out on all of the partying. I was a very serious artist. I have fun on stage. I have a lot of laughs. I love watching the people. But I’ve always been a serious professional. I never really partied. I’m kind of boring.

Performing can be taxing on one’s self. Do you have a regimen these days?

I’ve always been pretty disciplined. The only time I had problems was when I have a cold or the flu. Otherwise, I stay pretty healthy, I stay pretty fit. But I’m older now. I have to warm up a lot longer. I have to start getting ready vocally and physically an hour before the show.

How much sleep do you have to get?

Anywhere from five to seven hours and I’ll be fine. That’s always been the typical night. I’m not a great sleeper.

What are your thoughts on country music these days?

I never really can pick favorites. There’s a lot of great guys out there now. There’s room for girls to come out strong again. [Little Big Town’s] “Girl Crush” is a great song, great vocal. I love Taylor [Swift], even though I know she’s crossed over to the other side in a permanent way. I still think she’s a country artist.

It’s been almost 13 years since your last album. When’s the next one coming out?

I’m working on that. There’s been a bit of tug of war with my time management. The songs are all there and I got more than enough. I started that already and now I got to take a break from my focus on the album to do the tour. I’ll probably be doing vocals on down days during the tour. I’ll take a mic on the bus. My voice will be good on tour, because I’ll be singing every day.

What’s it going to be like?

It’s still me, it’s still my voice. The songwriting will be recognizable, but it’s much more introspective and it’s very autobiographical. People will see through that; I don’t mind the transparency of that. More so than ever before. I’m living with the songs in a different way than before because I’m writing it all myself. The engineer cried the other day when I did a vocal, so that’s a sign.

But you’re not going to want to play these songs live?

The timing was supposed to be different. I wanted it to be done while I was still in Vegas. And that just didn’t happen. Now the album will be done when I’m finished with this tour. So that timing sucks!