Returning pop-country queen Shania Twain has admitted that there were times during her long absence that she wondered whether she would ever sing again professionally. But with her first studio album for 15 years, Now, eagerly anticipated ahead of its 29 September release, the Canadian star is happy to have overcome all her personal challenges, and couldn't be more excited for the future.
As well as a high-profile divorce from her co-writer and producer 'Mutt' Lange, Twain had to battle the infectious Lyme's disease, the subsequent loss of her voice and a long period of vocal physiotherapy. But after she committed to writing the new album on her own, she regained her sense of purpose.
“Once I got past that point of just getting started, it's like going to the gym,” she told this writer on a recent visit to London. “The hardest part is getting there, right? Getting yourself dressed and out the door, and then once you're there, it all starts happening. Of course it's painful, you're going to be sore the next day and go through some ups and downs, but you've taken that initial step. Once I dived in, I was committed, and then it really just got easier from there, to be honest.”
Many of the songs from the new album, including the lead track 'Life's About To Get Good,' describe those emotional ups and downs in a remarkably open and autobiographical way. “I'm always just myself anyway,” she says. “I'm not acting when I'm on stage. I'm singing my own truth.
“I'm not even interpreting, I'm not just presenting the song as the performer, I am the song and I am extending my story by singing it to people. So I don't feel like just acknowledging the entertainer, without acknowledging the person, would be satisfying or even comfortable to me.”
Once Now started to become a reality, the artist says she was able to start enjoying it more. “The stages reveal themselves, and a creative process has to be that way, right to the last touch,” she muses. “Whether that's painting or cooking, there's always that finality, little final things you have to do, and sometimes it means a makeover of something. If the cream curdles, you've got to whip it up again.”
Now the revitalised Twain is relishing the idea of more live work, following her recent show at BBC Radio 2's Hyde Park concert and the introduction of new material at the Stagecoach Festival in the spring. “I've got to pace it like an athlete, and I've got the luxury to do that now,” she says. “I'm so excited about that.”
When she does hit the road, she knows that her fans will come from all walks of music and life. “My audiences in my concerts have always been that hybrid blend, the cross-section of ages. Just the diversity, culturally. There might be a group wearing cowboy hats, and then there'll be another group of cross-dressers wearing my 'Man! I Feel Like A Woman' outfits or whatever. Just everything. It's always been that way.”
Now is released on 29 September.
Follow the All Time Greatest Country Hits playlist, which kicks off with Shania's classic 'That Don't Impress Me Much.'