Belfast Telegraph

Shania Twain: I'm inspired by the fact that a light is being turned on sexual harassment in a big way

Back with her first full-length album since 2002, singer Shania Twain tells Kerri-Ann Roper why her new record is not a divorce album and why she's glad that women are finally speaking out about sexual harassment

Confident return: Shania Twain has overcome several personal traumas to get her career back on track
Confident return: Shania Twain has overcome several personal traumas to get her career back on track
Shania performing on stage
Challenging period: with ex-husband Mutt Lange

It's not easy returning to something after 15 years, especially when that certain something is a very successful music career. There would be so many reasons to run in the opposite direction: new, younger artists dominating the charts, a different music landscape, fans who can praise or tear you down on social media in an instant.

If you're Shania Twain, though, you return in style and you make cementing your place as the queen of country-pop look effortless.

Canadian-born Twain (52) returned this year with a new album - her first full-length one in 15 years - titled NOW.

The 16-track record hit number one on the UK album charts shortly after its release, as if Twain had never been away.

But she has been and her return is more than just a comeback - it's a victory over major life obstacles like thinking she would never sing again and a divorce from her husband of many years.

"It's a big undertaking to put another album out," she says matter-of-factly over the telephone.

"Especially because I wrote all the music alone, which was another huge commitment and responsibility, so that was a bit nerve-racking. But now that it's finished, I'm relieved and excited."

A few weeks before our call, I meet her in the flesh at a listening session for the album.

In my head I can see her in her 1999 music video for her hit song Man! I Feel Like A Woman, peeking out from under her top hat and saying confidently: "Let's go, girls!"

Coincidentally, this month, the album that song hailed from - her third studio album, titled Come On Over - celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Twain is warm and understated in person - and you can sense a quiet confidence brimming under the surface as she talks about her music.

"Just getting to the point where I would even be able to make a record, record the voice, that was the scariest part - and committing myself to writing it alone," she explains.

"All of that period of just getting started was the most difficult part, the scariest part."

When we talk again a few weeks later, this time on the telephone, she's completed one "scary" mission - putting her music out there.

There's a very catchy tune called Life's About To Get Good on the new record, and I wonder if she ever considered that as a title. She explains her choice of NOW: "NOW really is more all-encompassing of the whole, of where I am. Since I haven't had an album in so long and fans have been waiting so many years, it was more of a statement to say that is who I was - I was someone 15 years ago and I'm a different person now.

"And also I'd had a lot of vocal problems. That's the main reason why I wasn't able to make albums prior to now. The last 15 years have been a long transition to now."

She's referencing a struggle with Lyme disease and nearly losing her voice for good. She talks openly about the terrifying ordeal, which threatened to end her career in music.

"I lost my voice and it was the total use of my voice," Shania says.

Shania performing on stage

"It was terrible and so for seven years I really just believed I would never even know what was wrong with it. It was very scary and very sad.

"Obviously, you know, I felt like I'd lost one of the great joys of my life.

"It was very long and painful. The first seven years were just really a mystery of what was wrong with it, so that was terrifying, and then the last seven years have been all about the rehabilitation and hard work."

Her voice aside, there was also her divorce from her producer husband Robert 'Mutt' Lange following 15 years of marriage after he had an affair with her best friend.

Twain is very clear, though, when I ask her if this is in any way a divorce album.

She replies: "Well, I would describe this as a transition album. I went through a very long transitional phase of recovering from a lot of things, reflecting on my whole life and recovering my voice.

"All of that rehabilitation and just starting life over after divorce ... so it's definitely not a divorce album. There's just way too much that's happened over the last 16 years.

"It's more about a much longer phase in my life than just the divorce period, and it's also helped put things in perspective.

"There are so many more things in my life of importance and that's why there's a lot of positivity in the album as well. There's a lot of optimism.

"I touch on the dark side and also on coming out of the dark side, coming out the other end."

And she's right.

The album is dangerously catchy and there are a few of the songs - anthems like Swingin' With My Eyes Closed - that you can sense will be played on repeat.

Twain is a five-time Grammy award winner and has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide.

Challenging period: with ex-husband Mutt Lange

Last year she ranked ninth on the Forbes Highest Paid Women in Music list, with a rumoured fortune of around £20.7m ($27.5m), just a position above other big-hitters such as Celine Dion.

Before her recent return to the studio, she performed regularly as part of a residency in Las Vegas.

Given the long break from making new music, fans won't be disappointed with her new album - it's just as vibey and catchy as some of her previous hits.

"I mean I really do hope that it inspires people. This album still has all the optimism that my other music has, but there is more of a contrast between reality and how difficult life can really be and also how great it feels to survive those times," she says.

Around the time I'm talking to her, the film industry is reeling from sexual harassment claims being made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.

Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne are among the high-profile women who have made claims about his behaviour towards them.

"I'm inspired by the fact that this light is being finally turned on and in a really big way. I think culturally for the kids growing up right now in this time, maybe they will be liberated from this, from what was considered more of the norm," Twain says.

"The winds of change are here and I'm excited about it. It's a dark, unfortunate thing to be going through for the women that are having to go back through their pasts and deal with all of this in the Press. It's taken courage, but it is such a fantastic exposure that is so beyond necessary, so I'm inspired by what is going on right now.

"I hope we just keep moving forward and we never stop highlighting that, so that our kids grow up with a different norm."

  • Shania Twain will tour the UK next year and her new album NOW is released through Virgin EMI

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