Shania Twain makes comeback with Now

Shania Twain.
Shania Twain.

WEST HOLLYWOOD (California) • Much has changed since 2002, when Shania Twain was a cross- genre titan, a country singer who - with her then- husband Mutt Lange, the producer who boosted the sound of AC/DC - made eclectic music that infuriated Nashville purists with its flashy embrace of pop theatrics, but still dominated the charts.

And yet, she is not apprehensive about her return 15 years later, with her fifth album Now. "I feel like I'm coming back into worlds that I already know," the 52-year-old singer said one afternoon early last month in a room at the London West Hollywood hotel here.

Now is, like most of her albums, not quite country music, although she has swopped the excess of her last albums for something smaller and warmer. It has little to do with country music's traditional centre, but to be fair, much of modern country music has little to do with what is thought of as country music's traditional centre.

Twain's life has changed radically too.

After 14 years of marriage, she separated from Lange in 2008 after he had an affair with her close friend. The divorce was finalised in 2010. In turn, Twain married that friend's husband, Frederic Thiebaud, in 2011.

"This is not my divorce record," she insisted.

Yet, many songs tackle the stings of betrayal. "Still can't believe he'd leave me to love her," she sings on the bleakly resentful Poor Me.

She has always written her own songs and her gift is still acute. "I cried a lot when I wrote. I never cried before when I wrote a song," she said.

There is no awkwardness, she said, in working through sentiments about her old relationship while in a new one. "Surely I didn't marry a guy that can't handle that," she said, then added: "I wouldn't let him hear everything that I write, trust me. Some of the things I say in my songwriting would never find their way to being a song."

Now marks the first time she has delved into that period of her life in song, but her return to public life began in 2011 with a scarred, vulnerable autobiography, From This Moment On, and an off-kilter, sometimes uncomfortable docuseries, Why Not? With Shania Twain.

A Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace began in 2012 and ran for two years.

During that period, she was also suffering physically, having lost her voice - nerves connected to her vocal cords atrophied, a side effect of Lyme disease.

She was always writing songs, although she thought she might have to give them to other artists to sing. Her new husband disagreed. "He would say 'No, no, no. You're going to sing again some day. Don't give that song away.'"

She was focused mainly on motherhood - "baking cake, packing lunches, running back and forth to soccer and all that stuff" for Eja, her 16-year-old son with Lange - so she would concentrate on songs in her downtime.

This went on for a few years. "I can't be rushed," she said. "It's not all Mutt's fault that everything took so long."

After not listening to current music at all during the songwriting process, she began to seek out possible collaborators, eventually settling on four producers: Matthew Koma (Carly Rae Jepsen), Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen), Jacquire King (Tom Waits) and Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran).

"Each time I had to send a song, I was so petrified," she said. "My husband had to talk me through it and make me do it. He'd be like, 'I'm standing here until you press that button.'"


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Shania Twain makes comeback with Now'. Print Edition | Subscribe