It’s hard to believe, but it has been 15 years since Shania Twain last released a new album. And a lot has happened in that time – from the end of her marriage to music producer Robert “Mutt” Lange in 2008 and the loss of her voice due to Lyme disease to her marriage to Frédéric Thiébaudin 2011 and comeback concert series in Las Vegas. Canada’s country-pop sensation has known highs and lows she could never have seen coming.
Sitting in a hotel suite high above downtown Toronto, Shania, 52, tells Hello! she’s grateful for the events that led her to this moment and that fans will hear all about what her life is like today on her new album, Now (out Sept. 29).
“It’s been a big learning curve for me in a lot of ways. I [vented] a lot of things in the songwriting and expressed a lot,” she tells us. “I’ve developed a lot over these past couple of years. The album has really launched me into a whole new mindset.”
Glamorously casual, Shania is relaxed and at ease throughout our conversation. Of course, her loving husband, Frédéric, is also close by. While they – and Shania’s son Eja, 16 – were primarily based at the singer’s home in the Bahamas while she worked on new songs like “Life’s About to Get Good” and “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed,” Shania and Frédéric will soon be on the move. She may have once described her 2015 Rock This Country tour as her final bow, but Shania tells us she’s eager to get back out on the road – with the Shania Now Tour.
“I look forward to everyone getting familiar with the album – and then getting out there and performing live!” she tells us.
Welcome back Shania! Why was this the right time in your life to share new music?
You know, there’s no intellectual answer to that. I just felt ready. I procrastinated for a long time about making a new album. It’s kind of like starting to work out again. Once you get to the gym, you feel much better and then you get on a roll. That’s what happened to me.
Your new album is called Now. What’s life like for you now?
Well, I’m in a very good place. Life is about to get good! It’s been very good and is getting better all the time. The album has been very much a reflection on my life and what has brought me to [this point]. I’m liking where I am. I’m not running away from the past into the future. It’s about making those transition periods of our lives more meaningful and embracing them more. That’s what I feel like I’m doing right now.
What did you learn about yourself throughout the process of making this album?
Transparency, not making excuses and not apologizing are very important. If I’m tired or upset, I’m going to say it. It makes life a lot less stressful. The album is very much that way. It’s very honest and it made me feel so good. It was so cathartic to be that transparent. It made me realize that this is the way I need to be living my life, not just making my records.
Was there anything that you were hesitant to write about or to share with fans?
There are always moments that feel too far. I just wade through those. It’s like having a conversation. You’re there to be honest but you don’t want to be misunderstood. I go through that thought process because I want it to be relatable. I don’t want people to miss the real message just because of the way I said something. It’s all a work in progress.
When you’re making music, whose feedback do you value most?
Well my son and my husband get sneak peeks as I’m writing things and they give me their feedback, which is always valuable.
Where did you do your songwriting?
I wrote most of the album in the Bahamas. I like solitude and I wrote most of it in my bathroom because the room is so quiet. My house can get a bit noisy sometimes. [I have] a couple dogs, a teenage son, my husband, doors shutting and dogs barking, so I like to be in a quiet room. It’s the quietest room in the house. It’s got a great view of the beach and sunset, couldn’t be better.
Where is home for you and your family?
Well I travel around a lot. I’m very mobile. But my triangle is primarily the Bahamas, Switzerland and everything I’m doing in North America.
When you’re on the road, who or what makes you feel at home wherever you are?
My family. My husband is always with me, which is really great. I don’t travel a lot during the school year with my son. I like to be home and with him and spend a lot of family time. He’s been doing his own travelling. So now it’s just me and my husband. We’re testing the waters of the empty nest. [ Laughs]
Is your son aware of how influential you’ve been and that you have fans around the world?
I think he’s starting to catch on to all of that. I didn’t raise him among it and in it. I wanted him to live a very normal life and enjoy life as a person, not as a celebrity’s son. But he’s aware of it. It’s a part of his life, but it’s not his life. He’s very supportive and very proud of his mom. He’s a big cheerleader and he respects my musical opinions. I think he’s proud of that.
Does he have any aspirations to make music?
He’s way into music. He’s already doing his own thing and he’s very dedicated. He’s not a performer. He’s a producer and writer, so that’s the side of music he loves most.
Were you surprised by that?
I wasn’t. He always had a great ear but it wasn’t until he was 12 that all of a sudden he started obsessing over sounds and the production side of things. Things that I don’t really do. He’s a bona fide engineer. He’s self-taught and goes into that domain. It’s impressive.
This is the first album you’ve released since marrying Fred. What role does he play when you’re writing and recording new music?
The support is everything. He’s also a great sounding board, he’s the sound of reason. He’s objective. You have to value that in someone you trust, someone who is going to be honest, who’s going to tell you the truth. That’s what I want to hear. It just keeps you grounded as well. That’s very important. I like to be grounded. We get lost quickly if we lose our ground. Fred plays that role in a very big way in my life and, of course, in my career. It’s vital.
What’s the most romantic thing Fred’s done lately?
He does lots of romantic things for me. First of all, every day he is the coffee maker. He makes my shakes. He’s the shake chef! When we’re home I’m the cook, otherwise he’s just taking care of me all the time. He’s very nurturing, loving and supportive. He always writes me little notes. He’s just a romantic.
You’ve been on Hello!’s cover as “Canada’s Most Beautiful.” Has your approach to beauty changed over the years?
No. I don’t take it too seriously because I can’t change it. It is what it is. There’s not really much I can do. But it’s a compliment. I’m flattered, very flattered by that.
If you could go back to the start of your career and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to self-check and self-critique but not self-doubt. You’ve got to follow your gut. It’s hard for younger people because they have all these other more experienced people around them. I would say you just have to go through the growing pains on your own and make your own mistakes.
At this stage of your life in the spotlight, what’s the best part about being Shania?
The best part about being Shania is that I have a huge group of people that I can communicate with through my music. That’s awesome. When I was playing in clubs and bars I didn’t have that. I was communicating with 100 people, maybe 500 people if I was lucky, and now it’s millions. That comes with fame, and that is a beautiful part of it. How else can you achieve that unless you’re famous? It’s a unique opportunity.
Was there a moment when you knew the album was complete?
It was difficult, but yes. I just had to live out every phase. I focused on 21 songs in the end and then it took me a little while to narrow it down to 16. Once that happened, that was it. I’m relieved that the time has finally come. It’s a very good feeling.