Shania Twain’s new album Now isn’t about divorce. It’s about survival.
“Saying it’s about divorce gives divorce too much credit,” said Twain. “I felt overwhelmed by the lack of expressing the mounting layers of disappointment, betrayal, abandonment, destruction, all of those things that have been happening since the day I was born. The divorce was the last straw.”
Twain, a pioneer of today’s pop country, will release her first new studio album in 15 years Friday. Now contains 12 songs — or 16 on the deluxe version — that Twain wrote alone, including its first single Life’s About to Get Good and new song Poor Me. She also co-produced the project, which is an introspective walk through some of her darkest moments including the loss of her voice and her divorce from former husband, famed producer Robert "Mutt" Lange.
“This is about celebrating survival, perseverance, optimism, embracing hope, don’t ignore where you are if it’s dark, but don’t ignore the light at the end of the tunnel, either,” Twain said of Now. “I think if we don’t face our pain we are stuck with it forever.”
Twain’s hesitant return to the recording studio after suffering from vocal paresis began years ago under the diligent insistence of Lionel Richie. Richie wanted Twain to sing on his country duets album Tuskegee, which was released in 2012.
“She walks in and announces to me 15 minutes before we are now to go in and record the song, she can’t do it,” Richie told The Tennessean at the time “I said to her, ‘Let me see you for a minute quietly, away from (everyone),’ so in case anyone saw me choking her to death we couldn’t exactly verify it,” he said, jokingly.
The first note Twain sang on their duet, Endless Love, is the first note she tried to sing in seven years. She said it was one of the greatest moments of her life.
Twain, who has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide and is the top-selling female artist in country music history, lost her singing voice years before Lange’s infidelity ended their marriage. From 2002 or 2003 to 2012, Twain said she had no “singing voice she could rely on.”
After recording with Richie, Twain learned her vocal impairment was caused by Lyme disease. Although the disease cost her a decade of her career, she considers herself lucky that it didn’t attack her heart.
Twain felt the stirrings for a new album in 2011. It wasn’t until she completed her two-year residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2014 and followed up with a North American Tour in 2015 that she felt comfortable in the recording studio.
When it came time to start preparing for the album, Twain’s hands-on approach was necessary because the content was so personal.
“It’s important to have a positive influence on whoever still cares about my music and it makes it that much more important to write about things or sing about things that relate to real issues,” she said.
Early in her career, Twain redefined the country music sound and influenced a generation of singers. Many of Twain’s hits including Any Man of Mine, Man! I Feel Like a Woman and Honey, I’m Home preached female empowerment punctuated with rock guitar riffs.
“Shania was such an idol to me because she represented strength and she was sexy while still being classy,” said fellow Canadian country singer Lindsay Ell. “Shania Twain of today isn’t the same woman she was 15 years ago, but I think she’s waded those waters really well.”
Universal Music Group Nashville president Cindy Mabe called Twain's music "a staple of pop culture" and said she "remains a global music icon as important and relevant to the current state of music today as anyone."
Now continues to build on the relationship Twain constructed with women. This time, however, it comes from a different place in her heart.
“I’m feeling more comfortable than ever now in my own skin as a female artist, especially an aging one,” said Twain, 52. “Even if I looked 60 for my age, that’s not what it’s about. The focus for me more than ever is really on … making the most of my life.”
Reach Cindy Watts at 615-664-2227, email@example.com or on Twitter @CindyNWatts.