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Twain Interview. July 1999. London. FHM magazine
Interview by Mike Peake
The Native American has never been a big hit with the youth of Britain.
Children prefer to play John Wayne, and it's a sad fact that the school's
least agile pupil is elected to run around shouting "I'm Tonto!" while
classmates throw small pebbles at his back. In the movies, too, the Indian
has a hard time. He's either a leathery-faced scrote who'd toss a hunting
knofe at your head as quickly as say "How!" or a clod-hopping mental patient,
like that big luff off One flew over the cuckoo's nest.But finally the
UK is warming to the incredibly hard done-by Native
American, thanks to the races most attractive - and famous - Public
face: Shania (Ojibway Indian for "I'm on my way") Twain, the multi-million-selling
singing sensation. Only she's not actually Native American. She's Canadian,
and , to be perfectly honest, it's her adoptive father Jerry who carried
the family's teepee-building genes. But the press love an angle, so Shania's
basically an Indian - and She's a country and western star too. Mercifully,
the truth about Twain music is that it has nothing in comment with twang,
dusty "Yeehaw!" sound that most of us know and hate. It's sexy, foot-stomping
pop rock, and lots of Ballads. With corny lyrics..."I write with comic
relief," Shania smiles. "You can't take it seriously. I don't think hardcore
country fans realise it, but everyone else knows that the songs are ment
to be humorous and corny."
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Shania - or Eileen, as she was called at
the time - was mad about music from the word go, performing in smoky lounges
and bars before she'd started on her nine times tables. She may not have
shone in class, but had sense enough to graduate. Her true gift was her
powerful set of lungs.
"I used to skip school a lot," Shania tells FHM, "and I'd write fake
notes from my mother. I didn't want to be in history class when I could
be in the music room writing songs. I was pretty much a loner, but I had
my music and I was happy with that." She'd never known her real dad - her
parents split up when she was two - but Jerry was kind enough to take the
teenage songbird hunting for such local delicacies as rabbit and moose.
It's difficult to imagine the enormity of the tragedy that struck in November
1987. Jerry and Shania's mother, Sharon, were killed in a head-on collision
with a logging truck - leaving Shania little choice but to bring up her
younger sister and two brothers. These dreams of pop stardom were put on
the back burner. But in 1991, a Nashville producer heard about Eileen Twain's
prowess in the lounges of southern Canada, and agreed to work on a demo.
She moved to Nashville and signed a record deal, even though her debut
album - and transformation from dull old Eileen into Shania - meant she
had to sing other peoples songs. "I'm a practical person," she says, not.
"I'm a survivor, so I did it their way. It didn't work and it wasn't a
success."Then fate - perhaps trying to make up for the lousy hand it dealt
her so far - put Shania in touch with famed rock producer Robert John "Mutt"
The curly- haired South African had already co-written such monster
hits as Bryan Adams' Everything I Do (I do it for you), Billy Ocean's When
the going gets tough, and half of Sheffield rockers Def Leppard's big tunes,
as well as help shape the sound of AC/DC, the Boomtown Rats and even those
American pop lummoxes Backstreet Boys. So when Lange heard Shania's shaky
debut and offered a helping hand, there was no chance she was going to
turn him down. Over the next few months, as the pair wrote songs over the
phone, the twice-divorced Lange became besotted. And 16 years Shania's
senior, Lange must have been cock-a-hoop when he convinced the Canuck beauty
to marry him in December 1993. Two years later and with a huge input
from new husband, Twain released the watershed album Woman in me; it was
a massive hit in the states, and went on to replace Patsy Cline's Greatest
Hits as the best-selling country album ever. Now it's sold well over ten
million copies, as has the follow-up, last year's Come on Over.
Worldwide, Shania Twain is in the same league as Mariah Carey and Whitney
Houston. The facts speak for themselves: She's the first female artist
to sell over tem million copies of consecutive albums; she's only one of
five woman ever to sell over ten million copies of one record; she's won
Grammys, Billboard awards and played to over 2.5 million people. Come on
Over has been knocking around the top end of the US charts for 90 weeks
- and she's signed a $3 million deal to be the new face of Revlon. Twain
is worth a packet, and Lange himself is thought to be good for a whopping
$100 million - putting their combined personal wealth on par with the GNP
of Western Samoa, Population 170,000. And with Mutt earning an estimate
$10 million a year in royalties ($192,000 a week) for doing nothing, she
doesn't need to work ever again..."It's not all about the money though,"
Shania says. "At times I can be like, 'What am I doing this for?' But everyone
needs new goals."Notoriously press shy, Shania has done just three big
interviews in the last year: Rolling stone, Cosmopolitan, and US Elle.
And now she's cracked the UK with the hit singles You're still the one
and That don't impress me much, she's doing FHM.
"Britain was slow to pick up on me as there was definitely a stigma
with the country and western perception. That's changed now that people
have heard the music. It was slow, and frustrating. I don't have a lot
of time to spare, so when I come here I'm really pushing it. I didn't want
it all to be in vain - and obviously, it wasn't. I'm glad I can say it
was worth it." But Britain was a bitch to crack. The Woman in me failed
to grab us, so Come on over was "de-countryfiled" for its UK release: the
hideous fiddles were taken off, the slide-guitars removed - and her image
was revamped. It worked - it's sold 650,000 copies since its release in
March 1998. And Shania's first ever UK tour earlier this summer was a sell
out. "I feel quite comfortable here," she says. "And I still don't recognised
all that much in the streets - I love that. Freedom!" You're obviously
recognised all the time in the states - do you ever sit and think about
all the hairy Texans who have pictures of you in their
bathrooms? Argh! I think I'd be surprised by a lot of the places where
my pictures are pinned up. I was amazed at first by how many different
people are into my
music. I see them at my concerts - Last night in London there were
a couple of German biker-ladies.
Are you followed everywhere by chubby bodyguards? I hate having bodyguards.
I have a dog - a German shepherd - that I take on tour, he's my bodyguard.
That way I can run to the corner store for a soda or whatever without having
people with me. It's less conspicuous - just a girl walking a dog. No one
could say you're inconspicuous on stage - have you ever had an embarrassing
incident? Hmm. Well, I've fallen a few times - and I can't say I landed
well. I've forgotten the words to my own songs, too - usually when you
see someone singing along in the audience. If they get the words wrong
it throws you off. And burping is a problem! I have to time when I eat
before a show. How do you stop you're self sweating on stage?
I'm not a perspirer, but if the band see me sweating it's a big deal
- like "Man, you were sweating tonight!" I get sticky, but you rarely see
me dripping sweat. These days, all you gigs are at colossal arena. Are
the backstages areas ever revolting?
Yeah, they can be awful - really smelly and dirty. I usually have my
bus with me on tour, and that's where I hang out; but in the UK, for example,
I don't have my bus, so when I shower after the show I'll put towels on
the floor - everywhere - so I don't have to step barefoot on dirty rugs.
Are your roadies screened to make sure there's no drooling weirdos
in your crew?
That's taken care of, but the local crews you have no control over.
They're told not to harass me - I'm not stand-offish, I walk around like
everyone else - but it can get out of hand. Once I was sound-checking when
a guy jumped on stage, grabbed the mic and started singing, like it was
an audition. He was something to do with seating. He had to go. You wear
some saucy outfits during your shows. Privately, though, when do you feel
I think it's when I get out of the tub. I know a lot of girls feel
this way - you've just had a bath and you get out and your skin is fresh
and you've stuck your hair up without even looking. That's when you look
the best. I don't get it - you just get out of the bath, look in the mirror
and go, "Wow! I look great!" But you're not going anywhere - you're just
going to bed!
So you must stroll around naked if you're that pleased with yourself...I
do! I never used to - I was never comfortable with myself that way, but
I'm a lot less critical now. It's a great time of the day - when there's
no one around.
You've just swapped your 3,000-acre New York estate for a 19th century
house in Switzerland. Do you have any famous neighbours? Phil Collins
lives close by. There's quite a few in the area - Sophia Loren is near,
and there's Tina Turner..
Would you have Phil over for a barbie? Perhaps. But I'm a vegetarian,
so he wouldn't be getting Steak.
Who's the richer these days - You or Mutt? Ha! We're about equal. I've
caught up pretty fast. You're not joking - but do you still stuff from
hotel bedrooms like the rest of us?
Ha ha! Yeah, I do - I take the little mouthwash things, and sometimes
if my curling iron's still hot when I leave I'll put a hand-towel around
it. What's the worst thing about living out of a suitcase? Public bathrooms
- usually at airports. You're travelling for 15 hours, and you're reliant
on them, but you end up having to brush your teeth in public. I hate that.
We're doing a feature this issue on tough women - when was the last
lamped a bloke? I haven't done that. I have an arm wrestle here and
there. I'm not
particularly goo, but guys seem to want to test my strength. Maybe
they just want to hold your hand...Aww! That's cute. I'm gonna remember
that - next time someone asks for an arm-wrestle, I'm onto them! In the
FHM sex survey, 71% of women said their first shag was "Unsatisfactory".
Any comments? Ha ha! No, mine was pretty unforgettable. I'm kind of old-fashioned,
so I was never really into the do-it-at-a-party-in-a-side-room thing. I
wasn't drinking, it was well thought out, and I was like, "Okay, now I'm
gonna experiment." And it was enjoyable. Awesome! Finally, did you ever
catch the British sitcom Never the Twain, starring the mighty Donald Sinden
and Windsor Davies? I never have. Never the Twain - how cool. We have company
for dinner tonight, so I'll bring it up.
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