Tomorrow night, Shania Twain kicks off her Rock This Country Tour in Seattle. Following a wildly popular two-year showroom run at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the Nineties superstar is hitting the road for her first nationwide trek in 11 years.
But Twain, who will turn 50 in August, says the tour is also her last. Instead of the concert stage, she’s turning her focus to writing and recording a new album. While she released the live record Still the One: Live From Las Vegas in March, her last studio effort was the multi-platinum Up! in 2002.
“I’ve got just so many things to do musically,” Twain tells Rolling Stone Country, “and just not enough time to do it all.”
After such a successful residency in Vegas, why go back on tour now?
I wanted to get out and feel what it was like to get out on the road one more time. I enjoyed Las Vegas very much. It was a successful run and it was a lot of fun reconnecting with the people and doing the music again, but it felt like a weird way to end my stage performance career. I thought it would be more satisfying to end it on tour and not in a static environment.
Why is this your last tour?
I feel like there are so many other things to do musically, and there is just not enough time to do everything. I want to write more music. I’d like to spend a lot more time doing that. I’d like to make more records. I want to write for other people. I’d like to write more books. I’ve got a teenage son. I’ve just got a whole decade in front of me that is full already, before it even gets started!
George Strait retired from touring, but says he’ll still do occasional shows. Will you?
Right now I feel as if I’ll be satisfied after the tour to not perform anymore. I’m not so sure I can speak for 10 years from now. I’ve learned that about life in general. I never thought that I would ever be up on the stage again, but I was up in Vegas and getting over that hurdle, so I never know what’s around the corner. But I’m not retiring in my career by any means.
Will this production be similar to your Vegas show?
The production will be entirely different. It’s a whole new show all together. It’s been fun doing that and putting that together creatively. It will be more of a rock-themed show. It will be very dynamic and alive in the sense that we will have a lot of bells and whistles and the graphics will be great, and the pyro will be great and the lighting will be really cutting-edge. [We’ll be] playing all the hits, and the summer just feels so good being out on the road.
Your music is so guitar-heavy. Did that fuel the decision to amp up the rock for this tour?
It is very guitar-driven, and that was a big part of it. In Las Vegas we favored more of the visual environment, the multi-dimension aspect of it, and an advantage was that the room allowed it. But knowing that we wouldn’t be able to take those [set pieces] on the road with us. . . I want to focus more on the rock vibe and the punch and edge that the music naturally has. The arenas are so lively and it’s just perfect for the bouncy rock. We are going to play a lot on that and then visually just go with that whole theme as well.
Can fans expect a greatest-hits set list?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve got so many up-tempo songs, so I’m going to stick to the hits and let the energy go and rock. But of course I’m not going to leave out the big ballad songs. . . Everybody can count on the classics being there.
You said you want to make more records. Have you been in the studio?
Yeah, in fact, I’ve [recorded] some vocals. I’ve done the writing already. I’ve got some tweaking to do, but we’re already working on the songs, we are developing them and I’ve got a couple producers working away with me. We are on our way, so that is very exciting for me and it will be great to focus on that. We will be working on it while I’m on tour, and we’ll just have to sneak in and out of the studio whenever I get the opportunity. Once the tour is over we’ll just hit it hard again and get the record up. I want to get the album out, or at least get the first single out while I’m 50, so I set a time goal for myself.
Which producers are you working with?
I’m just looking in general for people. I’ve been listening to a lot of records, and looking at a lot of music history and trying to determine, “OK, who is responsible for that song that I love, or who is responsible for this record that I love or that sound that I love?” I’m narrowing it down that way, as opposed to by genre.
“Right now I feel as if I’ll be satisfied after the tour to not perform anymore.”
Beginning with 1995’s The Woman in Me, all of your albums were produced by Robert “Mutt” Lange [to whom Twain was also married until 2010]. After collaborating with him for so long, is there a learning curve with a new producer?
It’s kind of like dating for the first time. It’s a bit awkward, because I didn’t really know how to work with anybody else. After all those years it’s been a real learning curve — that is a good way to put it. I was very reluctant to get started, and I put it off for a long time because of that. I was concerned about how comfortable I would feel, and questioning myself too. A lot of self-doubt. Can I do it? Are they going to like what I’m doing? Who is the right person, or who are the right people? A lot of thought went into it and probably a lot of over-thinking too. But now that it’s rolling, it’s just very exciting and they are loving the songs. Everybody is really motivated.
So much has been made about the dearth of women on country radio. What’s your take on it?
These things do sort of go in waves. I’m not really sure why. But it is always nice to see women out there, new women, fresh women, just amazing female voices out there in all the genres and I’m hearing it more on the radio. I guess we have been for a little while now fairly male-dominant, so I think the women maybe are feeling that they need to make some room for themselves. There is always room for change. I love change, and change is great for everyone. . . It’s what brings fresh innovative thinking and creativity.
Anyone in today’s country music that has caught your ear?
Lady Antebellum stands out for me. They have their own sound and they are just really strong, and good and talented all the way around. I think Taylor [Swift] is amazing. She seems like she is just getting better all the time. She is just maturing so beautifully, so it’s nice to watch her.
With her pop crossover success, Taylor mirrors your own career in a way.
Yeah, the crossover thing — it can be challenging, but she is doing it very beautifully. You know, I enjoyed the audiences more since my music started crossing over, because it brings in so many dimensions. There’s every age and it’s both sexes and it makes for a very dynamic night.
So will the famous Shania cat-suit make an appearance onstage?
[Laughs] I’m having a lot of fun with the wardrobe. Playing dress-up is just fun, so that part of it gets a little bit carried away. I think I am going to stay away from the classic cat-suit, but there might be a variation on it.