After launching her Caesars Palace residency last December with a series of sold-out dates, Shania Twain, country music’s biggest-selling female artist of all time, is returning to Vegas for another series of dates that kick off October 15th and run through mid-December.
With the show entering its second year, Twain can turn her attention to her next album, her first since 2002’s Up!. Speaking to Rolling Stone from her longtime home of Switzerland, the superstar tells us she has most of the songs in place for the next record and is gearing up to find a producer and define the sound of the album.
How is the album coming?
I’m pretty much there with my songs, and I’m really just sitting on the fence in regards to a producer. So I’m listening to a lot of records, doing my homework there, and trying to determine who is the right match.
Are there people who stand out to you as you listen to records?
This is last year, but I’m really stuck on Lana Del Rey. I’ve been listening to that one a lot more and kind of stuck on the sound of that record. I really love Raising Sand as well – Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. So that goes to show you how lost I am as far as production direction, because I’m listening to such a broad spectrum. Both of those productions really appeal to me, and the direction that they took – just trying to get ideas for myself.
Is there more internal pressure because it has been so long?
Yeah, of course. I do want it to be perfect, and I want it to be something that I really enjoy and a product of my inspiration – not a product of necessarily anything I’ve done before or anyone I’ve been before in regards to making records, because it’s been a long time. I’m different, I’ve evolved, and I want that to be reflected in the music. At the same time I don’t want to abandon the root of what I am. So it’s just really determining where am I really at and just looking through that. It’s not as obvious as it seems it should be.
What are the songs that have really jumped out at you, and what can you tell us about the ones you have so far?
There are probably less upbeat songs. I would say it’s more half and half compared to what I would’ve done in the past, where I would’ve leaned more towards mostly uptempo songs. I still want to remain positive with my lyrics and stay in that mode with my music, because I enjoy uplifting myself, if you will, with my songs. But at the same time I’m going deeper, and I’m being more realistic with my point of view on things. It’s really such a personal journey making a record, but even more so writing the songs. And you feel a bit obsessed about them at this stage as well, I think, because until they get to a producer they’re still yours, at this stage where I’m at now. So maybe letting go is going to be a little bit difficult, and I know that when I involve a producer that’s sort of what will happen to a degree. Of course I’ll remain very involved, but I guess I’ve just got to get out there and meet these producers face-to-face and talk through. I’ve just got to get myself to that next stage.
Raising Sand was produced by T Bone Burnett. I’d love to see that collaboration, but there are so many good producers out there.
There’s a lot of choice. It’s overwhelming, and it’s overwhelming trying to pinpoint who to go with on this project, because it will determine a lot of the direction, and I’m committing myself. It’s that fear of committing myself once and for all and locking myself in. That’s what scares me the most, really. And I’ve had a lot of fun just being creative with it and just floating around, changing my mind. And that’s part of the whole thing of being creative – until you commit, you can change your mind and rewrite it and create a new melody and change the story. And at some point that’s got to end. And that is the point when you actually make the records. So letting go of that phase of it is probably my biggest hesitation.
Any chance you’ll preview new material in Vegas?
I think it’s too soon. I probably could start doing that, but I don’t want to get locked into a performance mode with a song, either, until I’ve taken it a little further down the line. Just talking it through, like we’re doing now, does help. And it gets me in that mindset. It’s probably the right time now to start taking it more seriously as far as getting into the studio, especially since I’m finished producing the show. The show took well over a year to put together, so that was a production in itself, like making a record. You had to write the whole story – literally wrote the show out like a script, worked through the production and had the technical side of it and eventually delivered it. So I’m only recently freed up from going into one production and just getting geared up to go into another one, which should be the record.
Were there tours or performances that inspired you in creating this Vegas show?
What we can do in that room I really wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else – certainly not tour with it, because the technology is so sophisticated you can’t really move around with it. So the joy of having that high-end technology and taking advantage of that was a huge part of the excitement for me, and the margins where I can go and take it are just so broad in comparison to touring. So I wrote the show with all of that in mind, knowing I would have all this technology available – this great room, the acoustics and this giant stage and everything like that. So I almost shot it more like a music video, all of my more iconic music videos or images, and based it from there. I wanted to bring those more alive, so I used that as the influence in regards to the fashion and the look of things. I want it to be familiar to people as well. I want them to reminisce, but I wanted them to see things in a more refreshed, contemporary way. Then there was the fun part of picking the director and giving them all my ideas, my wish list, and asking them all, “Which ones do you think you can realize, and how would you make them happen?” And then the spine of the show was the song list. I want people to hear the songs they know. I want people to hear the hits and I want them to be satisfied in that regard. It always disappoints me when I go to a concert and they don’t play my favorite song, or at least one of their biggest hits. That process, for me, even without being the performer, was a fantastic experience, and really the big reason why I didn’t plunge into the record right away. I needed that year just to write the show, to create it and build it.
I know you’ve seen a lot of shows of late as well. What blew you away?
Sting I’ve seen a few times and he really inspired me, in the sense that he breaks the songs down a lot and will take a different approach. He’ll take an acoustic approach to them, he’ll rearrange them for the live stage. And I thought, “I really admire someone taking the license to do that, owning that.” I played around with that a little bit in the show as well, so that was an influence. I really admire artists that are willing to take a different approach and a different angle to their shows. So I did some of that.