Gary James' Interview With
Shania Twain

Her 1995 CD "The Woman in Me" sold 12 million copies, the biggest selling Country CD ever for a female singer! She won the 1997 Grammy for Country Album of the Year and has eight nominations for the 1998 Canadian Country music awards. Those categories include Single of the Year, Video Of The Year, Song of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Fan's Choice Award. An appearance at the Mall of America in Minnesota drew 20,000 fans and her concert in Syracuse at the N.Y. State fair attracted a sell-out crowd of over 16,000 people. By now, you know who we're talking about, Miss Shania Twain. Back in 1993, before all of the hit CDs and sell-out concerts, Shania Twain was virtually unknown. She was starting her career then as part of Mercury Records Triple Play roster, which would include Toby Keith and John Brannen. On March 26, 1993, I had the opportunity to interview Shania Twain.

Q - Shania, how was it known that all three of you would be compatible for this tour?

A - It wasn't. That's the faith I guess that the label has in us, expecting us all to be professionals, adults, and doing it all for the right reasons. And, they were right. That's basically it. They knew us all individually. The whole Triple Tour was a big risk and I admire that about them, and we basically made sure we didn't let them down.

Q - You were all introduced to each other over dinner?

A - Well, it's kind of a cute story. We were introduced kind of nonchalantly. It was just like let's drop over to the studio and see Shania. On my session they brought both the guys over at different times, two months apart. I had no idea what was going on 'cause they often bring people over to introduce me to. They brought both the guys over, separately. I met them. They were label mates of mine, new people on the label. Little did we know that they were introducing us, I guess just to see how we could react to one another. We were recording at the same time. We were signed on the same month. We basically finished our albums around the same time as well. One night we were finishing up our sessions and we all went out for catfish. I got to talk to them a little bit, but at the time I didn't know anything about Triple Play. But I think the label did (laughs). I think we were the last to know basically. I guess they were just feeling out the situation.

Q - Were you chosen from a group of eight or twelve other people that might've been on the label?

A - I don't know. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors over at the label. It's so hard to say. I don't know how they come about picking the three of us. It's something I'm going to ask them because I'm curious myself, as you are. They're building their roster very carefully right now. They're being very selective. I think we were the newest three signed and because the fact that we were all so different. They had to make sure that the three they were putting together were very different musically, so we weren't putting ourselves in a competitive situation with each other. The whole idea was to be more powerful with the three to compete with everyone else, not with each other. So, I'm sure they had that in mind and that helped determine who was actually going to get it.

Q - Toby and John take turns opening and closing the show, but you're always in the middle. Does that bother you? Do you like being in the middle?

A - Of course! (Laughs) I don't mind having two guys on each side of me. It's great. I think it's best that way. It kind of evens the show out. It's nice. You see a guy, you see a girl and you see a guy. I think it's better for the people.

Q - Are you the only one signed to Creative Artist Agency?

A - Yes I'm the only one. That is my agency. Right.

Q - The agency went ahead and sold this tour before anyone had a CD on the market?

A - Absolutely. Toby had a video out four weeks before we actually started to tour, so he had some visibility, but certainly not enough to get us into Billy Bobs and things like that. I don't know what they did to get us into the place, (laughs) but it's worked. It's succeeding and obviously we're getting more recognition, with air play and everything like that.

Q - This agency is doing things that have never been done before and the Triple Play Tour is a good example. Have you had the experience of being able to compare them to William Moths or I.C.M.?

A - Well, this is something I look for in the label, which is obvious. They're doing things that other labels aren't doing. I look for the same thing in an agency and in anything. I would rather be leading as opposed to following. You want to pick leaders to go along with you. I think C.A.A. is certainly doing a great job. I'm proud that they're my agency. I also went on to meet the people in L.A. and in Hollywood just kind of getting to know everybody. It's new for me too. I've just recently signed with C.A.A. before Triple Play came about. They just happened to be the agency, ironically, that was chosen for the whole tour. That's all. I don't know how that really happened.

Q - Did C.A.A. approach you or did your management approach them?

A - My manager shopped around. It took her months and months to choose the agency. This is something you've got to do way before hand, so that at the last minute you're not rushing around trying to pick somebody. She would go to meetings and discuss all the things that need to be discussed when you're choosing an agency. She was just really impressed by C.A.A. Now, we had met them a year earlier at a function in Nashville and they expressed interest in me first. They approached with interest. They heard about the project and the excitement that was going on with the album and they were interested in meeting us. I think it was actually six months later before we started pursuing them. We decided to go to them as well. They were everything we hoped they would be. They're' just thrilled. They're very picky about who's on the roster. They've got a very small Country roster. They've only had five acts as far as I know. They have only one female, Dolly Parton, and she been with them for thirteen years. They're very reputable and they're doing a great job with us.

Q - Two of your biggest influence have been Gladys Knight and Karen Carpenter.

A - Right

Q - You say if you admire only one type of singer, you probably won't develop much outside of that range.

A - Right.

Q - How about the audience that comes to see you, that's maybe locked into Country, but turns away from Rock or Jazz, or Blues. How can they develop their musical range?

A - With Country music today, there are people who just listen to Country. There are stations out there that have a mix and I think there are people who listen to a mix (of music). I grew up listening to a multi-format station. A lot of small towns only had one station so they play a multi-format. They have to please everybody. You can't underestimate the audience. I think there's probably a bit of everyone out. I think it depends there where you play, the town you play and however they're influenced by the music that's played on their radio station. Radio plays a very important role in what you're influenced by. I've always listened to different kinds of music. But it's been more of a training thing for me. I would sit there and listen to a lot of male singers, even in Country. A lot of the artists I listened to were male. I think it's more challenging to sing like that. You work with your voice. You practice your voice. You get to know your voice. You push it to the limit. That was kind of an exploring thing I did. That was more of the reason I did it. Music is such a fun thing. I like the best of all kinds of music really. I've always been Country based. I grew up listening to 8 track tapes of Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, just everyone.

Q - One thing I've noticed is that the performers who go on to stardom seem to share one trait, they lose one or more of their parents at an early age?

A - Is that right?

Q - Since you lost both your parents in an automobile accident when you were 21 years old, what does that do to you?

A - I'll tell you what it does and I can see why and this has true for me. What it does is give you that extra drive, and I mean a drive that no one else has. What happens is you grow up, especially with me. We were very poor. My parents sacrificed grocery money a lot of times to get me to lessons, to get me to gigs, things like that. I'm telling you, when your parents do things like that because they want you to be something and they know you've got a talent that much that they would sacrifice the grocery money... Later on when you realized it, it's like I wouldn't have let my parents do that in vain for anything in this world. It gives me the drive to make sure I follow through with everything that they would have wanted me to. I mean, it's something I want. But because they're gone and all the sacrificing they did, it just makes me realize they're not even here to enjoy it and to see me come to fruition all the efforts that they've endured over the years. I'll be damned if I'm going to let it be in vain. I'm not in this for the competition. I'm not in this to beat out the next guy. I think there's so much room in Country music right now. There's room for all of us. I don't care who I beat out. I'm not competitive that way. I don't find music competitive. It's like a golf game; you set your own personal goals. You don't sit down and say my personal goal this year is to beat out Alan Jackson. To me, that is not a goal. To me, succeeding is fulfilling you own personal dreams and one of them is to make my parents dreams come true. We all shared the same dream. My whole family has this dream. And, I'm telling you, when I get successful someday I will be fulfilling many peoples dreams and I'm telling you, it's gonna be very gratifying much more gratifying than just satisfying my own dreams.

Q - You got a good head start that's for sure.

A - The Triple Play has really helped a lot. I'm just so grateful. I'm telling you, we're the three luckiest artists out of Nashville right now.

Q - This tour ends soon. What happens to you then? Do you add dates to the tour?

A - It's really hard to tell how it will end. It depends on what's set-up for us as well. It's kind of premature to know where our careers are gonna go at this point because it's just so new! I mean. I've only been out two weeks! (Laughs) I don't know where I'm going. We're actually in the process of really sorting it out right now, to decide what it is we're going to do.

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