She's travelled the world; England, Germany, Spain, China, Bosnia, Canada and The U.S. doing her tribute to Shania Twain. She was mentioned in Shania Twain's autobiography! Her resemblance to Shania is so great that after seeing a poster of her, Shania said, "I thought that was me!" That's about the best endorsement a tribute artist can get!
We are talking of course about Shania Twin, whose real name is Donna Huber. Donna talked with us about her life and career.
Q - Donna, I saw your show and I was really impressed. You did a great job.
A - Thank-you. I appreciate that.
Q - That's such a specialty act. I never realized anybody did a Shania Twain tribute. I never saw anybody who looks so much like the person they're portraying onstage.
A - Oh, thanks Gary. I appreciate that.
Q - How did this whole thing start? How did you know you could sing?
A - I didn't. (laughs)
Q - Now, as I understand it, people would come up to you on the street and say you look like Shania Twain. And you thought what? Maybe I can make some money here?
A - Well, I didn't really know who she was, so I didn't really know who they were talking about, which is funny because I didn't have a TV. I was from the country and I owned a bakery, so I didn't have a TV and I really didn't listen to the radio, so I didn't know who she was. I went to Toronto to visit a friend and that's when I found out who Shania Twain was. Then I said Wow! That's so nice that people thought I look like her, but I said this is very interesting. (laughs) I heard about the tribute act scene and I said maybe I'll try something new. I decided to give it a try.
Q - What agent said to you "Donna, you've got something here"?
A - This was my first agent a long time ago, but he didn't say that to me actually. I approached him. I knew him from years and years ago when I said "I'm thinking of doing this tribute." He said "Well, you look like her, but I'm sure you don't sing. I've never known you to sing so you cannot do this." I said "Oh yes, I can!" (laughs) So, we started from there.
Q - How hard was it to put a band together for your act?
A - It wasn't hard at all actually, because back then the tribute scene was not really that huge of a deal. They were very few and far between. Now there's tribute bands all over the place, but back then it was a specialty. So, we got people. It was amazing. We got Shania Twain's fiddle player. We had somebody from Alana Miles. So, we really had big acts. They played in the band. They were right there. It was amazing, but I was the one that was so green. I had just gone into this business. I was supposed to be the leader, but really they were the leaders with me. They kind of showed me where to go.
Q - So, you've been on the road since 1996?
A - 1996.
Q - So, typically how many gigs are you playing?
A - When I first started we were playing 265 shows a year.
Q - That's incredible!
A - That's crazy! (laughs)
Q - Where were you performing?
A - We played everywhere. Clubs, festivals, fairs, casinos, everywhere. To be honest with you, I remember very little of the first six years of this career doing Shania Twain because we were so busy. We actually were the busiest tribute out there. It was crazy because Shania Twain was so huge at that point. She had just broke out. It was just like wild fire. No one had ever seen someone like her before. It was great. Everybody loved her. So, they came to see our show. We were so lucky. Then I burnt out my whole band. (laughs) I had to get a new band. I honestly had so many band members because they all burned out. It's true. It's unbelievable. They would say "Donna, we can't do this anymore." They would be so tired. Then I burned myself out after six years.
Q - Where were you performing then? Just in Canada?
A - Oh, no. All over the world. All over the place. It was crazy. None of us needed a home. We would go on the road; say we were on the road for a month, we would sing 28 of those days. It was crazy, crazy, crazy.
Q - You were doing what, one or two sets?
A - Sometimes one set. Sometimes two. But mostly two, sixty minute sets.
Q - Did you perform on cruise ships?
A - No. We kind of stayed away from that because when you're out on land, I guess you could say you're playing different places and you get better known like that. You're promoting yourself. On a ship, you're limited. We would probably do it now, but in the beginning we wanted to stay on land, just because we wanted to promote ourselves. The more you promote yourself here, the more shows you're going to get. And now if we looked into it and had more time, we would definitely do it.
Q - Are you constantly studying Shania Twain? If you were to see her wearing her hair one way would you then go out and wear your hair like that?
A - Basically I wear my hair onstage one way and that's her trademark. It's in a little ponytail on top with some hair down on the side. It's kind of like a Pebbles look. That's her trademark. She can do it 'cause she's Shania Twain, but I don't do it because that's not the most recognizable look. But the clothing, (laughs) when she has a video that comes out, I definitely go get the clothing.
Q - You're able to do that?
A - Oh, yeah. I get it made right away. Of course, that's a woman's favorite thing. (laughs)
Q - That must be very expensive.
A - That's very fun and very expensive. (laughs) But it's all worth it.
Q - You're making a movie with Dolly Parton and you play Shania in that film?
A - No. That was a movie so many years ago. They actually shot some parts to it. I was gonna be a waitress in the movie and what happened was somebody bought the movie and in the movie business what they do is shelve it until they're ready to put it out and they haven't put it out.
Q - It's just sitting on a shelf?
A - It's sitting on a shelf and it happens all the time. That's what they do with some movies. They filmed it in Ottawa actually.
Q - I believe there's only a handful of people doing Shania Twain tributes. Is that correct?
A - I think it's just a handful. To be honest with you, I only know that because people tell me. In Canada there was two. We were the very first one, which was neat, but then somebody else started and then somebody else started. I don't think they're doing it anymore. I don't know if anyone else is doing it in Canada full-time. I'm not really sure.
Q - You talked about your bakery earlier in the interview. You had your own bakery?
A - I did.
Q - What did you make in this bakery?
A - I made perogies and bread and buns and lasagna. I actually delivered bread to restaurants and other stores and people. I lived in the country and ran it out of my farm house.
Q - You did it yourself? No help?
A - I did it all myself. I tried to hire people, but in a bakery, I didn't have any machines. It was all by kneading, by hand, and two ovens. When you hire someone, they have to be really quick or you're not making a profit, so I did it myself.
Q - How many accounts did you have in that bakery?
A - I think I had three restaurants and oh, I don't know how many people I delivered to. That was so many years ago. I went everyday into town to deliver.
Q - It sounds like you were very successful in that business.
A - Yes. (laughs) It's a hard business. You're staying up late nights and getting up early in the morning because bread needs to rise. It was great. I'm so glad I did it, but it's a tough one. It's one of the hardest jobs I had actually.
Q - But wait a minute, you're staying up late at night to do this tribute act. This has to be equally tough.
A - That's true. But you know, this can be very hard and it can be very simple. There's a lot of things that go along with it, like do we have good sound? That's the key. We don't have a soundman. Everybody brings in their own sound at each venue. So, there's those avenues and then you're driving after the show and you're tired. It's not as glamorous as everybody thinks it is, but it's so much fun when we're onstage and you get to play for these people. That's why musicians are musicians. You forget about everything else that goes along with it, like being exhausted.
Q - How are you travelling?
A - We have a fifteen passenger van with a trailer that holds all the equipment and we each have a seat where we can sleep in and we all take turns driving. I have the most amazing band. I'm telling you, these guys are incredible. I'm so, so blessed. Honestly.
Q - You don't have a road manager?
A - No. I used to actually. He went to be a firefighter, so I'm doing a little bit of that right now. I realized I don't need a road manager 'cause these guys take of themselves.
Q - Since you look so much like Shania, do you ever lose yourself in your act? Where does Donna come in?
A - No. Everybody asks that question. I'm Donna. I'm dressing like her onstage, but I don't act like her. I'm not going out of my way to act like her. We want people to hear her music and see her different outfits like the video, but we never lose ourselves. We're just having a really good time. We don't take ourselves too seriously, but we still want to be professional.
Q - Just think, if you were hired on as Shania Twain's body double how much pressure would be taken off of her.
A - (laughs) Exactly, except I'm too tall.
Q - Would people really pick up on that? Only if the two of you were together.
A - That's true. Thank-you. I appreciate that. I appreciate you thinking I look so much like her. I'm grateful for that, let me tell you. That's a huge compliment.
Q - I was even impressed by the way you greeted your fans after your show. You had pictures taken with them, signed autographs. That goes a long way in winning over fans.
A - Oh, thank-you. You know what? That's what life is all about, right? People are kind to me. I'm kind to them. It just goes all the way around. We're supposed to be kind to each other.
Q - You actually met Shania Twain. What was that like? When she looked at you, did she start laughing?
A - We both did actually and I was star-struck of course. She's looking at me and we're both sort of giggling. I don't remember half the stuff we were talking about because I was standing there going I can't believe Shania Twain is standing in front of me. I was so amazed. I thought she was just the most amazing thing. I remember she did a show and I wanted to watch this show of her. She was on prime time TV. This was after we had met. I turned on the TV and there she was and then they pulled out my poster. I said "What the heck is going on?" They said "Do you know about this girl?" She said "Yes, I do. I've seen her a couple of times." That threw me because I'm thinking, when did she see me play? I was blown away. She said "I saw that poster hanging up in this venue and I knew it wasn't me because I didn't have the pants. Those aren't my pants." I was just blown away.