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Shania Twain set to Rock This Country

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She started out as country, crossed over to pop and then quietly disappeared for more than a decade.

Now, Shania Twain is back, bringing her Rock this Country tour to Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave., for one show 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug.12.

“This tour is all about celebrating and reminiscing,” Twain said in a phone interview with Oklahoma Gazette. “I can’t wait to see the fans. We will be reintroduced to each other, and it will be like a big reunion. I’m sure it will be very emotional for me and a bit of a bittersweet experience. I am almost afraid to start because I know it will go by quickly and then it will be over.”

It has been more than 11 years since Twain hit the road. During her ’90s heyday, she recorded and toured extensively. At her peak, she sold more than 75 million albums, and she remains the only female artist to have three consecutive albums sell more than 10 million copies in the United States. She won Grammys and CMAs and was a formidable powerhouse on country and pop radio. Then, suddenly, she was gone.

“Initially, I slowed down for a break and to be a mom, concentrating on my son and my home,” Twain said.

Fresh face

Twain grew up in Canada. She began singing in smoky clubs when she was 8 years old, and she first hit the charts in 1993, when she was 27. But her first single, “What Made You Say That,” didn’t exactly thrill radio executives or the record-buying public.

“I remember she came through Oklahoma City billed as part of the Triple Play,” said 96.1-FM KXY air personality Bill Reed. “Mercury Records showcased three up-and-coming artists: Shania, John Brannen and a local guy named Toby Keith. We took them into a production studio, and they performed some of their new material. Shania had such a unique sound. It really threw me back because there wasn’t anything like it on radio at the time. I figured it would either flop or be so far out it was in.”

The three played a show in Oklahoma City at a bar called Chastain’s, which was Toby’s home club for years. His “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” went straight to No. 1, but Shania’s first single struggled, Reed said.

“Then she went back in the studio with a new producer and came out with a new sound and a new look that would change the ’90s,” he said. “Gone were the long gowns she had worn earlier, replaced by a bare midriff. She was pivotal in helping shape a new country sound, one with a rock edge to it that attracted a much younger fan base and was strongly female-oriented.”

Twain’s new sound came largely from her union, both personally and professionally, with rock producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, whom she married in 1993. Together, they co-wrote many of the tracks on her sophomore studio album, The Woman in Me, released in 1995.

“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” put her in the top 20, and follow-up singles peaked at No. 1. “If You’re Not in it for Love, I’m Outta Here” was Twain’s first chart-topper, followed by “You Win my Love” and “No One Needs to Know Right Now,” a song that was featured in the 1996 summer blockbuster Twister.

The hits continued through 2002, when Twain recorded her last studio album to date, simply titled Up! The album sold 874,000 units in its first week and went on to sell more than ten million copies.

Struggles

Her marriage to Lange ended in 2008, and she had developed lesions on her vocal chords and a condition called dysphonia, all of which sidelined her music career.

“That turned into a long sabbatical, and then I had trouble with my voice, so it turns out I was gone for about a decade,” Twain said.

The condition left her unable to sing. Even her speaking voice was affected. The condition took its toll on the performer, but she said she never quit trying.

“It went way beyond my career and not being able to perform,” Twain said. “It was a part of me that I was losing. I really went through a grieving process. Before I gave up completely, I found the courage to take it on. Ultimately, with lots of work and vocal exercises, my voice came back. It was hard; it was repetitive, but I started from scratch. It sounds somewhat different from what it once did, and I am learning to live with the new voice.”

Reborn

In 2012, a reenergized Shania hit Las Vegas for a two-year residency, and she started planning her comeback.

“I know when I go to a concert, I want to hear all my favorite songs, so that’s what I am doing on this tour,” she said. “My new album won’t be finished for a while, so this will be all the old songs my fans know and love.”

Twain marks a personal milestone during this tour — she turns 50 on Aug. 28.

“I am trying to figure out what it means to be 50,” she said. “It’s an inspiration and motivator for me to be the best I can be now. That means being the fittest, the happiest and the most educated. I have a feeling it is only going to get harder. So this will set a strong platform for the rest of my life.”

While she has been off the road, Twain has continued to write songs and said it is equally satisfying to hear other artists perform her material.

“The gift of being on the stage for me isn’t about being in the spotlight but being able to connect with all the people,” Twain said. “Songwriting on the other hand is such a creative outlet.  I could listen to others perform my work and be totally happy.”

A new album — her first in more than a decade — is in the planning stages. Twain said she might perform one or two new songs, but for now, it’s all about the classics.

“The show is full of great technology. It is very dynamic. No one has ever seen me in this light before, and it’s going to rock,” she said. “It will definitely be memorable.”

Print headline: She’s back, Eleven years after dominating the charts, Shania Twain brings her hits to Chesapeake Energy Arena.

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