The singer has two albums in the works
Credit: David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns

Celine Dion pioneered the modern Las Vegas residency, but you won’t find her anywhere near Caesars Palace this summer. The iconic diva just completed a string of dates in Antwerp and Paris, and she’ll warm up for next month’s Canadian tour leg with a TODAY show concert on July 22.

With two new albums in the works and a new leg of her Vegas show beginning in September, it’s been a busy year for the singer—and a trying one. Performing nightly in front of her adoring fans, Dion says, has helped her cope with the losses of her husband and longtime manager, René Angélil, and her older brother Daniel, who both died within a few days of each other in January.

“They sing their support, they give me their tears, their laughter,” she tells EW. “I’m in the car after the show trying to catch my breath, and the first thing that comes to my mind, is ‘René would be freaking out.’” Below, Dion explains how she’s coping, what to expect from her new music, and while she’ll never get tired of singing “My Heart Will Go On.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve had a rough year. How are you doing?

CELINE DION: I am more than holding up, I have to tell you. My children, my family, my fans night after night—it feels like it’s not just one thing that’s helping me. My children adapted themselves so well, so that helps me as a mom to really cope with that tremendous loss. But I feel that he is inside of us, helping us, [saying] “Go for it! I’m here, the kids are safe—have your passion, have a good time.”

What has the support from your fans been like?

Every day I go out and there are hundreds of people giving me paintings of [René Angélil], letters for me, books to soothe me, products for me to take time for myself, candies for the kids, coloring books. It’s like, “Wow, this is beyond music.” This is a relationship that I’ve been having with my fans for more than 30 years. They are helping me go through what millions and millions of people are going through every day. It makes you realize that life is beautiful, and you have to live for today. Today it’s raining in Paris, and it doesn’t make a difference for me anyway. Sunny, rainy, cold or hot, it’s how you feel inside and the passion that you share.

You’ve been taking a break from your Vegas residency to perform shows Europe and Canada. How has this summer tour been?

I don’t want to sound pretentious saying this, but there’s a love affair. They sing their support, they give me their tears, their laughter. They applaud, they jump, they dance with me. They sing for me and with me. They put me on a big high. I’m in the car after the show trying to catch my breath, and the first thing that comes to my mind, is “René would be freaking out.”

How do these audiences compare to the crowds you see in Vegas?

Here, they sing with you. If you forget the words, don’t worry—they know the songs better than you do. They give you a show as well. In Vegas, it’s a different environment. You’re not in arena, you’re in a beautiful theater with velvet-coated seats. It makes you to want to have a night out, have a nice dinner, go shopping a little bit, buy a nice dress. I can’t compare a pair of jeans to a nightgown, but I can’t live without either of them.

You kick off a new leg of your current residency show, Celine, in September. Will you update the show as you work on new material?

I don’t know when, but we will for sure. I just finished a French album—only one song [“Encore un soir”] is out now—that’s going to come out at the end of August. Then during my next little break, of course I will work on an English album.

On your last English-language album, you worked with big names like Sia and Ne-Yo. Are there other artists you’re impressed with right now in pop?

I can’t really talk about the other writers yet because nothing has been confirmed, but trust me, I hope that Sia and Ne-Yo and Bruno Mars and all the people that we love, oh my gosh, I hope they write for me. Are you kidding me? I can just give you a little hint: Pink wrote me a song that I’m freaking out about.

That’s exciting!

You cannot be more excited than me, I’ll tell you. I am thrilled not only because I am a fan, but because I know her personally and have met her a few times. She’s a genuine person and [it was] so generous of her to take the time to write a song for me during the most difficult time of mine. People have a tendency to send me really sad songs, and we do want to sing the touching songs, but life is beautiful, and I really want to believe that René has a life after his life, that he doesn’t suffer anymore.

Your Las Vegas residencies pioneered a new kind of concert spectacle: You’ve sang while water fell from the ceiling, performed with holograms of yourself and commanded a small army of dancers. Is there a particular element that wowed you the most?

To be honest with you, it’s not necessarily what’s going on stage while I’m performing. It’s the time I’ve been spending in Las Vegas. I thought I was going to do two months, two years, three years. My son R.C., who’s 15 and a half, we celebrated his second birthday there and I’m still performing in Las Vegas. So yes, I’m happy about the waterfalls and my musicians and the lighting and all of the above, but what amazes me is that I’m still there. When I did my first show [A New Day…, which ran from 2003-2007] everybody thought I was going to end my career there. The Titanic was going to sink a second time. But we focused, we believed and I’m thrilled to still be there because it gives me the best of both worlds: singing and being mommy.

Have the meanings of your biggest hits changed as you’ve been singing them for decades now?

Who wants to sing the same song 6,000 times? No one! But I’m stuck with those songs in a good way. For one second through my mind it’s like, “Oh gosh, not that song again.” But then I look at them and forget that it’s been 25 years. They make it the first time every night. Don’t you think I have a good problem?

The TODAY show is teaming up with EW for a backstage pass to the “Citi Concert Series on TODAY” with exclusive Q&A’s in the magazine and on Tune in to Dion’s performance July 22 on NBC.