Shania Twain’s resumé makes the eyes bulge. From her 1992 self-titled debut through her fourth album, 2002’s Up!, the Queen of Country Pop racked up an historic array of accolades: five Grammy Awards, three consecutive Diamond albums, and more than 100 million records sold, enough to make her the best-selling female artist in country music history. Her third album, 1997’s Come On Over, catapulted three singles into the top ten of Billboard‘s Hot 100 and stands as the best-selling country album, the best-selling studio album by a female act, and the best-selling album by a Canadian.
That unparalleled hot streak made Twain’s subsequent absence startling. Her fifth album Now, out today, marks the 52-year-old’s return after 15 years and a spate of personal challenges that included a divorce from her husband and producer Mutt Lange and a struggle with dysphonia that permanently altered her voice. “I’m just so ready,” Shania Twain says when EW reaches her on the eve of Now‘s release. “I’ve had to be very patient — as have all the fans. I just want them to hear it all.”
The eagerness stems partly from her general comeback, sure, but it also relates to the music itself. “I was more involved than I had ever had experience doing,” she says, “and I loved it.” That spanned conception to completion, with Twain writing all of Now‘s tunes herself and taking a lead role in producing and mixing.
And while Twain’s vocal ailment presented challenges, she’s upbeat about the outcome. “I discovered things in my voice that I didn’t know were there,” she says. “Things that I just hadn’t tried before, because I wasn’t forced to try them. Almost out of compensating for the things that I couldn’t do, I inadvertently discovered other elements of my voice.” Twain cites an improved range — “My voice is as high as it always was but I can hit lower notes now” — and sums the changes up as “a very pleasant discovery.”
Twain cites her favorite Now lyric, from closing track “All in All,” when describing her journey over the past 15 years and her current artistic space: “I’m still myself, but I’ve changed.”
Read on for EW’s full interview with Twain.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How jazzed are you for fans to finally hear Now after 15 years?
SHANIA TWAIN: I can’t wait. I wanna know their favorite songs. I want to know how they relate to it. I’m interested in how relatable it is to people and to their experiences and if it inspires them in. I like to inspire people. I think it’s an important part of what I do.
Was it always your goal with Now to write all the songs yourself, or did something inspire you along the way?
It was going to be a very independent album, just because I was no longer working with my longtime collaborator, my ex-husband. I didn’t really know where to get started in making a new album. I figured the place to start was writing the songs. I got reacquainted with that solo writer I always was before I met him. That was the first step: just getting back that independence and the creative environment of just having no feedback. [Laughs] It’s very isolating. You don’t have any feedback, you’re just working alone. It took a little bit of courage to take the full responsibility, because that’s the other thing that happens when you don’t have a collaborator: You’re on your own as far as the outcome. I really enjoyed getting back to just working alone; I like solitude. That was where I started and it just worked really well.
You also worked with producers like Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, One Direction) and Matthew Koma (Zedd). What were you looking for with collaborators?
The producers all had to be people that were open to the collaborative idea on the production side, because I already had a really strong vision. I didn’t plan on being as involved as I was, but it just ended up that way. They were all open to my vision. I just stayed involved all the way. It was just a really great environment. They all brought different things to the table. I already knew what I liked about each individual and my job was to make it all cohesive and to pull it together. A lot of it was done in the mixing. That’s part of what made it cohesive sonically. I didn’t include producers on the mixing — I did the mixing myself with an engineer.
There are some very contemporary sounds on Now, hints of things like EDM and tropical house. How’d you decide to incorporate those elements?
I didn’t want to limit myself. I don’t listen to music on the radio or anything like that when I’m writing music, but my son [Eja Lange, 16], he’s always in his own room working on his music. His love right now is EDM, so I’m always hearing all these cool sounds coming out of his room. That inevitably influenced my ear. Some of the drum sounds and effects and things like that. It was already inadvertently there before I went into the studio, via the leaking through my son’s room.
On Now‘s album cover you’re wearing leopard-print gloves — was that an intentional throwback to one of your most iconic looks?
We actually weren’t planning on that at all being a theme. We just thought, “Well, let’s do one with the leopard gloves.” But we weren’t thinking album cover or making that in the forefront at all. It was just so right and it surprised us all. It wasn’t intentional. The fact that it was such a great natural artistic direction once it happened… yeah, it’s interesting! It’s just one of those iconic things that just seems current. When we did it, it was just like, this is so current, this is so now. It just suited the whole Now concept and the fact that this is me now. I’m still the same.