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October 25, 2014

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Shania Twain: ‘I love Las Vegas; it feels like home to me there. I’m having a great time’

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Caesars Palace headliner Shania Twain arrives at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

Shania Twain

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Caesars Palace headliner Shania Twain arrives at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

Superstar Shania Twain jets into Las Vegas on Friday to resume her residency at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace with 22 shows through Dec. 14, with a small mid-November break. It will mark the end of the first year of her current two-year contract on the Strip.

While here, Shania knows that she has to face some major decisions:

• Who will she pick as producer of her first new album since 2002 now that she’s finished writing its songs during the summer break?

• Will she start recording the first tracks while here in Las Vegas?

• Will she renew her residency for a third and fourth year?

• Should she resume the rigors of touring or stay put on the Strip?

• When will she record a DVD of her live Caesars show?

In addition to those decisions, Shania has to break in new horses this weekend to work with onstage during her show, and she’s proud that she will be here to open schoolrooms for her Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation.

Before she jumped on the jet for the flight back here, Shania talked with me from her home in the Bahamas.

Let’s talk about what you completed while you were away, while you were missing us and we were missing you. You’ve got the first new album in over a decade under your belt completed and ready to record with a producer. What’s its exact status?

I still haven’t picked my producer yet, so I’m sort of stuck on what to do. I’m just not there yet but getting there! At least I made a decision to actually get the songs written and get ready to record. It’s a tough decision for me. I’m not used to having to make that decision, to be honest, because I spent so many years not having to worry about the production.

So is it a possibility you might lay down one track while you’re here in Las Vegas just to get the process underway?

That’s not a bad idea. I actually hadn’t planned on doing that, but you never know. Maybe I’ll just be very spontaneous about it in the end and just start experimenting. I’ve got to take that first step, in any case.

I guess in a way it’s like you and Lionel Ritchie, when you took that first step to sing that proved something to you. So when you take this first step, that should prove something else to you.

It’s funny because just as I said “first step,” I thought of Lionel and thought of that scenario and then you said it. It’s so true. It’s a big leap for me to trust my music with somebody else. I think that’s my biggest fear. I need somebody who’s going to be sensitive to my vulnerability with all of this. It’s just difficult; it’s a bit of a naked feeling.

It may be difficult for some people to understand, but I think I know exactly what you mean. Maybe you throw yourself into the deep end and see what happens and try it while you’re in Las Vegas?

I agree. I think that’s what I’m going to have to do — that’s what happened to me with “Still the One” in the first place. It was a huge plunge for me to commit to doing the show in Las Vegas. That was a scary decision for me; I just had to commit, and that was it. Now once again it’s there, you just rise to the occasion; you’re a survivor, and that’s it. The first decision worked out well, so hopefully the second decision will work even better.

Things run in threes. I heard rumblings that you’re going to make a DVD of the Las Vegas show.

I would like to do that. I want to have it documented properly and have a permanent quality documentation of the show because it’s such a rare thing and a highlight of my career and creativity. It’s such a unique situation; I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to duplicate it again.

The only thing you would not be able to duplicate on the DVD is smell-a-vision — the fragrances and other warm odors from the stage.

Ha, that’s true! That’s a good idea! Maybe I could put a little scratch thing that when you get to this part of the show, you scratch.

Shania Twain: ‘Still the One’ Opening Night

Opening night of Shania Twain's Launch slideshow »
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Singer Shania Twain arrives for the 48th ACM Awards at the MGM Grand Sunday, April 7, 2013.

Five smell tabs on the back of the DVD cover.

That’s it! Then you sniff!

I know that you don’t really change out the show too much, and I don’t think you’re planning to on this new go-round of 22 shows. But you do tweak things. Are you going to tweak or make changes in the next round?

I’m always tweaking things. I’m thinking about doing another little a capella piece with my sister if I can get her courage up to do that. That would be during the campfire set. I’m also going to work on changing out the campfire set, the music part of it, because there are so many possibilities there.

There are a lot of songs that I’m not doing in the show just because there’s never enough time, which is the whole reason for the whole melody concept in the first place. So I might play around with that.

Is there any room to insert one of the new songs from the proposed new album?

No. I would have to replace songs because I’m already maxed out right now. What would be fun and what I’ve always done in concert is put a couple songs in for a couple of shows, then you swap them for another couple another show. I’ll probably end up doing that.

So we might hear a little taste treat about what’s to come on the new album?

In fact, one of the a capella pieces with my sister will be from one of the new songs.

Great! Now bring me up to date with the Tom Williams Elementary School project through your Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation.

Well, the program is now running with the new school year that started in September, and then I do an official opening when I’m there in November this time. I’ll be visiting the school and the room; I designed the room myself. Each school’s program space is identical, so all the kids are getting a very productive zone to think in, to personalize, to work in and feel comfortable.

This program is for kids who are living dysfunctional personal lives, who are underprivileged in some way, so this is a safe haven for them in a supportive environment where they can build faith, build confidence and have a more productive school day.

Shania Twain Press Conference at Caesars

Fashion designer Marc Bouwer (in suit and tie), singer Shania Twain and director Raj Kapoor (suit, no tie) attend a press conference at Caesars Palace on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Miranda Lambert, Shania Twain, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire backstage after Twain's "Still the One" at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Saturday, April 6, 2013.

We have an interactive board, like a big white board wall, with encouraging quotes from me; a little bit of information about me and my experience because I want the children to understand that I understand them, that I’ve been there, I know what they’re experiencing, and I relate to them. I want them to know that I am with them even when I’m not there, and we’re all in this together. It’s very personalized in that way.

It’s a creative wall where they do quotes of their own or work on the board as part of their homework and studies. The room also has a desk area, a lounge area, and all of the furniture is the same everywhere. I can’t wait to go; I’m so excited! This is the first time physically going into the new space that we created. We had been working with pilots and programs until now, and now we’re official, so I’m very excited about it.

Are you able to get around pretty easily in Las Vegas while you’re here?

I do, and I get around a lot! I integrated myself quite well in Las Vegas by just blending in. I go out to the restaurants, I shop, we get out and enjoy the landscape outside the city, and we go to shows. I just find that if you blend in and play, you can get by pretty well.

So that means jeans and a T-shirt? You look like a tourist?

I do, I do; I look like a tourist, and I am a tourist when I’m there! I enjoy getting out and seeing what’s happening. I like the desert landscape, and that’s where I can ride the horses. They are just 20 minutes outside town. It’s really beautiful out there, but then in town, pretty much every time we’re in town, we go to the David Copperfield show because I just love magic.

I want to try and go back to see Carrot Top because I love his comedy, as well. My favorite place to eat is Nobu, but I probably overeat and probably go there too often. I love it there.

I’d like you to make an observation about lady headliners on the Strip. Faith Hill is returning to headline again at the Venetian. Britney Spears is stomping in your high heels at Planet Hollywood as of Dec. 27. You followed along after Celine. What do you think about all the girls coming in and taking over the Strip?

I think the party is on! I think it’s really great. It’s such a dynamic place, and I think for a long time, and even for myself years ago, there was a perception of Las Vegas that it lacked dynamic, that it was more one dimension. You go there for a few days and then you max out on your Las Vegas experience in three days.

Now that I’m there, I’m there three, four, five weeks at a time, and I still haven’t fit in everything I wanted to do. So it’s really so far from where I think some people’s perception of Las Vegas is. There’s so much to do; you’re never going to do it all in three days. There’s no way you can and say that you’ve taken in Las Vegas. There’s so much variety and performing artists.

Shania Twain Is Welcomed at Caesars Palace

Shania Twain arrives horseback at Caesars Palace on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, and Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner (in glasses), AEG West chief John Meglen and fans were on hand to greet the Canadian superstar. Launch slideshow »
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Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Faith Hill arrive at the 2013 Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 7, 2013.

Do you have the same horses? Do you have the same costumes this go-round?

Yes. We’re actually introducing a new horse in this next leg, so keep your fingers crossed for me there because with live animals, you never know what to expect; it’s so unpredictable. I’m always playing around slightly with the costumes. I’m not going to do that much change there because the show was themed visually and fashion-wise after the existing iconic looks. Without reinventing the wheel, I stuck to what already existed and adopted that true-to-life show. That will pretty much be the same besides some tweaks.

Oh my goodness, I just realized that I don’t know the name of the new horse, and I should know it by heart by now! Although I never call him by his name on stage anyways; I can’t, I’m singing. You know the funny part about it is that with horses, normally you train them with little clicks and vocalizations because you’re stimulating their hearing, as well, and a lot of commands are through voice. The challenge is that I can’t do that obviously because I’m singing. It’s been a real challenge to work with a horse strictly though body language. We’ll always have a black horse and a white horse — both — in the show.

I didn’t realize that you were born on Aug. 28. You’re never going to guess my birthday is … Aug. 29. We’re Virgos, which begs a question going back to what we talked about at the beginning. Since Virgos are so analytical and precise and right in everything they do, why do you hesitate about taking that plunge? That’s the bit I can’t understand because that’s so non-Virgo.

Well, because I have to be completely sure about something. When I’m sure about it and I’ve framed it in, then I’m convinced and anything goes. I need to be in control of my own thought. I think that’s maybe what you’re talking about as a Virgo, that you need to be able to control your own thoughts.

I don’t like losing control of my frame of mind; I need to be an independent thinker. It’s just getting over that initial hurdle. I need to learn so much, and I’m always investigating everything, and that’s where the thorough nature is of the Virgo. You have to be certain and thorough; then after that, I throw caution to the wind and I’m all good.

It’s a fascinating birth sign. It can be very complicated.

So the big question to end our conversation is when do you start talking contract renewal? I know AEG executives wish you would renew forever and ever, which is a lovely compliment to pay you. When you come back in 2014, it’s the start of your second year, which is the term of your contract. So, Virgo lady, when do you start thinking of whether you extend it?

I know, haha, it’s so true. The Virgo aspect does come into it. I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I need to take one thing at a time. So I’m looking at everything in stages and of course overthinking it until I’m completely certain. I’m in a stage right now where I’m enjoying my cake. I have worked very hard to create a beautiful cake, and now I’m eating it. So I’m in the stage of eating that cake and indulging in that and enjoying the success of it and enjoying the interaction with the audience.

Overlapping that, if I’m ever going to get back into the studio again, I have to start thinking about doing that. The next thing in line is making the record. What happens with the experience of that record is going to determine a lot about what I’m going to do with my performances. Will that record put me in a famous line where I’m really going to be dying to get out into the touring concert mode again? Or is that album going to say to me, “No, this room at Caesars is perfect for me and this album; it’s perfect for where I’m going with my music.”

Up until now, I’m in that room with my current catalog. I’m not in there with any new catalog. I need to get a feel for where this new record is going to go before I’m going to make a decision about how I’m going to feel about stage performing. So the window is not very big; I know I have a very short window, but I think once I get with the producer and we get a dialog going and a team spirit going, I’m going to know then.

I love Las Vegas; it feels like home to me there. I’m having a great time. There’s nothing bad I can say about it. I think that the only reason that I would not stay in Las Vegas is if the music somehow zipped me in a different direction. I’ve always liked to keep an open mind about things. I like to leave room for spontaneity, and once I have the opportunity to look everything over until I’m satisfied, then I’m good; I’m ready.

You can do the best of both in a sense, can’t you? You can go out and hit a couple of tour dates, European and domestic and Canadian, and still keep your number of runs in Vegas? You could have both?

Yes, you could. I’m sure that’s what the other artists do; that is possible, too. One of the other elements that worked so well for me in Las Vegas is stability for me as a parent. Other than of course the amazing stage and theater, the stability of it and being able to go somewhere where I can still take my child to see other great artists, great galleries and restaurants and get out into nature is very hard to do when you’re on tour.

When you’re on tour, you’re in and out of a town in 24 hours. You don’t have time to go do all of those things. In Las Vegas, we get out there. We immerse ourselves with everything that’s going on around us, and that’s something you can’t do when you’re touring. At least I don’t think there’s time for that.

It’s true, and I think that you would not be able to blend in so easily when you’re on tour.

It is harder, and when you’ve got a family and you’re on tour, the bubble is so small. You go between the bus and the hotel and the airport and the venue, and that’s it. That’s your life, and I don’t really want that for my son. We’ll see; we’ll see how it goes. I’m at a phase now where I’m transitioning again, and where that transition ends up will be when I determine whether I can stay in Las Vegas.

I do love it there. It’s been even better than I expected.

As a Virgo, you almost just then talked yourself into staying!

You see, that’s the thing. I can’t talk myself into anything; I can only know myself into something.

Shania, the bestselling female country artist of all time, resumes “Still the One” on Tuesday, and there’s a break between Nov. 4-29. She’s here through Dec. 14. On Tuesday, as she belts out her biggest hits, we’ll post my interview with AEG chief John Meglen on his perspective of the state of Las Vegas entertainment and the status of his Colosseum stars Celine, Shania, Elton John and Rod Stewart.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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