Monday, June 13, 2011 | 12:55 p.m.
It was incredibly only two months ago that superstar Shania Twain finally committed herself to the new two-year, 120-show run at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Even when the world’s bestselling female country artist traveled here last fall to check out The Colosseum, she couldn’t make the decision instantly because of a next-day visit to doctors treating her for major vocal problems. Shania also admitted that she’d arrived overwhelmed and scared, but after watching Cher’s show, she was dancing while exiting the theater.
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Shortly after the official announcement June 8 of her Strip residency and before her return appearance that evening on the Country Music Television Music Awards in Nashville, the notoriously private singer-songwriter talked at length with me in an exclusive interview. Her decision to return after a seven-year hiatus was revealed on the season finale of her Oprah Winfrey Network reality TV series “Why Not? With Shania Twain” yesterday. Her first show at Caesars, Dec. 1, 2012, coincides with the National Finals Rodeo.
Shania hasn’t released a new album since 2002. Her last stage performances were in 2003. Her highly emotional and almost unbelievable journey of return began a year ago. Last June 26, AEG chieftain John Meglen, who oversees Caesars entertainment at The Colosseum, met with Shania, her business agent and her manager at a hotel in Nashville. The date is well remembered because later, they went to see Sir Paul McCartney in his debut Nashville appearance.
Robin Leach: You all had this first dance with an offer for Vegas while McCartney is playing in the theater nearby, and you agree to come to Vegas and watch Cher. Two months later, you walk all alone in The Colosseum after seeing her perform the night before. That following day, you go up on the roof of Caesars to shoot for Oprah’s network, which is why I first wrote about you coming here. When you left Vegas after that trip, had you made up your mind then, or was it really dependent on seeing the vocal doctors the next day?
Shania Twain: It was totally dependent on the doctor because that was the key to me ever singing again, and it was genuinely in real time, so it’s not like we pasted it together. I had gone to Vegas reluctant, that I would get overwhelmed and that it would just scare me more than anything, to be honest. But I felt really good walking in there. The Colosseum had such a great sound.
Anybody who is sensitive to acoustic and vocal environments, a sound environment, can appreciate how great that room feels. That struck me first. Just speaking, I felt good in there. There was so much space in there, yet it felt very intimate. I had a very good sense of my voice and my speaking sound.
Dysphonia [a disorder making it difficult to produce vocal sounds from an enfeebled voice] is not a singing problem. It’s a voice box issue in the muscle on the voice, very different from having a nodule on the vocal cords, which I’ve never had. I’m lucky that I’ve never had that. It needs a long renewal time, and even today, I am still addressing it. You have to go through the entire recovery process. So once I visited the doctors after I left Vegas, I was more confident. I think once you understand what’s going on, you just feel better already.
When you go to the doctor and you’ve had this pain and you don’t know what it is, you’re worried, you’re concerned, you don’t know what to expect, you almost don’t want to know. I think everyone has experienced that, so I was relieved to know that they were optimistic, and it was something identifiable, that there were specialists who would deal with it. It made everything a little less mysterious, and that took a lot of the anxiety away from me. I still hadn’t committed to Vegas, but then I was trying because I wanted to do it.
RL: How long did it take you before you said yes to yourself -- in your mind?
ST: I had certainly decided before the journey of the Oprah series was over. It was near the tail end of filming the series that I finally felt the conviction -- two months ago. So really more last minute when you think about it, deciding that I wanted to do it. I’ll admit, though, I probably wouldn’t have gone to The Colosseum had I not known that that’s what I wanted.
RL: But you didn’t know if you’d be able to sing again?
ST: Exactly! I asked myself if I was confident in myself to do this while on the Vegas trip. I wasn’t. But today in making the announcement is both therapeutic for me and my voice. A tremendous medicine. Very meaningful. It was a moment of unleashing a lot of things. Putting a stamp on things just helps you say, “Hey, yesterday I was there, and today I’m here.” It’s another step forward, and it feels like another turning point and an unleashing of creativity, and now I’m going to start focusing on the show and the production, the fun stuff that comes with it.
The concern with making the decision to commit and then announcing all of that, it’s like a load off my shoulders. It’s been a healing year. I am now in a very happy place. I am genuinely excited about coming to Vegas to perform the show. This is really beautiful, really lovely. I’m beyond excited. I feel like I’m on top of the world. Honestly, I feel like I’ve climbed a very giant mountain, and I’m just standing right on top with my arms wide open and breathing rarified air.
My voice is stronger today than ever. My confidence is better than ever. I’d never missed a show in my entire career -- never missed any vocal performance. The show always went on sometimes against what was better for me. Now this time the show will go on because I’m feeling confident and good about it. I wish I could get started tomorrow.
Now the focus is shifted. I feel as though I’m about to step into a world of endless creative possibilities. That’s so exciting for an artist to take songs and translate them into such a magical place on a magical platform. This will be like no other platform I’ve ever been on before with my songs. It’s a whole new beginning!
RL: I don’t want to dwell on the ugly journey of the broken marriage, the shock of discovering your husband is having an affair with your best girlfriend and the divorce. It’s like a country song in itself! You’ve been through the mill, but I will ask since you describe all this as a healing year and your voice coming back, do you think you really had to go to the very bottom in order to get back to the very top and appreciate it?
ST: I think the contrast is necessary in order to appreciate both. You have to have the bad to appreciate the good. I’m always grateful for that part of the bad. You’re just so glad when it’s over, and you come up for fresh air and you’re just like, “Wow, there’s fresh air here, and I’m just so grateful for the simplest things.” I think you learn to appreciate the simpler things whenever you come out of a difficult time. I thought I never wanted to find love again. I didn’t want to. But now I have, and it’s become very beautiful.
Getting my voice back and getting my confidence back is a day-to-day struggle, and it’s really all about finding my expression again. It has been and is very cathartic, and that’s the perfect word for it. It’s rediscovering soft expression that I slowly lost for many years and until it was more than I could bear. I was petrified of writing a new song -- it was a whole new world for me. It had been many, many years since I wrote by myself. That was new and scary.
But the song ["Today Is Your Day," released yesterday] really, every day, cheered me up so much, I thought I should share it. It really set me off ready to get back into the studio. It revived my creativity. I’ve written a whole bunch of other things, and I’ll record those over the summer. Some of the new material might not even be released in time for Vegas because I am not going to put pressure on myself ever again. When it is ready, it will be ready.
In Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Shania tomorrow, we’ll explore her timetable for the new show and how she will develop it this summer. Since she’s going to ask her fellow Canadian superstar songbird Celine Dion for advice about the Las Vegas experience, we’ll also find out just what’s in the water north of the border that produces so many stars!
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.
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