She was 16 years old when she won two Grammy’s. Her debut album “Blue” went platinum. She’s won three Academy of Country Music awards, and the CMA Horizon award. Her thirteenth album “Spitfire” is a hip-hop version of her country hits, and her latest release is the first of three in a series of her favorite Christmas songs.
With all she’s accomplished, loved, and lost her autobiography could be the lyrics for a hit C&W song, and with her clear-as-a-bell voice…she’d be the perfect choice to sing it.
If Barbara Mandrell was “Country when Country wasn’t cool,” LeAnn Rimes was cross-over royalty long before we ever heard of Taylor Swift.
Michael: Before we talk about your Christmas EP, tell me about the new remix album.
LeAnn: I had a blast doing that record and putting it together. I got to work with so many great DJs. My music has always been remixed throughout the years and fans have always asked to have one full record of all of my remixes. So it’s really for the fans mostly and we got to pull out a couple of songs that have never been heard before and “re” remix some of the old stuff. It’s a record that I put on every once in a while just because I love the music, but like I said, it was really for the fans. And I love to dance and I’ve had success on the dance charts so it seemed to fit. I’d love to venture out into that world one day and work with a few different DJs that I love, so we’ll see what happens.
Michael: Are you able to perform some of the songs live?
LeAnn: Well, if you come to a regular concert, it’s really quite intimate actually. I love chatting with the crowd. Our setlist really varies from night to night now because people will call out songs and if we know it, we’ll play it. But as far as the dance stuff goes, we play a couple clubs every once in a while and we’ve put a show together that’s about 7 songs. I performed at Orlando at their “Gay Days” and it was the first time I’ve ever performed dance tracks live and it was a whole new experience. It was a whole different energy and it’s a workout on stage, that’s for sure. But I love that, I really enjoy performing. The two shows I’ve done, it was maybe one in the morning and everybody was having a great time. So, it is a whole different world.
Michael: Ever consider a dance track of “Cattle Call?”
LeAnn: That is funny! I’ve never thought about that! It’s funny you say that because I was thinking no one has ever yodeled on a dance track. That would be interesting, so maybe so.
Michael: Your career is already so long, you started so young, how do you stay focused?
LeAnn: You take it moment by moment. I do look ahead and we have to plan things in advance. Tours…it’s kind of the whole big plan, and a lot of things you just take moment by moment. Music has always been my focus. I love music. I don’t know what I’d do without it in my life in some way, shape or form. In the past I think it was always about business, but at the same time now it’s about what I want to create. It comes from a more heartfelt place. There’s more excitement there. It’s also different making decisions and writing and performing music as an adult than when I was a kid. It comes from a different place.
Michael: How do you collaborate and write your songs?
LeAnn: There’s a lot of scheduling usually…because there are a lot of people I love to write with so we try to look ahead and set some dates. We might end up having coffee or wine and nothing ever comes out of it, or we get in a room and we have an idea and it happens in 30 minutes. It varies. I write a lot of notes. I’m inspired by daily things and conversations and life. I accumulate everything and when I’m working on a project I see what kind of story I want to tell. It’s kind of like making a movie to me. I set up times and just write. You have to let it flow. I’ve learned that anytime you try to put a choke-hold or time restraint on it, there’s so much that doesn’t come out. There’s so much that’s missed. So I try to give myself enough time and space to create whatever it is that’s going to come out. I’m one of those believers of “right time, right place” and all of those things will come together and we’ll create what it’s supposed to be.
Michael: Maybe a duet album someday?
LeAnn: I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. That’s definitely something that is in the forefront of my mind within the next few years.
Michael: How many day of the year are you on the road?
LeAnn: I’m out a lot. I have a family at home so I try to go out on the weekends and be back during the week. On this Christmas tour I’ll be gone 22 days, but I’ll come back for 2 days in the middle of that. My husband comes out to see me a lot. It’s a juggling act but I think my landscape of touring has changed since I have a family. I want to be home and have that part of my life. I’m not a teenager anymore who can take a tutor with me everywhere I want.
Michael: Growing up, what were your Christmas wishes?
LeAnn: I remember I really wanted a TV and I got one of those little TVs with a VHS player in it when I was 9 or something. My godfather and godmother had money and we didn’t have money growing up at all. They were so sweet to spoil me as a kid. My godfather would give me the JC Penney catalog and have me circle everything I wanted. Of course I didn’t get everything I wanted, but I circled like everything in it! Santa was always good to me, for sure. Christmas has always been a big deal to me. My stepdad decorates and it looks like Christmas threw up on the house (laugh). My godmother was the same way so I’ve kind of carried on that tradition. Halloween goes up at the end of September and right after it’s over, Christmas goes up. The holiday’s are kind of a big deal around our house.
Michael: Tell me about the Christmas album.
LeAnn: Well, I made a Christmas record probably over 10 years ago. Like I said, I love the holidays and I wanted to stretch it out over a few years so I’m doing 3 EP’s and this is the first one. “One Christmas,” is the title of the project. In the future the EP’s will definitely have some original material, but we came up with this idea and we needed to get into the studio and record and we didn’t have any time to write any original material. But there are so many great songs that I gravitate towards during the holiday season that aren’t maybe the norm that people would cover.
LeAnn: There’s Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas,” and Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” That one is very sparse. “Hard Candy Christmas” is just myself and a steel guitar and Paul Franklin is incredible. It’s this very haunting, sweet yet sad sound of just my voice and a steel guitar, which I’ve always wanted to do, so I thought that was the perfect song to do it on. We did “Blue Christmas,” which was basically me and a guitar and a little bit of organ. There’s a lot of soul to the record. A little bit of the dirty south thrown in.
Michael: What’s your favorite?
LeAnn: As silly as it may seem, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” is my favorite Christmas song. We threw everything but the kitchen sink in it. Whistles and horns…it reminds me a little bit of New Orleans. There’s all of that on the record. It’s definitely very eclectic. We took “Silent Night,” and did something a little different. So anything that people have heard over and over again by different artists we wanted to take and make it just a tad bit different.
Michael: You and your husband did a Joan Rivers show where you were all sitting against the headboard in bed drinking wine.
LeAnn: Yeah, we were on her last show. I loved her so much. I had the chance to get to know her and have her make fun of me all the years. She had a way of doing that and it would make you go, “thanks Joan, I love you,” after it. She was always so supportive. It was sad to see her go because she was totally with it and as funny as ever. She paved the way for so many comedians and for women and she will be very, very greatly missed.
Michael: Is your VH-1 show still going?
LeAnn: VH-1 was only supposed to be those 8 episodes. We wanted to kind of make fun of everything with our “life” or what people think it is within the tabloids. We had fun with it, it was really all about comedy and people getting to see a side of us that is not ever out in the public. VH-1 was a great partner and it did exactly what we wanted it to do. It broke a lot of ice. And now I’m back to being totally focused on music, and Eddie is working on more acting opportunities. So it’s open ended and maybe we’ll do it again in the future.
Michael: Nothing is half-speed with you is it?
LeAnn: No, nothing is. It’s 100% full throttle (laugh).