- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2015

Shania Twain firmly states that her current “Rock This Country” tour will be her last, but the country/pop icon quickly adds, “It’s certainly not my retirement from music. I will be doing music until the day I die. I love music too much.”

The news is mixed comfort for fans of Miss Twain. The Canadian songstress, who achieved superstardom in the late 1990s as a country artist who crossed into the mainstream, shied away from the limelight for nearly a dozen years amid a messy — and very public — divorce and health problems that affected her voice.

But after a triumphal two-year residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Miss Twain knew she wanted to go out and see her fans on one final excursion before hanging up the mic.

“I think the fans [and I] are going to be reintroduced to each other,” said Miss Twain, who will perform Tuesday at the District’s Verizon Center. “It’s like a reunion of sorts. Music is bringing us back together.”

In 2011, the singer of such hits as “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” “You’re Still the One” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much” was told she suffered from dysphonia, a condition that hindered her ability to accurately reproduce pitches — a veritable death knell for someone in Miss Twain’s profession.

“It was very, very scary. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to sing again,” she said of her diagnosis. “It was a part of me that I was losing, like losing a hand or something.”

Nevertheless, while undergoing extensive therapy to restore her vocal chords’ prowess, Miss Twain kept her pen busy, continuing to write material — for herself or, potentially, for other artists to record.

“I was writing the music, but I didn’t know what to do with it,” she said. “Why I didn’t record anything is primarily because my voice just wasn’t there.”

She likened her recuperation to an athlete convalescing from an injury, a process that required extensive physical and vocal work, which she said required not only patience but also “persistence [and] determination, because, like any physiotherapy, it’s hard, it’s tedious, it’s repetitive, it’s boring, it’s tiring, it’s painful.”

With intensive therapy and retraining, Miss Twain again found her voice, albeit with a sound altered from the one that made her famous.

“There was the process of learning to live with the voice that was now slightly different, because you’re never exactly the same again,” she said. “Now warming up for the show takes an hour and a half [for] physical and vocal therapy.”

In addition to dealing with her personal and vocal woes, Miss Twain took the time away from the spotlight to raise her son, Eja Lange, who is now 13. All told, she didn’t sing publicly for more than a decade — and the music industry had changed dramatically since her last album, “Up,” hit record stores in 2002.

While she isn’t promoting a new album on the “Rock This Country” tour, Miss Twain is hard at work on fresh material, some of which she may unveil onstage as the tour nears its close this year.

“It’s different from what I’ve done in the past, stylistically,” she said. “I’ve matured and evolved, and I have different things to say or express that weren’t true about me 10, 15, 20 years ago. That, I think, is just a natural evolution that I don’t think is going to surprise anybody.”

Miss Twain, who is remarried, is channeling the hardships of her life — as a poor, rootless young woman losing her parents in a car crash, as well as her divorce and loss of her voice — into her new works.

“It’s just a very therapeutic process,” she said.

Miss Twain, who will turn 50 next month, has performed publicly since the age of 8. She feels she has “put in my fair share” of performances and the time is right to leave the stage behind. Looking ahead, she said she would be content — perhaps even fulfilled — writing music for other artists.

“My frame of mind is I want to move on to do different things, and I need time to do it,” she said. “It takes a lot of focus to write meaningful songs. If I’m distracted with all the facets of a tour, how much am I really going to write and how many albums am I really going to make?

“I’ve got a lot more to say, I’ve got a lot more to sing, and that’s what’s behind that decision” to no longer tour, she said. “I can’t do both at the same time. I want to sit back and … watch my music as the observer from the audience.”

She is even considering writing songs in French, which is not only the second official language of her homeland but also of her Swiss husband, Frederic Thiebaud.

“I haven’t written any songs in French yet, but it’s a great idea,” Miss Twain told The Washington Times. With a laugh, she added: “My husband would have to help me with certain elements of it, but I could certainly attempt that, and I think it would be a lot of fun.”

Miss Twain’s ex-husband and former manager, Robert “Mutt” Lange, left her for her former best friend, Marie-Anne Thiebaud, who is the ex-wife of her current husband, Mr. Thiebaud — no doubt all of which will provide ample material for her forthcoming compositions.

In the meantime, Miss Twain is enjoying going out and seeing her fans one final time. Without the burden of a new album to promote, she feels she can sing the songs her fans want to hear for an evening that is a celebration and a farewell.

“The last two years in Las Vegas, the fans came to me. I just feel pumped to get out there and bring them this whole new show,” she said. “This tour is really about the classics. The reason is to say goodbye to the stage on a high and just be with my friends, with my fans.”


• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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