Recently LeAnn Rimes graced us Europeans with her presence at the Switzerland’s Country Night Gstaad. A two day festival in a luxurious and beautiful alpine village that gets taken over by country music fans from all over Europe for one weekend every September. This year was no exception. In fact, as it was its 25th anniversary, it seemed even more busy! When you arrive a day early you’ll be able to see mountain goats, hear the cow bells in the fields and enjoy the crisp mountain air while shopping at shops like Ralph Lauren …. But slowly you’ll see the scenery change; cowboy hats, boots and spurs take over this other wise very quiet village. Some fans even go all out and dress up as Johnny Cash look alike, the town sheriff brining out the toy guns (the real thing is not legal here) or Indians! But no matter what they look like, all fans are here for the music. And they made sure that the anniversary edition had an amazing line up. With LeAnn as headliner other artists on the bill were Gretchen Wilson, The Time Jumpers and Flynville Train.
LeAnn walked on stage and took the mic to open with “Family”, the title track of her ninth studio album released back in 2007. Fans were allowed to be up at the stage for one song before being ushered back to their seats for the rest of the show. Playing song from the past and from her current album, Spitfire, the songstress said about the title track:
“I wrote this song when I was pissed off, let’s be honest. This whole album covers pretty much every human emotion you can imagine. I had been holding in so many emotions before writing this song, so I let it all out. I’m from the South and when we say “bless your heart” it’s not a nice thing.”
A complete contrast to that is the emotional ballad “Borrowed” “This song made me discover a whole new side of me in songwriting. I had never been this honest in a song, so vulnerable, but I wanted to write about it. People talked about it, the media has written about it. This is my version.”
She finished the end of both her shows with a beautiful heartfelt version of “Hallelujah”. The last show actually kneeling down and singing it while sitting on the floor sure made for a special moments for all fans.
After her show LeAnn kindly sat down to answer some questions for us.
Hi LeAnn, how are you?
I’ve been in some pain so I’ve been in bed all morning. Two of my fingers are broken! I dropped a two kilo weight on my hand while I was working out. So yeah, it’s all swollen and blue and hurts like hell. I’ve never broken anything before so I can now join the broken hand club, it’s all good. But I have my voice so I can pretty much do everything and so I’ll do the show no matter what. Even if you have to wheel me on stage, as long as I have my voice I’m oke.
You don’t realise how much you use this hand though. I do a lot with my hand when I perform and must have hit it so many times already. But besides that I feel great. Definitely not as stress anymore.
Someone in the audience last night said: “She’s grown up now”
Yeah, I’m old now. I’m 31! Haha. I’ve been doing music for 20 years already so I guess that I am old. “Blue” was such a long time ago.
Speaking of that song, “Blue”, the audience loved that you included that song in the show last night. What was a reaction that stood out for you back when the song came out?
Charlie, Patsy Cline’s husband, told me he had to pull to the side of the road when he heard it because he thought I sounded so much like her. He had to stop the car and started crying. It was pretty amazing to hear for her husband to have that kind of reaction.
But I was 13 at the time singing country music and country music is all about lying, drink, loving, stealing. It’s about real life. But I hadn’t gone through that myself yet. I used to get incredibly defended because I though I pulled it off well but now I realise it was me being an actress within a song. Once you live it, it comes from a completely different place. They were right about that for sure. But it was hard being 13 years old being in a business trying to do what no one else is doing. I didn’t wanna do Disney songs.
Back to the current time; what can we expect of you now and the future?
Oh gosh, I don’t know. To me music has no boundaries at all. My first love was Broadway. My godmother always played my Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland. But I also grew up on country music. My dad played classic rock and country while my mom played motown. I grew up on pretty much everything, and so I sang everything. When someone asks me what kind of music do you like I’ll answer “If it’s good, I’ll listen to it. It doesn’t matter what it is”.
For me these last couple of records have been very clear on where I want to go as I think I’m now finally figuring out who I am. I still try to not put myself into a box but I find that when it comes to the songwriting aspect there’s now a continuity to it that I haven’t had before. But I love all types of music and have had seven or eight number one dance records and would love to do a whole dance album. I like to branch off and some something different too. I see myself doing many things but always being very centred to me and what I feel country music is. Which is leaning more to the traditional side with a modern twist.
For some reason you always seem to sing very difficult songs.
It’s funny, even when I write songs with my friends they love to use as much of my range as possible. Sitting in a room with a piano and two writers and myself I’m not singing full force all the time and I’ll be like “oh yeah I can do that, I can hit that, that will be fine” and then I get on stage and I’m like “Why did we write this song this way?!” Especially when you’re performing it night after night. I’m definitely more aware now.
Your latest album, Spitfire, was received very well. However, commercially it’s less successful then earlier albums. Does it bother you that now that you probably make the best music in your career it is not as much commercially appreciated?
Yeah, I think that’s been a factor for the last several albums. I’ve been at the same record label since I was 11 years old. I’m done now. I love them but we’ve had a love/hate relationship, everyone knows that as I was in a lawsuit with them for three and a half years. I definitely feel like this album wasn’t really given the time of day. Actually, this album wasn’t even gonna come out. I thing there was very much a lack of push or even acknowledgement of this record, sadly.
I could’ve easily turned if what ever I wanted to turn in for this last record and be done with it but I’m not that kind of artist. I was able to make the best record of my career and it was for myself. The humanity of the record is what will speak to people. I feel like, if I’m happy with it, other people are going to like it. So many times I recorded songs that people wanted me to. I don’t perform them even though some are even hits but I don’t want to perform them. I don’t want to do that anymore. From here on I wanna be happy with the music I make and wanna sing them five years from now. I wanted to make the best record I could and prove to myself that I could do it and that’s what I did. I’m so happy with that. I haven’t seen a bad review of the record yet and I just can’t believe it some times. Not that I normally read review about my work but for the first time it hits home. People are getting the real me. I feel good about where I’m at. It’s scary as hell. It feels like I’m going through a divorce with the label after 20 years. Guess I should be used to that now, haha, I’ve been though that before! Joking aside, it does feel like a change of the guard. It’s exciting, it’s really really exciting.
Now I feel like I’m just beginning. And I think people will hear plenty more of me and catch on to what I’m doing. I just think it needs to be presented in a proper way. All the crap that I’ve gone through is over and it’s time to move on.
Gasoline and Matches is going to be the next single. How did you and Rob Thomas come together for this song?
Rob and I have actually been trying to get to work together for about ten years. He talked to me about writing at one point but our schedules over the years just never worked out. We’re both always so busy. But I was sitting in the studio one day and we all had a conversation about who to work with for this song and someone brought up Rob and I thought “Oh my god, that’s perfect”. So we reached out and send the song over. He didn’t even know what song it was and he said yes. I love Rob, he’s just so easy going. When he got it he was like “Oh I love that song! I thought we were gonna do a ballad”.
Jeff Beck is also on it. I worked with him on a Barbra Streisand tribute for the grammy’s three years ago and decided then that we’d love to work together again. So we also send the song to him and he put a guitar solo on it.
None of us actually worked together in the studio on this, not that you would know it. I love that the guys wanted to do it and I’m so happy that it’s going to be the next single. It’s a great song.
Talking about other artists; do you have idols or people you look up to? And have you met them over the years?
Oh I definitely have my idols! Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland who I obviously never met. Obviously Patsy Cline was one, so is Bette Midler. Most of them I never had a chance to meet. I never had a chance to meet Barbra as of yet. I was at a show of hers and I was supposed to come backstage but there were just so many people. She knew I was supposed to meet her but as we didn’t she send me a letter, which was so sweet. They say she’s never been impressed by anyone but after I walked out of the Grammy’s tribute she said “that was good”. So I got her approval , that’s awesome.
I did meet Bette Midler when I was seventeen at the Billboard Music Awards and I looked at her and started balling! I seriously freaked out. She was so cool. She asked “why are you crying, I should be crying because you inspired me to sing again”. I didn’t know she had stopped singing for a while but she loved “Blue”.
To have people that receptive and appreciative of what you do after all these years of watching them and being inspired by them is pretty amazing.
I also love Stevie Wonder and I sat in a room with him at the Grammy’s. He probably didn’t know many people were there as he was warming up behind the piano. Such a great moment. I get tongue tied though. I’m not the kind to walk up to them and say hi.
Oh I met Maya Angelou, the poet, too. She’s another poet of mine. I had dinner with her one night at her house. I have a tattoo of one of her poems on my hip! She’s a fantastic woman.
There are so many things that I’ve forgotten though because I was so young. I was saying something about Merle Haggard the other day and ask my dad “Have I ever met Merle Haggard dad?” And he was like “Yeah, you were on tour with him for a few days! He walked on stage during the middle of one of my songs and said ‘This girl is the real deal’ and walked off!”. I was fourteen and just totally forgot.
You’ve played several shows in Europe. How does the European crowd compare to the Americans?
Honestly, I wanna tour here all the time. I love it here. The difference to me is, I feel like the Europeans are a big music loving crow. They really dig into records. There’s record store still here! They still believe in albums here and don’t just buy singles. I’ll open with a song like “Family” and people are singing along because they have dug into a record. Which makes me so happy as an artist. To see people have listened to the whole album that you made. That’s why I make an album. To tell a story, to paint a picture. The people here are very receptive. They sit and listen. And the clap for like two minutes for every song which some times makes me feel a bit awkward it’s so long. Everyone is just so nice. It’s been almost ten years since I was here last but I feel like I have a fanbase here. And I won’t let that much time pass by again. I’ll come back.
LeeAnn singing «Hallelujah» at Country Night Gstaad:
LeAnn singing «Spitfire» at Country Night Gstaad:
Pictures from Country Night Gstaad:
For more information on Country Night Gstaad go to www.countrynight-gstaad.ch