Metro Weekly

Shania Twain Is Still The One

Shania Twain, the Queen of Country Pop, on her latest album, going back on tour, and why she stands up for drag queens.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Louie Banks
Shania Twain — Photo: Louie Banks

When it comes to popular music, people love to throw nicknames around. It seems like every new singer who pops up with a mega-hit is the next “queen of [insert genre here].” It’s fun to bestow these honorific titles, but in reality, if they’re going to stick, they have to be earned. And there are very few people who really fit in the conversation when it comes to who is the true king or queen of anything.

Shania Twain is, indisputably, the Queen of Country Pop.

To this day, Twain’s Come On Over remains the bestselling album by a woman and the bestselling country album of all time, with reported global sales of at least 40 million copies. And that number is talking about actual sales, not streaming equivalents, which is how so many of today’s artists count their impressive stats.

Come On Over and the singles it produced weren’t just bestsellers, they changed the look, feel, and sound of country music forever. For decades, the genre was stuck, as musicians and the powers that be were too afraid to take it anywhere new.

Twain changed all of that with smashes like “You’re Still the One,” “From This Moment On,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” and the gender-bending “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” They’re all still remembered as not only blockbusters but crowd pleasers. If you don’t believe me, try being in a crowded gay bar when that first synth line from the latter track begins. Pandemonium soon ensues, and a sing-a-long is imminent.

But Twain was so much more than a pretty face and hit songs. She brought country music to the masses in a way that few have managed to do. She crossed over in an industry that, at the time, highly discouraged even trying to do so. And she did it all while pulling the creative strings behind the scenes.

Twain may have been deeply rooted in country music, but the way she handled her career showed that she was ready to hit the highs of her contemporary pop icons. She chose the outfits. She constructed the image

She came to the table with ideas for music videos, and she insisted on her vision being represented — not that of men in board rooms or bossy male directors. Despite warnings against some of her judgments, Twain took risks and did what she wanted, and look what happened.

Now, more than 20 years later, not much has changed for the Grammy winner. She’s trying new things with acting and fashion, she looks better than ever, and she’s still mixing it up with the music.

Her latest experiments can be heard on her new album Queen of Me, released in early 2023. Just as she did decades ago, she’s blending country with other sounds — this time around, influences of pop and electronic can be easily heard.

She’s still getting people to smile and dance, even if this latest full-length is actually all about some pretty dark subjects, such as loss, heartbreak, and even the Covid-related disease that nearly cost her her life.

Twain is also opening up about the love and admiration she feels toward the LGBTQ community, especially drag queens. In a time when the art form of drag is under attack like never before — and in Nashville, country music’s home base, no less — one of its greatest stars is speaking up for drag artists.

She remains decidedly unafraid to do so, just as she’s never been afraid to do what she had been told not to for so long as a country artist and a woman.

To this day, Twain remains, “Forever and For Always,” our queen.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Shania Twain — Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

METRO WEEKLY: I love Queen of Me. I remember getting that press release and immediately thinking, of course she’s a queen, that makes sense! But I want to ask you about the title — where did it come from?

SHANIA TWAIN: Queen of Me, I don’t know where it comes from exactly, but I’m called the Queen of Country Pop. But I really feel that, for all of us, we are the monarch of ourselves. Especially during Covid, I thought, okay, who am I going to turn to when I’m feeling down? How am I going to pick up my spirits? How am I going to get myself into a better mood? Me. It’s me that’s going to do that. How am I going to do it is the next question? Taking charge of my own frame of mind [and] managing my own perceptions was very difficult, especially in Covid. Like, who do I listen to? What’s right? What’s wrong? So much confusion, where’s the clarity?

So I started writing songs that made me feel happy, songs that had all kinds of clarity in my own mind and in my own heart. Writing about waking up dreaming, what makes me happy, daydreaming, dreaming about where I want to be, where I want to go, even though I can’t go right now. It’s not possible, but I’m going to dream about it anyway.

I’m going to release myself. I’m going to forget about the ceiling, forget about the boundaries, and go there mentally. My emotions got bigger and bigger and bigger with every song I wrote. So I started writing songs that make me want to dance and make me happy and laugh. And before I knew it, I had what I’m calling my happy album.

“Queen of Me” was one of the very first songs that I wrote for the album. It belonged as the title. It’s all about taking charge of yourself and being your own boss, driving your own bus, even when you’re stuck indoors.

MW: I love that such a negative situation created something so happy for you.

TWAIN: Taking my mind to happy places, happy thinking, positive thinking was like opening a window and opening a door. It was getting outside mentally.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Shania Twain — Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

MW: When I first listened to it, I was genuinely surprised to hear, not how poppy it was, but the electronic sounds and elements. What made you decide to go that route? Were you listening to anything in particular?

TWAIN: Those were the things that made me feel most boppy, most happy, most bubbly. When someone says, “What music do you put on when you just want to dance?,” for me, my go-to is ABBA.

I listen to so many different kinds of music, but if I really want to cheer up and get up on my feet, get out of my chair, and get myself dancing and throwing my hands in the air, that real free feeling of dancing around the room, letting your hair down, it’s “Dancing Queen.”

That relates to the Queen of Me. It was very, very linked to turning a light switch on — my positive thinking and feeling happy. So I think that’s why the album ended up sounding like my version of what happy dancey music sounds like with friends, with sunshine, with air.

MW: It’s amazing that on the surface, it’s a fun, bubbly dance album and then hearing you talk about it, there’s a deep meaning. There is a lot people can take away from it if they sit and listen after dancing.

TWAIN: Very true. “Inhale/Exhale Air,” it’s very much a message song. Not a preachy song, but it’s a message song. It’s my own message, my own experience of surviving pneumonia, and realizing that in the hospital I may or may not recover.

While I was in the hospital, I started writing notes about all the things that I love about air — and even then going, “Okay, air.” All these things that we have that air gifts us that we should not take for granted. Bubbles, blowing up balloons and then flying balloons, sailing, your hair flying in the wind, and, of course, breathing. Hello! So I pose the question in the song, “What are you going to do with that air?” What are you going to do with it? Don’t waste it. I didn’t know how much air I was going to have left, and I decided to make those notes.

When I got to the hospital, I wrote that song right away. I learned a lot about myself over Covid, as we all did. I think it was very self-reflective for me and there was an immediate literal share of my experience behind the lyrics of this song.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Louie Banks
Shania Twain — Photo: Louie Banks

MW: Shania, we’ve been talking for six minutes and I’m thinking about when I re-listened to this album and it was so much fun. And now hearing you say all that, it’s so hard to imagine. I’ve never been in a situation like that. What if I didn’t have air anymore? It’s so impressive that you’re able to turn it around into something so powerful and uplifting. I don’t know that most people could do that.

TWAIN: You know when you have a really bad day at work, or let’s say it’s Monday. You’re like, “Oh boy, when Friday comes around, I know exactly what I’m going to do.” In order to survive a difficult week at work or a difficult day at work or a difficult moment of anything, I go into my daydreaming self. That’s why “Waking Up Dreaming.” Dreaming is an all-day thing for me, it’s a great escape for me. When I was in the hospital not sure about how much air I had left, I was thinking, “Wow, when I get out of this hospital, all the things I’m going to sing about and celebrate about air.”

“Giddy Up” is the same thing. I’m going to find my happy, my giddy. That’s how that song started. I just want to feel giddy again. I just want to laugh at something for no reason. That song is not necessarily about what it might seem in the moment when you’re listening to it. It’s really about picking yourself up and getting on with it. Put the up, the happy in your giddy. Tap in your step and put the spice in your life. And they’re all encouraging and very celebratory songs.

MW: Throughout your career, country has been the anchor, but first it was country and then it was country pop and now you’ve got this electronic sound in there. Are you ever slightly nervous to introduce that to a genre that is notoriously protective of “What is country?”

TWAIN: No, I’m not nervous. I was more nervous about it at the very, very, very beginning because when I started showing my label the music that I was writing, they were like, “This is not ever going to get played. It’s not country enough.” So I think by the time “Any Man of Mine” came out, my fears were over. I know the listeners want more out of country music — I think they want originality. They were open to originality. And my roots are so country. I know what country music is. I grew up on my grandmother’s country music and I learned how to be a songwriter from that music. I just brought my original art, as an artist, to a genre that I love.

MW: There’s such a focus on how phenomenally successful you’ve been. The millions of sales and the diamond albums. Are charts and sales and all that something that you really watch or really care about, or is it ever intimidating to try to follow that up?

TWAIN: No big deal. Labels and managers — everybody that’s meant to follow those charts — they do focus on those things naturally. So I was aware of how they worked, but the funny thing about it all is that in the end, not even in the end, fairly early on I realized how a song like “Forever and For Always,” one of my fans’ most favorite songs, I don’t even think that went into the top 10 in country music. Or “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” — I think it might have been top 10, huge song for me. It’s one of my fans’ favorite songs. So in the end, as things roll out and your career builds, it’s the fans that decide, long after the charts are established, what their favorites are. And so you can’t really live by that.

I understand why they have to be there. And now we have a whole different way of counting and calculating popularity. There are all kinds of streaming scenarios. There are so many platforms. And don’t forget about live performance. That’s a whole other thing. It’s really concrete, is what it is. Nobody’s making that kind of thing up. Nobody manages or controls that, there’s no way of doing that. They have to come or they don’t come.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Shania Twain — Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

MW: Speaking of live performances, you’re about to go on tour. How are you feeling? How are you getting ready?

TWAIN: Oh boy. Well, right now I’m sitting in my rehearsal space. Every day is a rehearsal day except for one show that I have coming up. And that’ll be the only performance in between everything. But otherwise, it’s all rehearsals right up until the day the tour starts.

I spend my day between production rooms, live rehearsal rooms, live music rooms, sound engineering rooms, and wardrobe. So it’s a fabulous day. I come in and I’m very excited about what is ahead of me every day because we’re coming to the end of putting together a show I’m really, really proud of. I’ve never been more involved with any other production I’ve done so I’m really excited. It’s a lot of work, but I’m energized by it. I’m really, really motivated and inspired.

MW: You said you’re more involved this time around. What can fans expect on this tour that maybe they haven’t seen before?

TWAIN: It’s one of these tours that will evolve as it goes. There’s a lot of audience participation and that is really something that I look forward to and I really, really love and I never know what to expect. And there are variables in that that keep it exciting for me. And there’s a lot of new music in the show. Of course, all the classics. I don’t want anyone to ever worry that I won’t do the classics, at least not now. I would say that. I would put a warning sign: “No classics on this tour.” But of course, we’ll do classics. So I’m excited.

MW: When I was looking through your tours and your discography, it seems like the early half of your career was so focused on putting out music, and there was not as much touring. And now the more recent half of your career, it seems like it’s a lot more touring and shows and Vegas residencies. How do you think that played out like that?

TWAIN: Well, I’m a very happy mother. I could have had many children happily. I only had one and I wanted to make the most of that experience. So shortly after I had my son, my Lyme’s disease took my voice. At that moment I’m going, “Okay, I can’t sing right now, I’m going to just enjoy being a mom. I’m going to just indulge in that and enjoy that and leave this alone for a while.”

But then as he started to get older and more mature and then started school and then got more independent, and then as he evolved, I’m like, “I think I need to address my voice and see if I can get myself to a point where I can someday also fly again because he’s going to fly, he’s going to leave the nest.”

So this is really what got me motivated again, to be standing on my own two feet as an independent, outside-of-the-nest person. Because I’ve spent all my energy being a mom, being a [wife], family person, all the while writing songs. And then all of a sudden he’s gone. And I think this is why I’m more involved than ever in my production because I’ve only got one new little baby now, and that’s a little Pomeranian. And she only makes life easier, not more challenging. Kids take up a lot of time, and so they should. But now I have all this time and I’m spending it on my creativity and I’m putting all that energy into the show.

MW: Speaking of that time, in the past few years, you’ve also been appearing in TV and film. I loved seeing your name pop up on Beauty and the Beast. What has you so interested in that world?

TWAIN: I really enjoy the environment behind the camera. And it’s so different from the music world. There’s no flying by the seat of your pants. It doesn’t have the same adrenaline. It’s like a break from the adrenaline. And I don’t mind that. It’s a very thoughtful and methodical process, which I appreciate and respect and I love learning about it. I think it’s fascinating. It’s a whole other planet, I guess you would say, to explore.

MW: You’ve done film, you’ve done TV, you’re a judge on a reality competition series. You are really diving headfirst into all of this. Is there a dream project or role waiting for you?

TWAIN: Well, the reason for the diversity — or why I’m so welcoming the diversity — is because I’m having fun with it. I love exploring. That’s why I say another planet when it comes to acting, because it’s not just about being in front of the camera and having a role, but it’s about what’s going on around it and what it takes and being a part of that universe for a short period of time. It’s something to explore. And I’m adventurous by nature and I love change. Change is a challenge that I welcome. So diversity, bring it on. I’m ready for adventure.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Louie Banks
Shania Twain — Photo: Louie Banks

MW: Are you at all interested in producing, writing, directing, any of that?

TWAIN: These are things that I already do. I already wrote my autobiography, From This Moment On. And I do a lot of music production. I’m very, very involved. I direct so much of the world around me. I direct every day of my life in my career. So none of that is new to me. I think there are other ventures that will come that I will be interested in and on a more project-based level, but directing and producing are already things that I do in my own realm right now. So yeah, I could see myself going more into that, for sure.

MW: I have to say, throughout this Zoom interview, I’ve been watching your ring. You have a Titanic-sized blue ring.

TWAIN: It’s cobalt. It’s cobalt hearts. Don’t you love it?

MW: I love it. I mean, fashion and style has been something that’s separated you from others throughout your career. But looking at it in the past couple years, you are the most glamorous woman in music. I mean, it’s next level really.

TWAIN: Because I find fashion an adventure. You never know what’s coming out. You never know what’s around the corner. You can create what’s around the corner. You actually can — like a song, like a chord progression — create your own trajectory, your own color story, your own fabric story, your own texture story. This is what I love about fashion — it belongs to all of us. It’s an art form.

I will tell you that when I was younger, I was intimidated by fashion. I was intimidated by it because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I couldn’t fit the things that were necessarily a trend, couldn’t fit what other people could wear. When I started getting more comfortable with my own body, with my new shape, my boobs, my curves, I became a woman, I’m like, “Okay, I need to start determining what flatters this body so that I can grow into it with comfort.”

And it started right from my very first video, “What Made You Say That.” I started pinning things myself, tucking things myself, choosing the fabrics that I was going to wear, how they were going to move, what they were going to look like at the time in front of the camera. And I never stopped. And this, it’s just pure joy. Put me in a fabric store, a textile place, in a library of endless possibilities. I need to sleep in one of those places. This is a candy store for me.

MW: I think of some of your most iconic fashion moments from music videos and performances. When you are coming up with a music video idea or preparing for a tour, can you talk to me a bit about the process you go through with costuming?

TWAIN: If I go back to the very beginning, it would’ve been the “What Made You Say That” video and then the very early, “Any Man of Mine” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under.” Those videos were teams that I chose. So the cinematographer, the lighting crew. I wasn’t producing them, so I was choosing everyone by their resumes and their look-books and all of that. But they were very unique at the beginning with those first three because they weren’t people that normally did the kind of videos that I wanted to make. So together, we created whatever my vision was.

I would take photo references of the lighting that I liked. I picked and fitted my own wardrobe and was very hands-on about the hair and makeup, which was really not much of anything special. I wouldn’t say that they were anything that was fashion-forward, but they were what I envisioned and that was what was so important to me. Every detail. How I would move. Nobody choreographed me. Nobody directed me. I worked with the lighting crew, with the reflectors. I learned so much from John and Bo Derek about lighting. I learned everything about my face, about where the light hits it and the body and the shadows. I was a sponge.

And then Marc Bouwer, who came in very shortly after that, he really inspired me because he’s like, “Come to our showroom. Let’s go through fabrics.” I could touch them and feel them. They weren’t already made. I could drape things and go, “Oh no, I don’t like that. I want this height. I want that height. I want to show this much midriff. If I want it to stop there, I want-” And he was just like, “Anything’s possible.”

It was so inspiring to work with a designer that was so open to creating my Shania, I guess, you could say. What I thought she should look like. That was a really true collaborative experience because in the other videos, I was going to the department store and just picking whatever was on sale that I thought would work. Whereas Mark was shaping things the way I wanted it to fall on me. And that was everything.

MW: Hearing you discuss going into a video with a concept, an idea of how you want to be presented and picking every aspect of it. Do you ever consider Shania a character, a front that you put onto the world to present your music?

TWAIN: That’s a good idea. I would love to do that. I do have an idea that I don’t want to share with you right now because it would be giving too much away. But I will tell you that I am designing all of my core costumes myself, and they’re all stemming from past inspirations and bringing everything into the now. And they’re all keeping, of course, movement in mind because it’s live performance. Unlike a video, you can stop and start. You can’t pin that. If the lighting doesn’t work on that outfit, then you can change the lighting. But live is different. It’s a skill to make them work. They may not work in real life. For example, they may not work in daylight or they may not work on a red carpet, but they may work on the stage and in that environment. So I’m excited to share all of that.

MW: I don’t know that I’ve ever had such an in-depth conversation with a musician about their wardrobe choices and styling. The amount of thought that you put into it all is incredible. And it brings me, this is my segue, to drag queens. I’ve interviewed a lot of drag queens and they say similar things. They pick out the fabrics, they want to know how it’s going to work on stage. I was reading about your recent comments about the drag world and how inspiring it is and how much you take from it. As you’re putting together this tour, as you pick out fashion choices, does it ever go back to that art form for you?

TWAIN: Absolutely. Drag queens — I relate to one very important factor that I’m sure I know they would think this way. And part of the reason why they are designers in their own right is because picking something that comes off a runway doesn’t always work for me because I’m not built like that. I have a different build. I have a long torso, I have big boobs for my ribcage size, and I’m just not a typical classic runway model. If you look at drag queens, they’re not built like every runway model out there either. They had to build the clothes for their individual shape, size, height, all of that, their own proportions.

And then you’re looking at your own proportions. Next comes, what do I want to highlight or to modify about my own proportions? That’s where the sculpting of the clothes designing comes in. And it’s in the draping. Where do you want the slit to go? If you’re wearing a skirt, what angle is that line falling on your leg with the way you walk? And how do you want to work the clothes? Do you want to work the clothes? Do you want them to be rigid and fitted? So many factors! How do you want to perform it? How do you want to move? And what silhouette do you want to create? That’s a big one, the silhouette. The lighting is so important there. And do you care if it’s natural light hitting the fabric or are you dealing with artificial light? And then, is it colored light? Is it flash photography? This is ridiculous. It’s endless.

So drag queens, they think about all of these things. They think about the color schemes and the textures and the level of the performance. And they’re very aware. And I learned from them. And their creativity is wild. They are fearless. I’m inspired by their fearlessness.

Shania Twain -- Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Shania Twain — Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

MW: You have, for years now, praised and stood up for drag queens and the LGBTQ community. What pushes you to use your platform to advocate for this community?

TWAIN: I don’t believe in bullying. I want to see people rise for their talent, to be appreciated for their talent, and to be praised for their courage. I want to celebrate with other talents and it’s just wrong to bully and I can’t help myself. I’ve got to stand up for people that deserve it. I champion love and inclusion a hundred percent. And inclusion means everyone. No limitations. Everyone. I believe in inclusion and I make music for everyone. I guess I do it just by example. That’s probably the best way to put it. How would I do it? By example.

MW: I know you guest judged on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Are you watching at all?

TWAIN: Oh, I’ve watched many times. I’ve gone through periods, depending on what my schedule is. And I’ve gone to live shows as well, which are a whole other experience because it’s like my show. It’s beginning to end. It’s produced that way. You’ve got the audience there. And of course, the thing in Vegas, it’s a perfect place for me to see, so that’s where I’ve seen it now a couple of times.

I’m looking at it differently. It’s like when I go to a concert, I’m listening a lot. I’m listening to the sound, I’m listening. I’m watching as a producer, as a performer, as a singer. When I go to a drag show, I am looking at the costuming, the fashion, the makeup. Let’s not forget the makeup. The transitions are incredible. I mean, when I go on stage, there’s no doubt about it, it’s a transition. And so I really appreciate in a lot of cases, the extreme transitions with the drag queens. It’s remarkable. There’s a lot of wow.

I need lessons. I’m so tempted. I need to do a pizza party or something with my favorite drag queens. Pajama party. Drag queen pajama party. Could I invite myself to a drag queen pajama party? That would be amazing.

MW: You could. Are there queens that you love in particular, you’ve seen or maybe watched or something?

TWAIN: Well, RuPaul is the king of all queens. I don’t know how you would put it. And that’s the beauty because you do see him acting in roles and things without drag, and then you see the drag. It’s so impressive. I wonder if RuPaul would host that party and share some of the wonderful secrets.

MW: That’s great. By the way, if RuPaul got a call from Shania Twain, that would happen. So anytime you want, I’m sure he can do that.

TWAIN: I know. We’re talking about the party here, with sharing methods and stuff. I’m there to learn. And laugh.

MW: Just a moment ago you talked about raising people up and believing in inclusion. What would you say to people out there who are not seeing things your way and who might be going down a negative path? What would you encourage them to do to change their ways?

TWAIN: I’m not a preacher. I think the best way to encourage people is through example. I think people have to find their own truth when they find it. I will always try to be a good example. If I’m being really honest, if I’m with someone who wants to bring somebody down or is bringing someone down, I just want to leave the room, to be honest. I don’t want to be around the negativity. I want to surround myself with positivity.

It makes me uncomfortable to be with somebody that is bullying another person or to not stand up for somebody being bullied. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand there and watch somebody be bullied. It’s just not in my nature. So I guess by example, that would be the way I would hopefully inspire other people to feel less angry, or not angry. I think there are already so many things to be angry about that are really critical, and bullying — I’m not even sure where that even belongs anywhere.

Shania Twain’s “Queen of Me Tour” hits Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, on Tuesday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m. Visit

For additional tour stops, visit

Queen of Me is currently available to stream and download on all major music platforms and at

Follow Shania Twain on Twitter at @ShaniaTwain.

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