LeAnn Rimes and 7,000 of her closest friends

Tara Bradbury
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LeAnn Rimes

Taking a stadium full of people and making them feel as if they’re at a private house party might not be an easy feat, but LeAnn Rimes is going to try.

Fans attending her show at Mile One Centre tonight can be prepared for as intimate a concert as a 7,000-seat arena will allow.

“I want people to feel like they’re sitting in my living room,” the pop-country singer told The Telegram in a phone interview. She plans to do a mix of hits, material from her upcoming CD and some yet-unrecorded songs, many of them acoustic versions.

“It’s such an intimate way to play,” she explained.

This is Rimes’ first time in the province in her 15-year-long career, which took off when she released “Blue” in 1996 at the age of 14. The record remained at the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s country albums chart for more than three months. Rimes went on to have 45 singles on the Billboard country songs chart, 13 of them in the Top 10. Her song “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” from the “Coyote Ugly” movie soundtrack, went to No. 1 in 11 countries, while her version of “How Do I Live” is the second-longest charting song in the history of Billboard’s Top 100 (after Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”). Rimes has earned seven Grammies, an American Music Award and numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music.

Growing up with celebrity status hasn’t always been easy, Rimes said.

“Everybody has seen every little hiccup and whatever,” she explained. “A lot of people feel they know me so well — I love when people come to my shows and walk away with another view of me, having seen another side. I’m very comfortable with who I am when people come see me.”

Tabloids would have readers believe a different story. After her divorce from her first husband last year — when she admitted having an affair with actor Eddie Cibrian, and later married him — Rimes was photographed in a swimsuit looking especially thin, fueling speculation that she has an eating disorder. She takes offence at the suggestion, saying she doesn’t understand certain tabloids’ obsession with her weight and she tries not to pay attention to them.

People can often forget that celebrities are human, she said. Her frustration goes beyond being protective of her own privacy.

“I know my body and I know what I eat. I don’t care what somebody says about me in the press. I just try to live my life,” she said, denying she has an eating disorder. “I get offended for people who are actually going through those issues. I can’t imagine any girl who’s suffering with anorexia or bulimia to want to talk about it, because (tabloids) make it seem like a joke.”

Rimes is set to release “Lady and Gentlemen,” her 13th studio album, next week, breathing life into country classics originally performed by men. The idea for the record was her own, stemming from a conversation she had with a friend about doing covers of some of her favourite country love songs, and realizing most of those songs were performed by men. She covers tunes by country greats like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and George Jones on the record, arranged by herself, the lyrics changed only when absolutely needed. Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” has become “Only Mama That’ll Walk the Line,” but “Good Hearted Woman” has stayed the same.

“If I can make the song sound believable in any gender, then I thought it doesn’t need to be changed,” she said. “For some songs I really wanted to stick to the original, and I put my own spin on others. It was so fun to mix things up and play around, and it was a really fun creative process for me to strip some things down.

“I was always aware that people might go, ‘Oh my God, what has she done to that song?’ I think people who grew up listening to these songs like I did will be reminded of the past, but they’ll appreciate the freshness of them, too.”

A cover of the 1983 John Anderson tune “Swingin’” was the first single from the record, earning her a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. It’s been one of her favourite songs since she was a baby.

“My mom said I used to rock out to it when I was really little,” she said. “John Anderson has heard it and it was so cool to have him say he loved that version.”

“Lady and Gentlemen” also features two new original songs — including “Give,” her current radio single — and a remake of “Blue,” which she said was a natural fit for a cover album, since she’s been performing it for years.

“That was actually Vince’s idea,” she explained. Country star Vince Gill was the executive producer of the record. “I love it — it’s my favourite version of the song. When I was younger, I guess I was a great actress and could make you believe I knew what I was singing about. To record it again as an adult is surreal. I definitely feel I’ve lived some of these songs, and I have a different interpretation of them now than when I was younger. I feel like this is taking country music to a new generation of fans.”

There are still some tickets left for Rimes’ show at Mile One. They’re $75 and $85, including tax, plus surcharge, and can be bought at the Mile One Centre box office, by phoning 576-7657 or online at www.admission.com.




Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Country Music.Growing

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