Little Texas Girl with a Big Texas Voice

March 1, 2006 by  
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What were you doing when you were 2 years old?

How ’bout at age 11? LeAnn Rimes, the little girl from Garland, Texas, was singing at 2 and released an album at 11 – so much for the child labor laws.

What do people do when they think they have a child prodigy? Her father, a part-time guitar player, recognized the potential in his little girl, and by the time she was 5, LeAnn had won a talent contest. Her parents sold her copies of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Dallas Cowboys games and at the National Cutting Horse Championships in Fort Worth. By the time LeAnn was 11, her dad had produced her first record, “All That.” Only a couple of months later, she was signed by a major label.

LeAnn was off and running, or off and singing, rather. Her first album included a duet with country legend Eddie Arnold, singing his famous, “Cattle Call.” But it was her recording of the old-time favorite “Blue” that put LeAnn at the top of the country charts for an unprecedented 22 weeks – with 3 million-plus copies sold. At 13, LeAnn became a superstar, a household name and the youngest nominee at the Country Music Association Awards. In 1997, she won the Horizon Award, a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Singer and Best Country Song for “Blue.” That same year, she won six more honors at the Billboard Awards, including Artist of the Year.

LeAnn released two albums in 1997, “Unchained Melody: The Early Years” and “You Light up my Life: Inspirational Songs,” followed by “Sittin’ on Top of the World” in 1998. Next came her self-titled album, “LeAnn Rimes;” and “I Need You” was released in 2001.

At age 20, she changed her image somewhat with the sexy, pop-oriented “Twisted Angel.” She returned to her contemporary country roots with her new album, “This Woman,” which produced the top 5 hit song “Nothin’ But Love Makes Sense” and “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” that debuted at No. 9. The album has already been certified gold, and LeAnn describes it as “the best one I’ve ever made!”

Never has she been so busy. Actually, as they say in the biz, “LeAnn is on fire.” At the moment of this interview, she is smack in the middle of recording a new album and working on two videos, two versions of her new single, “Something’s Gotta Give” from the album “This Woman.” The first version is true to her country roots; the second is for release worldwide, where she has a huge fan base as a rock artist. “It’s too hard to say which I enjoy most,” she admits. “It’s like I have the best of both worlds.” Maybe when you have that much talent, it’s almost too hard to contain it in one genre.

She’s grown up since she stole our hearts 11 years ago, and she feels her music reflects that. “I used to get offended when I was a kid and people told me I’d interpret music differently when I’d gotten my heart broken or fallen in love,” she admits. “Well, I completely get that now. Bottom line is that “This Woman” is exactly who I am right now.”

“I met my amazing husband, Dean Sheremet, when he was working on the Country Music Awards,” she divulges. “He’s a professional ballet dancer and a writer. We’ve been married four years now and have only been separated for three nights. He’s really my rock – like my other hand.”

A big change for LeAnn has been her move from Los Angeles to Nashville three years ago. “I’ve always loved Nashville,” she says. “It provides us a quiet, secure, peaceful home base. And, my dad has lived here for about eight years, and my mom just moved here with my stepfather. It’s a great place to work and to be able to get all my priorities in balance.”

If you hadn’t tuned in to a country channel in a while, you were surprised with the rest of the world at the beautifully composed woman that sang in the half-time program of the Rose Bowl. LeAnn looks nothing like she did at her illustrious start – she’s all grown up.

“Yes, my look has changed because I’ve grown into a woman,” she comments. “Remember, I’ve been in the public eye for 11 years, so what you’ve seen is a young girl grow into a grown up. I feel a confidence now that I’ve never had in all these intense years.”

And she should. She expels a happy and healthy radiance that speaks of her core. “Health wise, I really try to stay on a healthy diet plan most of the time, like eating a lot of fish, chicken and whole grains,” she says. “I cheat and have sweets some time, but for the most part, I’m pretty good. You know, none of those crash diets work. I think if somebody wants to eat healthy or lose weight, they’ve got to adopt a plan for the rest of their life. It’s so wonderful to have Dean to exercise with. We go to the gym, lift weights, do yoga. Having him with me makes everything so much fun.”

With so much going on in her career, it’s a wonder that LeAnn has any time to herself. She assures that she does take time to relax. “I love to see my friends,” she says. “We have seven dogs, so I love to play with the dogs, maybe go to a spa, get a massage. Some days, I just like to turn off the phone and do nothing.” It’s never easy for an musician to discuss his/her favorite artist, but LeAnn, always gracious, is sincere when she says, “Because I love to sing so many different types of music, of course, I enjoy many different artists. But, I will narrow this field and say Barbara Striesand because of her incredible voice control. I admire her talent so much. Also, the first person I ever listened to was Prince, and I admire his writing ability and his performing ability, as well. Then, I would say Janice Joplin because I love the angst and passion in her voice. I love her soul and how free she was onstage. She has inspired me to sink deep into my voice and use every bit of it.” Though LeAnn is regularly compared to Patsy Cline, this musician is one-of-a-kind, a certified original. “I’ve always been honored when someone compares my singing style to Patsy’s,” she says.

Though she admires an eclectic mix of musical masters, her confidence shines through when she reveals that her favorite songs are her own. “There are a couple that come to mind instantly, two songs from my new album, “This Woman,” “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” – and “Some People,” which I did in one take and by the end of it, I was crying,” she divulges. “It’s very touching, and the words really mean something to me.” Beyond her legions of fans, LeAnn has become the musical champion for many who aspire to her success. What does it take to reach these heights? “Well, I always say that it takes practice and dedication,” she says. “You’ve got to do something every day. Of course, you have to have the talent, but it’s more than talent. This is a tough, tough business. I’m driven in my soul. It all goes back to practice and dedication. And, you’ve got to try to enjoy what you’re doing. Life’s too short not to love and enjoy what you’re doing.”

LeAnn continues in her role as the voice of the Children’s Miracle Network and as a spokesperson for the Treat Eczema Now campaign. With her life and career pulling her every which way, she stays grounded and continues to stay positive. “Recently, I read a book, “The Art of Happiness,” which features psychiatrist Dr. Howard Cutler talking to the Dali Lama,” she says. “What I think I learned, or am trying to learn, is to have compassion for everyone. In this business, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in yourself, and it gets a little sticky sometimes to stay balanced. What this book has taught me is to see the situation; take it out and look at it; and have compassion for all. This book has changed my life!”

What does she think of when she’s in bed at night, everything’s quiet, and she looks back over the spectacular success she’s had in her short 22 years? She responds quickly, “Blessed. I feel totally blessed. I’ve worked my butt off, stayed focused and feel totally blessed!”

She’s “thrilled” to be performing at the Houston Livestock Show &Rodeo this month. “I’ve performed at the rodeo four times and always look forward to it. The Houston fans are not just country music fans, they enjoy so many genres. I fall in there doing all my stuff. I love coming to Houston. I love Houston fans. I’ll see you on March 16!”

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