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LeAnn Rimes: Living the 'Family' Way
By Deborah Evans Price

© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
Every artist has an album they view as a landmark, representing a major progression that will change public perception and even take their career to a new level. LeAnn Rimes sees her new Curb Records release, Family , as that album.

"It's exciting for me because I do feel I've become this artist and not just this voice," said Rimes, who, for the first time, co-wrote every track. "I think that people have known me for my voice, and I accept that and I appreciate that. But there's this whole other side of me that's always been there."

She's not alone in this opinion. Curb Records Chairman Mike Curb insisted, "This album shows LeAnn's evolution as a songwriter as well as an artist, but it also show's LeAnn's ability to relate to her family and her life in a very mature way. This is even more amazing when you consider that when we first signed LeAnn as a teenager she already had the ability to sing and interpret as an adult, but now she is doing it from the perspective of a woman sharing her own experiences in a very direct manner."

Though she's been writing songs for a long time, Rimes said that she never felt as confident in her songwriting as she did her singing. That changed with this album.

"I've been listening to Bright Eyes and a lot of Bob Dylan," she said. "And I listened to Tracy Chapman's last record [WhereYou Live]. Those records have kind of a rootsy sound and very honest writing. I thought, 'I can do that and I want to do it.' We set out to write commercial choruses that were hooky with verses that said something and were honest."

Rimes wanted these songs to express her feelings and yet speak universally enough that others would see themselves in their lyrics. "I wanted to write songs that said something about me and about my ideas and views," said Rimes, who turned 25 on Aug. 28. "And I wanted to write so people would be able to find themselves in the songs and hear their stories, so it's part me and part them.

"I think that's why I wanted to call the record Family," she continued, "because I feel they've grown up with me, I've grown up with them and this whole world kind of became my family in a way. Everybody has known about every part of my life, including all the trials and tribulations I've gone through personally with my family. I felt like it was time to share those deep, honest thoughts with everyone."

Few artists in any genre have grown up as much in the public eye as Rimes. The Jackson, Miss., native won her first talent contest at age 5. Her family moved from Mississippi to Texas when she was 6, and there the young artist's career flourished. She sang the national anthem at Dallas Cowboys games and became a regular on "Johnnie High's Country Music Revue," held weekly at the time in Fort Worth. At age 7, she cut her first album. By the time she was 11, she'd recorded her sophomore album at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, N.M.

Her career hit high gear with the song "Blue," which inspired Mike Curb to sign the young artist to a record deal. "Blue" became a monster hit, and at age 14, Rimes became the youngest artist to win a Grammy - two of them, actually, as Best New Artist and for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She also picked up the CMA Horizon Award in 1997.

Since then, Rimes has sold more than 37 million albums and scored numerous hit singles, among them "One Way Ticket," "I Need You," "Nothin' 'bout Love Makes Sense," "Probably Wouldn't Be This Way" and "How Do I Live," which spent a record-setting 69 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.

In addition to achieving both pop and Country success in the United States, Rimes became a successful pop act in Europe, where she released Whatever We Wanna, for which she developed another side of her creativity by co-writing 10 out of 15 tracks.

"We weren't finding songs that fit me," she recalled. "One of the record people asked if I would be willing to write, and I said, 'Yes, I can write.'"

Rimes conceded that people are sometimes skeptical of artists who turn to songwriting. "People look at an artist and think, 'Well, how much do they really lend to this record?'" she said. "We get a bad rap because a lot of artists do just walk into a room and sit there. I think a lot of songwriters, when I first started writing, expected that to happen and were shocked by the fact that I really can write. I did have my own ideas and opinions and was in there to collaborate. It was scary at first, but I felt like I had a lot to say. I just don't want to write for myself. I want to establish myself as a great songwriter and have others recording my songs."

In fact, Rimes observed, Faith Hill and Jamie O'Neal have been considering some of her compositions for upcoming projects. "It's such a weird thing because I'm usually on the other side as an artist and not the songwriter," said Rimes, who added that she now has a different take on artists placing songs on hold for a long period of time: "I'm never going to do that to a writer again."

Despite these developments, Rimes doesn't plan to abandon Music Row's writing community. She actually did listen to songs submitted for Family before deciding to concentrate exclusively on her own work.

"It wasn't that they weren't good songs," she explained. "It was just they weren't telling my story. I love listening to songs - and who's to say? On the next album, I may only write half of it. I'm never, ever going to turn down a good song, that's for sure."

Produced by Dann Huff and released on Oct. 9, Family covers a lot of territory, from the lighthearted first single "Nothin' Better to Do" to the poignant "What I Cannot Change." There are three duets in the mix as well, with Louisiana singer/songwriter Marc Broussard on "Nothing Wrong" as well as "When You Love Someone Like That," a duet with Reba McEntire which also appears on McEntire's recently-released Reba Duets album, and a steamy performance with Jon Bon Jovi on "Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore," also found on Bon Jovi's new album Lost Highway.

Veteran rocker Jon Bon Jovi was impressed with the vocal firepower Rimes brought to their encounter. "I wanted somebody with a strong voice who could pull it off dramatically because I knew it was a dramatic lyric," he said. "I didn't want a young girl that couldn't provide the sexuality in the lyric. She has a seasoned voice. She may be a young woman, but she's been around for a long time and she knows how to translate a lyric."

For an artist who attained success so early in life, Rimes has remained remarkably grounded. In contrast to young celebrities who generate tabloid headlines for their erratic behavior, she has been married happily for five years to Dean Sheremet. The two of them wrote together for Family, an experience that is trying for some writing partners but felt perfectly natural in this case.

"Writing is a very intimate experience," Rimes said, "so I have to be comfortable enough with my co-writers to let down my walls. When writing with Dean, there is an immense sense of security and familiarity. We complement each other very well, each picking up where the other leaves off. We're constantly pushing the other further. It's nice to have a relationship of complete honesty."

There's another secret to the stability of their marriage: her stubbornness. "I knew people were just waiting for me to self-destruct because that's what happens," Rimes said. "And I have that competitive edge to me that I wanted to prove people wrong. Fame and fortune really do strip a lot of things away from you for a little while. It did me. There's a sense of reality that's completely stripped from you, and I've clawed my way back from that. I wanted to get that back. I think it's because I wanted it so badly, I have a good balance now. It's nice to be able to look back and know that I've accomplished so much and be thankful for it, but I know there's so much more left to accomplish. I feel like I'm just beginning with this record."

On the Web: leannrimesworld.com
LeAnn Rimes: Comfortable in Her Own Skin, the Little Girl with a Big Voice is All Grown Up
By Bobby Reed
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

As LeAnn Rimes puts it, she is no longer "that kid with a big voice."
Similar to former child stars Brenda Lee and Tanya Tucker, Rimes has successfully made the transition from gifted prodigy to mature artist.
When Curb Records released Rimes' new album, This Woman, in late January, fans snatched up 101,000 copies in the first week. The disc debuted at No. 3 on The Billboard 200 chart and at No. 2 on the trade magazine's Top Country Albums chart.

The lead single, "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense," is one of the early hits of 2005, and has propelled the 22-year-old Rimes back into the Country Music spotlight. The infectious tune was written by Gary Burr, Joel Feeney and Kylie Sackley.

"That song was brought to me by Dann Huff, my producer," Rimes said during a recent visit to Chicago. "I adore Dann and I would not work with anyone else. I've found my soulmate as far as producers go. I thought 'Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense' was a great way for me to re-introduce myself as someone who is lighthearted. There's a side to me that people haven't seen because the focus has always been on my ballads. This album is uplifting and lighthearted, and it reflects where I am in my life and who I am right now."

In 1996, the title track to Rimes' debut album, Blue, made her a household name when she was 13-years-old. As fate would have it, Huff was one of the guitarists who played on the album. Huff, who has also produced material for Faith Hill, Lonestar and Keith Urban, has vivid memories of the Blue recording dates.

"I met LeAnn on the session for 'One Way Ticket (Because I Can),'" he recalled. "She sang the song in one take. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my recording career. We were all awestruck that a 13-year-old girl could sing like that. She's remained an amazing singer all these years, but now she's become an artist as well."

Rimes co-wrote three of the tracks on the new album and she'll have even more writing credits on her next project.

"I write a lot for my voice and whatever I don't record, I start pitching to other people," Rimes said. "Dann and I are working on an album for the European market. It will have about half of the tracks on This Woman remixed, and the other half will be completely new songs. I've written several songs for that project, which will be more of a rock album. I enjoy seeing where my writing fits because I write all different kinds of stuff, from Country to pop to rock to inspirational songs."

One of the most energetic cuts on This Woman is "I Got It Bad," which was composed by Rimes and her husband, Dean Sheremet, along with songwriter Trey Bruce.

"NASCAR approached LeAnn to do a song for their promo spots," Sheremet explained. "They were doing a campaign with the slogan 'How Bad Have You Got It?' So we wrote an answer to it. 'I Got It Bad.' It's a Southern rock, uptempo song for NASCAR."

Rimes and Sheremet are currently collaborating on the third instalment in a series of children's books that feature a young jaguar named Jag. Published by Dutton Childrens Books, Jag and Jag's New Friend are illustrated tales aimed at readers between the ages of four and eight.

"LeAnn has so many little fans who hear her sing, but they don't exactly know what she's talking about," Sheremet observed. "We wanted to give something to them on their level, that they can relate to. We actually have ideas for up to five books. We're also working on an animated TV series with the character Jag, so it's gone way beyond our wildest dreams."

In addition to being a CMA Award and GRAMMY award-winning singer and a successful author, Rimes is tackling a new challenge as the host of the USA Network's television series "Nashville Star," which kicked off its third season on March 1.

"We're adding a lot of drama to the show this year and get into the contestants' heads a little bit," Rimes said. "We've got great judges in Anastasia Brown, Bret Michaels and Phil Vassar. We've got a lot of people on the show who are definitely going to speak their minds."

Rimes has also taken on a new role as the spokesperson for an educational initiative called Treat Eczema Now. Eczema is an itchy, red rash that can appear all over the body. An estimated 35 million people have eczema.

"I was diagnosed with eczema when I was 2-years-old," she said. "When I was young, it was extremely tough to deal with, but as I got older, it got a little bit easier. I really wanted to let people know that it's okay to live with this. There's a wonderful Web site, TreatEczemaNow.com, where people can find information about treatment options. It's been great to be able to talk about it and help a lot of people."

Rimes, who grew up in the Dallas area and later lived in Los Angeles for five years, has now relocated to Nashville.

"Dean and I wanted to be someplace quiet where we could work, but get away from it all at the same time, and Nashville's perfect," she said. "Five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to live in Nashville and be a kid. There wasn't enough for me to do and I didn't really want to be around the business that much. Living in L.A. was a blast, and I found myself, but I love it in Nashville now. It's a nice place to settle down."

Now that she's a Nashville resident, Rimes won't have to travel far to participate in this year's CMA Music Festival. She is scheduled to perform in concert at the Festival on June 11.

Rimes' career has taken a few twists and turns, but today she is reaping the benefits from all her past experiences and lessons.

"My voice has matured beyond belief and I've learned how to take care of it," she noted. "I've also learned a lot as an entertainer and now I'm able to talk to the audience like they're friends. I've learned a lot about writing and putting my heart and soul into things. When you listen to this album, you take a piece of me away more so than ever. And I think from this moment on, my albums will be more autobiographical and show where I am in my life. I have a confidence now that I've never had before."

On the Web: www.rimestimes.com
Photographer: Frank Ockenfells III
Photography courtesy of Curb Records

Click here Photos at Country Thunder USA

TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT: The Double Bill of the Year!  LeAnn Rimes with Keith Urban

 TICKETS ON SALE: Monday July 28 2003

She’s the “little girl with the big voice” who’s grown into a blonde bombshell with pop/dance panache and album sales running into the millions; he’s the Aussie whose red-hot guitar, husky vocals and good looks have made him a mega-star in the US – and together, they’re an unbeatable combination!
Promoters Michael Chugg [Michael Chugg Entertainment in assoc. with Jack Utsick] and Rob Potts [Allied Artists] agreed today that they could still hardly believe their luck as they announced that LeAnn Rimes will tour Australia in October, with Keith Urban as her special guest co-star.
“This is a double-bill that US audiences would kill for,” Chugg enthused.
“We’re incredibly fortunate that these two artists’ schedules have allowed us to bring them out to Australia – or in Keith’s case, ‘back’ to Australia – together on one tour,” Potts added.
Chugg continued, “Both acts have followed a ‘Nashville meets MTV’ trajectory – initially labelled as ‘country’ artists, but now embraced by fans of mainstream pop and rock.”
LeAnn Rimes has only ever toured Australia once before, in 1997, as a 13-year-old who’d just busted the record books worldwide with her album Blue. The last few years have seen her move away from the country scene towards a chart-topping mix of heartfelt up-tempo balladry and contemporary pop / dance, with her latest album Twisted Angel already yielding several hit singles, including Life Goes On.

“LeAnn has a lot of fans who’ve never had the chance to see her live before…and they won’t be disappointed,” said an animated Chugg, who’s just caught a couple of Rimes’ warm-up gigs in the US as she prepares to embark on her massive Twisted Angel tour.

“Her voice is powerful enough to melt steel, and she’s got an amazing stage presence.    Couple that with the fact that local-boy-made-good Keith Urban will be performing as well, and you’ve got a show people will talk about for years to come,” said Australia’s stalwart country music promoter, Rob Potts.

Australia’s Keith Urban is one of the biggest stars in the US music scene today, with record sales approaching two million copies, a stack of awards and number one singles under his belt and a well-deserved reputation for putting on a stand-up-and-scream-for-more live show.

Ironically, he’s a little less famous here in Australia, but that’s rapidly changing as his country-rock blend catches on. In 2001 he was presented the prestigious ARIA Award for Outstanding Achievement, recognising his phenomenal US success and his latest album Golden Road is ‘Gold’ and well on its way to platinum. The album’s hit single Somebody Like You was also the lead track from the box office smash How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.

“What many people don’t realise about Keith is that as well as being an
awesome singer, he’s an exceptional hotshot guitarist,” commented Michael Chugg.
“He started when he was five years old, and it shows – he can outplay the best in the business!  Plus he’s a master in working the crowd.”

Australian audiences are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience when these two amazing performers at the top of their respective crafts hit the stage. Musical sparks are sure to fly!

Print out and have the memories