Though LeAnn Rimes has dealt with her share of tabloid controversy, speaking with her on the phone revealed a calm and cool character. Though the papers sprinkle words like "affair" and "rehab" generously next to her name, Rimes just seems like a family friend you've known your whole life -- Rimes is normal but not ordinary.
With her newest album, Spitfire, it seems as if the successful country star is letting it all out for the first time since she started working at the age of 11. In a bold move, her and hubby Eddie Cibrian's VH1 series, LeAnn & Eddie, will premiere on July 17, broadcasting even more of Rimes' personal life.
To get the lowdown on LeAnn, we spoke with her about her two stepsons, her reputation, and, of course, her heartbreaker anthem "How Do I Live."
New Times: You have won two Grammy Awards, three Academy of Country Music Awards, and 12 Billboard Awards. Where do you go from here?
LeAnn Rimes: [laughs] My stepson said, "You know, you have 20 awards. You should get 21." So that's the goal. [laughs] But it's not about that for me. I try to always look forward, not back. Until recently, I had all the awards in my closet. They are now in my living room. It's more about the music to me; the fact that people are still interested 20 years later is huge.
So you mentioned that you are looking for a new record deal. Why is that?
Well, my record deal contract is currently up, so I'm in the process of signing with someone else. It's nice to have a new set of eyes for me now from when I was 11. It's fresh ears, fresh eyes, fresh perspective on things. It creates a whole new world.
You were young when you started in the music industry. How do you think that affected your childhood and how you grew up?
You try so hard to invent yourself as a kid and think you don't miss out on things, but you kind of do. My oldest stepson, Mason, is 11, but I can't even imagine him signing a record deal now -- that would be weird. But by hanging out with my stepsons, I get a chance to be a kid again. It's crazy, but I feel like I get a chance to play at age 31, like jumping on a trampoline.
What other activities do you guys do together besides jumping on trampolines?
Oh, that's probably my favorite. It's a workout. I get more out of it then they do. [laughs]
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You said Mason is the oldest and he is 11, so the other one has to be fairly young. How old are your stepsons, and if they wanted, would you ever let them pursue a career in the music industry at a young age?
Yeah, Mason is 11, and Jack is 7. Developing talent is superimportant, but I would never push them into the business side of things. It's important to let them do what they love, but to have them embedded in it... I've learned my lesson there. [laughs] Jake will play guitar and sing, and it's out of tune, but he doesn't care. Mason will also play guitar and make up songs. They jam out on the side of the stage with their headphones on.
Aww. So they like coming out to your shows?
They love coming out on the road during the summer. They think the bus is a jungle gym.
Do you think your music has influenced their taste?
I hope so! Sometimes they listen to something and I'm like, OK, we need to listen to something more serious here. [laughs] They love Adele, which is awesome. I'm like, "Aww." I play them a demo and you can see what they like.
Do the demos they like determine what makes the cut for the final album?
Sometimes. Kids think so concrete, different than adults, so if they like a song, you did pretty well. They sang "She's My Cherry Pie," and I'm like, "We need to branch out and find a new song."
Yeah, not sure how people would feel about kids so young singing that!
Yeah, sometimes I hear something and I say, "Uh, um, turn that off." [laughs]
Spitfire is rumored to be your most personal album. Is there a particular song on there that really hits home for you?
Writing "Borrowed" was being able to approach something so personal. I went through years of people writing the wrong stories and intentions for me. I was able to look at myself in the mirror and approach the subject. It was freeing.
I wasn't intentionally going to write such a personal album. It changed my approach that I'm not afraid to say what other people are saying or how you feel. It creates a deeper connection with listeners who hold back from what they think. Saying what other people can't say for themselves -- that's what music should be all about. It's a gift that should be shared. My favorite artists are people who are not afraid to say how they feel, like Janis Joplin. That's what sets a good performer and a great performer apart: A great performer helps people feel and express something they can't.
You've been in the tabloids for the past couple of years. How does this work as a growing experience for you, and do you think this changed you?
Yeah, absolutely, in both life and music. In the past, "music LeAnn" and "life LeAnn" were split. They are now more cohesive and one thought. It's helped me approach things more differently in life. No matter what the risk is, it's one person.
Your song "How Do I Live" is still recognizable and famous to this day even though it came out years ago. How does that feel?
I never really sit and think about it. I've had every story surrounding that song... Funerals, for example. All the songs that affected me, I don't consider myself to have that effect on people. I'm realizing I have that influence as an artist. It's a great feeling and also a heavy responsibility in a way. It's overwhelming, hard to wrap your head around. You always will have that connection with those people. They have a connections with that song and your voice.
What specific stories do you remember from that song?
It's used in lots of funerals and weddings. They remember where they heard that song and decided to use it. Patsy Cline's husband, Charlie, pulled over on the side of the road when he first heard it; it was that eerie. My mom remembers when she heard it.
LeAnn Rimes, 8 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at Mardi Gras Casino, 831 N. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach. Visit mardigrascasinofl.com.
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