Country Music News (Canada)
Shania Twain is currently a ‘hot’ property in country music – not just on the Canadian scene but in Nashville and across North America. What seems to be a ‘fairy tale’ beginning has included a major label record deal with Mercury/ Polygram Records in Nashville, including the label’s unique “Triple Play” marketing introduction; a hit record with her debut single, a splendid debut album, a video to support the initial release…and now, Hollywood movie star Sean Penn ready to direct her next video. What more can you ask for !
While there has been a “dreams-do-come-through” atmosphere surrounding Shania Twain’s career breakthrough, there indeed have been some brutal moments along the way – none worse than having her parents killed in an auto accident leaving Shania to care for two brothers and two sisters.
Shania (pronounced: “Shaw-Ny-A”) Twain was raised in Timmins, Ontario, although actually born in Windsor (August 28th) while her folks were visiting with friends there. From the time Shania could walk – she was singing !
“Mom was the one who wanted me to be a singer – a country singer”, says Shania. “She got me singing at home and by the time I was 10 years old I was performing to audiences with my uncles and dad’s cousin supporting me in a family band. I played guitar back then too”.
Shania’s folks (Sharon and Jerry Twain) spent much of their time driving Shania all over Northern Ontario, and to far-off Toronto for formal singing lessons, shows and talent contests.
TEENAGE GUEST ON CANADIAN TV SHOWS
“You know, it’s funny”, laughs Shania, “but I never won a talent contest in Ontario. Mom was so discouraged. She couldn’t understand why her little girl never was able to win a contest. She always came away disappointed. Then, when I was still in my early teens. Mom took me out to British Columbia to enter me into a contest there. I won in three separate categories of the contest. It was wonderful…and it sure made Mom happy!”
By the late 70’s – early 80’s, Shania was close to being a “teenage country sensation”, and still through her mother’e efforts, was able to land guest appearance spots on several of Canada’s top country TV shows of the time. As “Eileen Twain” (her given name – Shania is an Ojibway Indian name tagged on her by her dad) she guested twice on The Tommy Hunter Show and also played Opry North and The Mercey Brothers Show.
“Oh, I remember those Tommy Hunter shows. He was such a tall man and he stood over me like a big tree. He was such a nice and friendly man – he kept telling me there was nothing to be nervous about being in front of the TV cameras. I remember appearing on his shows when Ronnie Milsap was the headliner one time, and Glen Campbell headlined another show I taped. I can remember singing Walk On By. Boy, would I ever like to see tapes of those shows again !”
Shania then began touring Eastern Canada with several different bands. But she was not singing country music. She sang Pop, and Rock – and that did not sit too well with Mom.
MARY BAILEY PLAYS KEY ROLE IN NASHVILLE DEAL
Shania’s mother had met singer Mary Bailey during one of the Opry North tapings, and they became close friends. Mary Bailey at the time was a popular country recording artist with several hit singles to her credit, most notably the hit, Mystery Lady – a name which she herself became tagged with. Shania’s mom called Mary Bailey to express her concern about Shania’s move away from her country roots and coaxed Shania back to country music by telling her she needed some professional management and that her friend Mary Bailey was ready to take on that task.
HIGHWAY DISASTER STUNS FAMILY
Then, disaster struck ! Shania’s parents were killed in a head-on auto collision with a fully-loaded logging transport on a highway near Wawa, Ontario, in the fall of 1987.
“We worked the forests”, says Shania. “Planting trees in reforestation projects, from spring to fall of each year. We did it for years as a family unit – then when the cold weather came, I’d go back to singing. It was one of their last trips of the year that the accident happened – on a Sunday, not long after Sunday trucking was re-introduced on Ontario highways. It shouldn’t have happened. My brothers and sisters and I took it very hard. We lost a big piece of our world”.
Shania took on the responsibility to keep the family together.
“After guesting several times at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario (a Canadian version of a Las Vegas style ballroom), I was invited to perform there as a regular. I saw it as an opportunity to provide for my brothers and sisters and still maintain my music career. I took my two younger brothers and a younger sister to Huntsville where I set ourselves up in a home and got everybody feeling good about themselves again. It was tough times but we survived !”
Once established in Huntsville, with the ordeal of losing her parents now behind her, Shania began to concentrate on her music again.
“I felt like 45 years old at 25. I had to focus my energies on my music career if there was ever going to be one. I called Mary Bailey and told her I was ready to give it my everything, could she please see what might be available for me”.
Mary Bailey had Nashville friends and connections. She set the wheels in motion by having Richard Frank, a Nashville attorney, take time out of a busy schedule to journey up to Huntsville and catch a performance by Shania at the Deerhusrt Resort.
He was impressed !
“It became a chain reaction after that”, says Shania. “The ball went from Mr. Frank to Norro Wilson who produced a demo session on me; to Buddy Cannon and then to Harold Shedd at Mercury Records, who signed me to the label.”
SHANIA A PART OF MERCURY’S ‘TRIPLE PLAY’ PROMOTION
Mercury/Polygram Records launched Shania’s recording career in Nashville through the label’s unique “Triple Play” Sampler CD promotion package with fellow newcomers John Brannen and Toby Keith (who has hit nationwide with his Should’ve Been A Cowboy single). Innovative promotion techniques of this kind were not new for Mercury – the previous year the label created record breaking business history by ‘breaking’ Billy Ray Cyrus with his Achy Breaky Heart video before there was even a record release. Billy Ray Cyrus, as we all know, quickly became the top-selling act in the business.
On April 20th (1993) Shania Twain’s self-titled debut album was released across North America – a 10-song masterpiece which has already attracted interest thanks to the success of the first single, What Made You Say That, and a flashy video (filmed in Miami Beach) in support of the single.
SEAN PENN TO DIRECT NEW VIDEO
Shania’s talents are not being missed. Soon after the video on What Made You Say That hit the screens, a call came in from Hollywood. It was actor Sean Penn. He was so taken with Shania’s work, he expressed an interest in directing her next video, which will support the release of Dance With The One That Brought You, the second single from the album.
Will this mean the beginning of an acting career for Shania? “It’s been mentioned”, is all that Shania says.
While in Nashville recording her album at Music Mill Studios, Shania was also asked to lend her vocal talents to the new Haunted Heart album by Mercury hitmaker Sammy Kershaw. Shania sings background vocals on the songs Still Lovin’ You and What Might Have Been, both tagged for eventual single release from Kershaw’s top-selling album. Previously she sang background vocals on the title track of the Jeff Chance album, Walk Softly On The Bridges.
“I feel so lucky” admits Shania. “After going through such sadness when we lost mom and dad, It seems like God has been watching over me every step of the way. He took something precious away…now He’s giving me something special. I guess it’s all part of the overall plan he has for us.”
SHANIA SET FOR FAN FAIR WEEK ‘93 IN NASHVILLE [yeah the big meeting!!! ]
Now that the album has been released, the hard work really begins for Shania.
The first weeks of May she’ll be traveling to major centers in Canada on a radio/TV promotion tour.. Then comes a couple of weeks of similar introductory promotion events across the U.S. In early June Shania will be at Fan Fair Week in Nashville, showcasing for Mercury Records and appearing at their booth and hospitality events. Then its on to a command performance before some 8,000 U.S. troops in Little Rock, Arkansas. They asked for Shania exclusively as their ‘entertainment’ for the event. Then the video shoot with Sean Penn.
“Whew !! …says Shania.
Any regrets? “Only that Music City USA (Nashville) is not somewhere in Northern Ontario. I get lonely for family and friends in Timmins and Huntsville; and I miss the bush and not being able to jump in my truck and get lost in the woods. But I love it here, and I know that if I want to ‘make it’ in country music, I have to do it from Nashville. Most singers in Canada would give an arm and a leg for what I’ve got going…so I guess I’d better not complain about being lonely!!” (She wouldn't be lonely for long)
“The only thing that would make all of this sweeter is if mom and dad
were still by my side. But I know they’re watching from up there, so I
guess they know all about it !!”
Shania in Video
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