A fixture on the country-pop music scene since the ’90s, the two-time Grammy Award winner, LeAnn Rimes, now 30, is in the midst of an exciting year. In April, she’s releasing Spitfire to much anticipation—it’s her first album in five years with all new songs. This is the crooner who gave us the infectious “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” the title song for the movie Coyote Ugly that went No. 1 in 11 countries. Her path to fame traces back to her preteen years as a contestant on Star Search, and she became a household name after grabbing the Best New Artist nod at the Grammys at the tender age of 14. She came to Naples this season to headline a fundraising concert we crowned “The Party of the Year,” and she got personal with NI about the song-writing process, her private life, and what she sees as a third coming of age in show business.
|LeAnn Rimes rocked at Naples' Party of the Year. Minutes after she took the stage, the whole crowd started dancing and didn't stop until the night ended.|
NI: Today you went to the Naples Equestrian Challenge, one of the nonprofits that benefits from the money raised at the concert tonight. Can you tell us about that?
It was fantastic. It was great to go and meet the kids. I loved them. It was very intimate, and they were so sweet! It gives me another outlook and view on what I am doing here.
How were you approached to come down?
The organizers booked the show through my agent, but I think it has kind of become way more than that. We do a lot of private shows, but I never really get to go and see where the money is actually going first-hand.
I’m told you’re Bob Clifford’s favorite—he’s one of the night’s co-hosts. Have you met him yet?
Yeah. During my time here I have gotten to know a few of the trustees [of the Naples Children & Education Foundation], and it seems like they are really into my music. I love the fact that there are real fans here, and they are excited to see me perform.
The Naples Children & Education Foundation is the umbrella organization that will receive the funds raised today and distribute them to local charities. Can you share your own views on philanthropy?
My mom and dad taught me to give back at a very young age. We had nothing when I was growing up, but obviously everything changed. It was something, though, that my mom and dad instilled in me even before all of that. I have stepchildren, and it’s an example I want to set for them, too. I enjoy doing it. It’s honestly out of the goodness of my heart. I think I get more joy out of that than I do anything else. I have been working a lot with an organization called Wish Upon A Hero. I love being able to grant wishes—I feel like a fairy! It’s awesome. We have granted a ton of wishes. Yesterday I visited a little girl at Disney World. She is five, and she has a malignant brain tumor. She was just in hospice, and her last wish was to go back to Disney World because they are from Orlando, but her dad is now stationed in Texas. So someone actually put up the money and granted the wish, and I said since I am in town, I will go visit her. I went and colored with her for a little while, it was really fun. Overall, my involvement with the group is really fun because we touch a lot of different issues and people.
How did you pick the songs you’ll perform tonight?
I am playing a lot of stuff off the new record. But I am also obviously doing hits that the crowd will know. I do love to debut a lot of the new stuff because I am so proud of it.
And what’s new?
I have a single called “What Have I Done” that came out November 20. My album will be out in April, and it’s called Spitfire. I am excited to finally have new music. It’s been five years since my last album full of original music, so it will be fun.
Can you tell me what inspired you when composing the songs for Spitfire?
My life. My friends. My poor friends—I feel so bad for them. [laughs] But no, the record was really about the last four years of my life. I kind of feel like I have had a piece of tape over my mouth for a bit. So I think the best way for everything to come out was through my music. I have realized that this is the most personal album yet. And it was very cathartic to do it. You really realize that you aren’t the only person that goes through all of these situations, and there is truly a lot of humanity in the album. All at my own expense. Which is fine!
In addition to the singing, you have written children’s books. Can you tell me a little bit about what motivated that?
Well, what motivated that was actually my ex-husband. We were talking about having kids a long time ago, and we thought how cool it would be to actually have a book that we had written. So he was part of writing that with me. It just kind of came out of that. And plus you now know how much I am dedicated to philanthropy with kids, and the Jag books [about a young jaguar] focused on the acceptance of differences—you see, I grew up with psoriasis my whole life, which made me different. The writing process was multifaceted there. I loved doing it, and to now have stepchildren in my life and to read the books to them is awesome.
Do you have any plans for more books or more children’s books?
More children? [laughs] Probably children before the books! No I am just kidding. I don’t know, possibly yes. I love to write—and I think I am more confident in my writing now than ever. If I do ever have a child, I am sure something will come up, maybe another children’s book one day.
Starting your career at such a young age is a huge feat. Is there any one moment that has stuck with you throughout the journey?
That’s really hard. I mean, you know, I don’t even know. It’s all a blur.
Funny stories stand out, like my Grammys that I won. I was sick with a 104-degree fever that day. I did not want to go for that reason and because everyone said you won’t win because no country artist had ever won the Best New Artist Grammy. When I got there, I ended up winning in the preliminary show—I won for Blue.
Then after I won Best New Artist I remember all the hoopla backstage, but it was pouring rain outside, and I was still obviously so sick. I was a little bratty 14-year-old, and I was joking with my publicist and waiting for my car, and I was literally soaking wet with a 104-fever, and I said, “Whitney Houston would not be waiting on her car in the rain!” [laughs]
So those are the things I remember, funny stories like that. It was a very surreal night. It was like, “Okay child, you just won a Grammy, but you’re no Whitney Houston.” But that was all very much a blur to me.
Now it feels like I am starting over again with this record at age 30. It is kind of like my third cycle of things—and it is very rare to even have a third cycle these days. It’s a blessing. I am excited to embrace my past. I’m excited I’m moving on to the future with something completely new.
Photography by Vanessa Rogers