LeAnn Rimes Rises Above Controversy with Spitfire


LeAnn Rimes Rises Above
Controversy with Spitfire                                  


By BRIAN MANSFIELD

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service
/ Country Music Association®, Inc.

For the past four years, a tabloid-skewed
version of LeAnn Rimes’ life has played out online and in public. With her new
album, Spitfire, (released June 4) the twice-married, 30-year-old singer tries to set the record straight.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster ride of everything I felt, everything
a human being could feel, in the last four years,” she said. “I didn’t set
out to write a record that attacked the stories that have been out there. I’ve
always said there’s 10 to 15 percent truth in those stories — the rest is
BS. There’s a lot being thrown around out there. Any real artist takes what
they’ve been through and uses it for their art. That’s basically what I’m doing.”

Rimes co-wrote eight of the 14 songs on Spitfire, her first album of
mostly new material since Family in 2007. “She’s loosened her tongue,
she’s loosened her heart, she’s loosened her spirit,” said producer Darrell
Brown, who wrote many of those songs with her. “She’s writing ungodly better
than she has in her entire life.”

Rimes signaled the direction of the
new material in late 2012, when she released “What Have I Done?” (written
by Rimes, Brown and David Baerwald) and “Borrowed” (Rimes, Brown and Dan Wilson),
which acknowledge the guilt and shame she felt about the dissolution of her eight-year
union with Dean Sheremet, and the circumstances under which her current marriage
with actor Eddie Cibrian began. But these only hint at the emotional depths Rimes
plumbs on the album. As she works through desire, anger and ultimately acceptance
and wisdom, she sings honestly but never defensively. She may be the principal
character in this drama, but she doesn’t see herself as its hero.

“I’m
not perfect,” she says. “And I don’t want to be. At all. Anymore. I want
to be imperfect — and I want to write about that.”

“God Takes Care
of Your Kind,” which Rimes and Brown wrote with her then-husband Sheremet, is
almost a harbinger of her ambition to honor her imperfections. “We always wrote
together,” she remembered. “We had a great relationship that way. It probably
was the first song we wrote for this record that ended up here. That’s life,
isn’t it? It kind of works out like that.”

As Rimes’ personal life
began to implode, she, Brown and their co-producer Vince Gill ended up recording
Lady and Gentlemen, which features Rimes’ versions of classics written
by John Anderson, Gill, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and other Country giants.

By the time Rimes returned to the studio, she was deep into the process of setting
her life to song. “I didn’t set out to make a record that was true to my life,”
she said. “At the same time, I didn’t know how to stop that train, because
it was coming out of me, just so naturally. I didn’t want to record songs just
to record songs anymore. I wanted everything to mean something to me. Even if
I didn’t write it, I wanted it to be part of the story.”

A good example
would be “Where I Stood,” which Australia’s Missy Higgins wrote and released
as a single in 2007. Brown adjusted the song’s structure to accommodate Rimes’
broad vocal range, at one point modulating the chorus up a fourth for more dramatic
impact. Its lyrics (“She will love you more than I could/She who dares to stand
where I stood”) became Rimes’ message to Sheremet and his new wife, photographer Sarah Silver.

“It was important for her to say what she wanted to say with Dean, to apologize
to him, but also to let him know that Sarah was going to love him more,” Brown noted.

Brown recruited top-notch songwriters Baerwald, Wilson and Nathan Chapman to
write with Rimes. To bring out what he heard as “the blues and the soul” in
her voice, as well as its Appalachian and Texas influences, he hired the R&B-based
rhythm section of bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Steve Jordan. Then he fleshed
out the band with Dean Parks, Dan Tyminski and Waddy Wachtel on acoustic instruments and Paul Franklin on pedal steel.

On all but a couple tracks, there’s no electric guitar. “I didn’t want
any other frequency to interfere with that lower part of LeAnn’s voice, which
is her natural voice,” Brown said. Instead, he instructed Franklin to play lines
on steel that he thought an electric guitar player would add to the tracks.

Rimes also employed some unorthodox methods while recording her vocals. A hand-held
microphone, much like the kind she would use in a live setting, allowed her mobility
in the studio. Rimes recorded “Borrowed” on her knees and “What Have I Done”
while lying flat on her back. That freedom of being able to move her hands and
body appealed strongly to her. “It’s a very expressive thing I haven’t been able to do before,” she said.

Important as her messages are throughout Spitfire, Rimes now understands
that the most important conversations are the internal ones. “Looking at this
album, you see someone who’s talking to herself, almost, who’s being honest
with herself for the first time and not worrying about everyone else,” she said.
“From there, God knows where I go. But if I can start here, I’ll be so proud of myself.”

On the Web: www.LeAnnRimesWorld.com

On Twitter: @LeAnn Rimes

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