LeAnn Rimes is one of the most recognisable artists in Country music with more than 20 years in the industry.
The singer-songwriter released her debut single Blue in 1996 and she’s gone on to have huge success with songs such as How Do I Live, Can’t Fight the Moonlight and I Need You. Rimes’ current single is a cover of The Story, originally recorded by Brandi Carlile, and it’s the first track to be taken from her forthcoming album Remnants.
To celebrate the release of The Story, I sat down with LeAnn to talk about her version of the track, find out more about Remnants and discuss the rise of Country music here in the UK.
Your new single, The Story, is actually quite a personal song to me as I had the Sara Ramirez version played as the first dance at my wedding last year…
Wow! That’s so funny. There have been three versions of that song. Brandi Carlile was the original artist that did it. How I found out about it was through Grey’s Anatomy years and years ago. It’s such a beautiful song, it really is. It’s so powerful; obviously you used it at your wedding so you know! It’s interesting because all three versions are just so completely different and when I knew I was covering it I wanted to set everything apart. There are three great versions for everyone to enjoy.
Was it the message of the song that resonated with you and made you decide to put your own spin on it?
The head of my label here, Colin, was at my house and I was referencing Brandi Carlile’s version of that song for a feeling and as an emotion. We were just talking about emotional songs and he said, ‘what is this song? I’ve never heard this song.’ I was like, ‘you don’t know who Brandi Carlile is? C’mon!’ He told me that the song was never hit in the UK and he told me I had to cut the song. I never thought about covering it but as I thought about the lyrics and what we were creating as a record, and this being the next phase of my career – new label, new everything – it just kind of felt like these lyrics totally fit.
Being about love, I look at it as being about self-love in a way and you can totally sing it to yourself. I was in a room full of mirrors at a photoshoot and when there’s hundreds of you it turns into this weird emotional thing for me. They were playing this song and I thought I could sing this to myself, I get really emotional. As an artist I think we look at it from many different angles. In this world right now where we’re so divided, I think a song like this reminds us that we’re all part of the story. Our stories connect and music does that. I think it’s a really powerful song.
The Story is everywhere at the moment. What’s the fan reaction been like?
It’s been amazing. People have totally embraced it. For me it’s been very effortless to see it build and people really take a liking to it. I think it’s something that everyone can relate to and it’s a beautiful, beautiful song. I’ve been very happy with everything. People are getting it.
You’re launching this single, and your new album Remnants, in the UK first. What did you decide to do it this way round this time?
I was at a label for 20 years, since I was 11, and I took a couple of years to figure out if I wanted to do this any more. I realised it was about finding the right partner. I knew there was this box around, certain parameters that I fit into and the way that people see me. They love to label. For me I just want to do great music and I want it to be about my voice so I went round to talk to labels. I know music now is worldwide and I could have gone to any country to work with a label. It just fit here when I met with Colin. I met with him a couple of times and every time I went back we just understood each other. A lot of labels just wanted this already made record and I wasn’t there yet. I wanted to explore and see what came out. We could have just gone out and made a record but it wouldn’t have been authentic and I wanted this time around to be authentic. Colin believed in my talent and allowed me to do that. It was just the right fit and I love it here.
Remnants is being released in October. Would you say this record was progression or evolution for you?
It’s totally different than anything I’ve ever done but still familiar I think in a lot of ways. I think there’s a timelessness about the record. I grew up in Mississippi until I was 3 or 4, and I’d never realised how much the gospel of the South and soul had really sunk in early on. It’s always come out in my live shows as I’ve gotten older but I’ve never had it on a record. I knew I wanted to play with different grooves. I started working with Mark Batson who is a fantastic writer and producer, who is very embedded in the urban world. Darrell (Brown) and I write and create together all the time so I wanted somebody who could be a third in there and really bring something different to the table. He was very passionate about it and we started creating this really cool stuff. Even being the artist that was making it, I didn’t know this was in me fully and that it could come out of me. It’s been such an exploration to dive into what is authentically musically me and to have it on a record was exciting.
Over your last few albums you’ve really taken control of the songwriting. With The Story aside, is that something you’ve done on Remnants?
There are three songs I didn’t write on the record but I co-wrote everything else. It’s been amazing to continue writing from that place of real authenticity and honesty. This whole album is about love and I look at it from many different angles. I look at it from giving it, receiving, making it, self-love, standing up for love – I was really inspired by the LGBT community for a song. As I was writing all these love songs I was thinking ‘why is this happening?’ I all of a sudden realised we were writing songs about love that were different and needed to be said. I feel like this is an inclusive record. I feel like I really grew on this record and it inspired me to this really great place in my life, and I want to take everyone on that ride. It’s a really inspirational record. Hopefully it brings a ray of light into the world, as we need it at the moment.
You were part of the very first C2C: Country to Country festival. What’s it been like for you as an artist who has had a long relationship with the UK to see Country music finally growing as a genre here?
It’s amazing! I have always been considered a pop artist over here. When I started having success Country music was considered to be Patsy Cline and Hank Williams so there wasn’t really a place for Country music. Now that it’s really coming over here it’s exciting. It’s a great genre in the fact that it tells good stories. I love old school Country music and I like the really sad stuff (laughs) with the steel guitar and the whole thing (laughs). It’s great and it’s showing how the genre is really breaking boundaries. There’s not as many defined lines of music any more when it comes to genres and that’s a good thing.
The C2C festival was amazing and I had such a great time there. No one had heard the new record at that time and I got seven standing ovations to songs no one had heard before. I stood there and they really moved me on one song and I started crying as they clapped for about three minutes. I was like, ‘oh my god, what’s happening?’ There was so much love there and I think that’s what kind of started the whole thing (with this record). There’s some energy here that keeps bringing me back and right after that (C2C) we toured over here. There was so much love and I say go where the love is.
Is C2C something you’d like to do again in the future?
I don’t know. I’m sure maybe one day it might be appropriate but I don’t know if where I’m at right now really fits that bill. I love music and I know I’ll probably make a super Country album one day. I never say never when it comes to music because I love playing around. Hopefully we’ll be playing Wembley one day (laughs) that would be nice!
How about a headline tour? Are there plans to do a tour in the UK to support Remnants?
We’re working on it right now so we’ll be here next year for sure. Hopefully early in the year. We’ll see!
What other plans do you have for this year?
Life! This time around I’m really focused on balancing all that. It’s so hard but it keeps my sanity to be able to go home to my kids and my husband – have that normalcy and go to the grocery store and that be all I’m worried about that day. I think I’m very aware of that and want that in my life. I have my hands full between that and music at the moment. I’m sure there’ll be things that pop up but that’s it for now.
Do you have any plans to do any more acting in the future?
I would love to. It’s interesting because I think the more authentic I am with my songwriting, I’m becoming that on stage as an artist. I shot a video where I got to use those acting skills. I saw myself being even more vulnerable in that situation so I think eventually I would like to use that new vulnerability for something.
You’ve done so much over your career to date. Is there a passion project you really want to do but haven’t managed to achieve yet?
I’ve always loved Broadway. That was my first love wanting to go on stage and do Broadway. My mom said ‘if you do this Country thing then maybe you’ll get there’. I would love to do some Broadway show tunes. I don’t think it’s so far out there but I don’t know. Maybe I’ll rap one day. Who knows?
The Story is available to download and stream now. LeAnn’s new album Remnants will be released on 28th October 2016. Watch the music video for The Story below: