1Your 1997 song ‘How Do I Live’ was once the highest-certified country single of all-time. Who broke your record 12 years later?
WRONG. It was Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’, which has been certified 8 x Platinum. Swift has been vocal about you having influenced her…
“She used to come to my concerts, and I remember her: she used to have signs. She’s super-talented, and it’s still weird for me to think about the influence I’ve had on so many young artists, especially when a lot of them are very similar ages as me ‘cause I started when I was a foetus! I’ve met Taylor on-and-off at award shows, but we haven’t spent much time together – I’d love to [spend more] though.”
Who’s the most unexpected person who’s turned out to be a fan of yours?
“I’m a huge Bette Midler fan, and I watched Beaches a zillion times as a little girl. When I met her aged 15, she told me that I inspired her to sing again. She hadn’t sung in a long time, and said after she heard my 1996 debut studio album, ‘Blue’, it made her get back into singing. I was bawling!”
2Who once rapped: “You got neon lights underneath your Nissan / I got LeAnn Rimes passin’ me the weed, son“?
“[Laughs] I haven’t even heard that. Who was that?!”
WRONG. It was Prodigy, the late rapper in the NYC hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, on his 2007 track ‘Stop Fronting’.
“Really?! I’ll have to listen to that now. You’re schooling me left and right. I don’t know any of these things.”
You’re friends with Busta Rhymes. Ever rapped with him after a few drinks?
“For sure! And I grew up on Salt-N-Pepa and ‘Shoop’ is my karaoke song. In fact, a girlfriend asked me to sing that at her wedding, so I ended up singing it after several drinks at the reception. That’s my go-to rap song.”
3You appear in the 2000 film Coyote Ugly singing ‘Can’t Fight The Moonlight’ atop the bar. Which comic book features in your scene?
“Aw, shit! Clearly I’m out of touch with pop culture, and have been my whole life because I absolutely don’t know. Is it Superman?”
WRONG. It’s The Amazing Spider-Man.
“Dammit! OK, you’ve got to have some easier questions here! I was 17, and when they filmed the whole movie I ended up coming on and doing the music. Several months after wrapping the film, they wanted to shoot the last scene of me singing on the bar, so everybody ended up coming back to do it. It was fun. I think the music is such a driver for that film, which is so iconic and has a cult following.”
You’ve acted in numerous films. Ever auditioned for or turned down any roles in movies that later went on to become huge successes?
“Girl, Interrupted was a film that I auditioned for and they cast me in a main role, and then gave it to someone else. But Hollywood’s a weird beast in itself, especially when it comes to acting jobs. That was the only thing I had my heart set on that didn’t happen.”
4You were portrayed on MTV’s claymation series Celebrity Deathmatch in 2001. Who did ‘you’ fight?
“Was it Avril Lavigne?”
“Never mind! Completely different artist! I think they should have put Busta [Rhymes] and me against each other: now that would have been a good fight. He crashed one of my interviews backstage once, and was trying to convince the interviewer he was my brother. I was like, ‘For sure! We have the same mom! You can just tell right away’. Being on the music scene at the same time, people have forever asked me if I’ll do a duet with him, so maybe we’ll get around to it some day.”
5What was the theme of the ‘Maxi Challenge’ you judged on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2015?
“Um… I have no idea! You’ll have to tell me.”
WRONG. The concept was conjoined twins.
“Conjoined twins?! I don’t even remember that! RuPaul is fantastic and the sweetest, but I love that show because these drag queens put so much time and effort into their looks. Whenever I do pride performances, we gather all the drag queens from the area and have them on-stage to open the show, so that’s always a good time.
“I’m from the South, and my uncle [who was gay] passed away from AIDS when I was 11. That’s something that was very hush-hush and never discussed, so, for me, I’m a huge advocate for equal rights and for people being able to love who they want to love and be who they are. I always wanted to give him a voice that he wasn’t able to have in this world, so I will always be a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community.”
6You won the fourth season of the US version of The Masked Singer as the character ‘Sun’ in 2020. Name any pop star the judging panel wrongly mistook you for.
“YES! Finally! Jesus, I thought I was going to blank the entire 10 questions and be screwed! My ‘Sun’ costume was very heavy and I’d go home every night with my head and back hurting, but it was fun that during the pandemic I got to bring – literally and figuratively – some light to a dark moment.”
Nailed it! You covered Billie Eilish on the show. Did she ever give you any feedback about your rendition of her song?
“Yes, her agent told me that Billie cried when she saw my performance of ‘When The Party’s Over’, so that was a special moment. I wanted to do that song a capella, because there’s a brokenness and intimacy when there’s nothing behind it.
7What number did ‘Written In The Stars’, your 1999 duet with Elton John, reach on the charts in Switzerland?
“Um… I’m going to go with Number One? [Laughs]”
“Thank you! [Laughs] Chart numbers are not how I define success any more. I haven’t looked at them for a long time. Elton was so kind. Uncle Elton! That’s what it felt like: he’s my great, sweet uncle who’s a joy to be around. He always wanted to make sure I was taken care of and looked out for.”
Any other duets you’ve recorded that still stand out?
“Stevie Nicks asked me to record [the LeAnn Rimes song] ‘Borrowed’ with me, because it was one of her favourite songs and we were going to reimagine some of my hits. She’s so cool and such a light in the world. She never had children of her own, and from my own experience and what she does with other artists, she takes people under her wing and is very protective. There are a few in this industry that want to protect us and see us succeed, and that’s really sweet.”
Any other rock legends that have your back?
“I was a huge Aerosmith fan, and Steven Tyler was also someone who was very supportive of me. He brought his daughter to my show, and I’d fly to Aerosmith shows on my days off. He would bring me into his dressing room, sit me down and tell me how to take care of myself in this industry, because people are going to try to rob you of certain things and you’ve got to watch out for this. He was very fatherly.”
8Which 1998 US chart-topper by a Canadian rock band namechecks you?
“I know this one! ‘One Week’ by Barenaked Ladies.”
CORRECT. The lyrics are: “Hot like wasabi when I bust rhymes / Big like LeAnn Rimes, because I’m all about value.” The band’s frontman, Ed Robertson, told NME in 2021 that you ‘burst into our dressing room at a festival once and said: ‘What do you mean big like LeAnn Rimes?!’ I replied: ‘Big – like popular’. And she said: ‘Oh I thought y’all was saying I was fat!’”…
“Oh, I don’t know! I might have, but I don’t know! I only remember where I was when I heard my name in that song: I was at my boyfriend’s house taking a nap and he’d just turned on the radio, I heard my name and I sat up, like: ‘What?!’ I thought I was hearing things. I had to look the song up, and sure enough, now that song’s my jam.”
9Which two musicians did you perform ‘How Do I Live’ between on VH1 Divas in 1999?
“Elton? The ultimate diva! [Laughs] And….Cher?”
“I was 15 years old at the time and was like: ‘Whatevs! It’s Cher and Elton’. I didn’t really think that much about it, but looking back, what a show! Whitey Houston was the ultimate person for me. The first album I ever bought was a Whitney Houston record, aged six, so to be on the same stage as her not even 10 years later was a trip. She was super gracious and sweet to me backstage.”
Having started so young, signing a record deal at 13, did you feel any affinity to Britney Spears when you watched the 2021 Framing Britney Spears documentary? There seems to be a lot of parallels in your back stories: both child stars, both sued your manager fathers and your mental health was affected by the music industry…
“Oh my gosh, yes, there’s so many similarities. We all have our own unique paths, but I think there are so many similar pitfalls when you start in this business so young that, ultimately, all of us go through in one way or another. Similarly, when I watched the Taylor Swift documentary [2020’s Miss Americana] I cried through most of it because to see that another young woman had to experience some of the things I experienced was heart-breaking. It’s like: when do we break the cycle of this and how can we support the talent in these young people without destroying them to some degree? I don’t know if that’s possible, but I hope the new generation of kids doesn’t have to go through the same stuff. My heart has always gone out to Britney and what she’s been through.
“I think there’s a real, deep sense of denial that has to happen in order to be able to survive in the industry, and it wasn’t until I got older that I understood the double standards and suppression of my own voice and my own humanity in order to play the game. It took me many years to rediscover who I was, what my values were and what I was willing to do and not willing to do any more.”
10Who did you compete against on Star Search in 1990 aged eight years old?
“Levi Garrett, who was a dear friend of mine who passed away. But I will forever remember him”
CORRECT. Tell us about your forthcoming new album, ‘god’s work’…
“We recorded three songs in 2019, just before COVID hit. As I was writing the [other] songs, I was thinking of who’d sound great on them. I was sure everybody was bored sitting at home, so I just asked people to be on the record. We have everybody from Sheila E to Mickey Guyton to Aloe Blacc to Ziggy Marley; an eclectic group of artists that are putting similar messages into the world of heart and mind.
“I’m trying to make people think of some deep topics on this album, sharing my own emotional journey and hopefully inspiring others to unearth their own emotions they don’t normally tap into, such as anger and rage, grief and shame. I’ve not previously been comfortable giving them a voice.”
The verdict: 4/10
“[Laughs] I figured! That’s about what I thought I would score, so I lived down to my own low expectations!”
LeAnn Rimes’ ‘god’s work’ is released on EverLe Records via Thirty Tigers / The Orchard on September 16.