Country, pop, dance — it feels like LeAnn Rimes has done it all. She became a worldwide sensation at the age of 13, with the release of her debut album Blue. It went multiplatinum and she scored the first of five #1 albums on the Billboard 200 charts. She became a pop crossover with the song “How Do I Live,” which was just one of seven Top 40 hits on that chart. She even conquered the dance charts in 2009 with the #1 hit “What I Cannot Change.” Now, at age 31, LeAnn Rimes is excited that she’s had the chance to pursue music projects close to her heart, and she’s only just begun.
I was privileged to speak to LeAnn Rimes in an exclusive Hotspots interview, where she talked to me about her June 7 show at Parliament House in Orlando, her upcoming album release, breaking down her emotional walls and showcasing her vulnerability in song, and how she feels about the state of gay rights today.
Are you excited to return to Central Florida?
I am, and I’m excited that [this show] is going to be something completely new for me. I’m thrilled.
What should fans expect from you when they see you on stage at the Parliament House?
Like I said, it’s completely new. This is the first time I’ve ever done a show like this. It’s going to be a full thirty minutes of dance music. Obviously everything’s done live, and it’s going to be one big party. I don’t even know what to expect yet! I’m totally still putting the show together. I have a greatest hits remix record that will be out in July, so it’s kind of leading up to the release of that. I’m still putting things together, but as I said, this is something completely new for me and I’m excited about it.
Tell me more about this dance remix album.
It is a greatest hits record. I’ve had a lot of success with dance music and dance remixes, maybe more so than a lot of people realize. I have a huge audience that’s interested in the dance stuff, so that’s really something I wanted to get in on, to put all these remixes on one record, starting with the songs and vocals I recorded, you know, back in the day. It’s something people have wanted from me for a really long time and I’m glad I got the chance to really focus my energies on a dance record.
Now people know one of your biggest musical influences is Patsy Cline, but who influenced you in the realm of dance music?
I first got into electronic, house and techno music back in the mid-’90s. I’m interested in so many music styles but I feel like I’ve loved the idea of house music with vocals on it more than anything. I used to listen to Daft Punk a lot…them and Paul Oakenfold, they really got me interested in house and dance music.
And what better audience is there to embrace your vocals in dance music other than gay men?
Exactly! [laughs] That’s funny because so many of my gay fans have always been like, “Please put out an album of your remixes!” So I feel like this album has really been a product of my gay fans requesting it. I’m all for giving people what they want.
Your last album, Spitfire, was a country album, and you helped write eight of the songs off that album. How deep does a song speak to you when you have a hand in writing it?
It’s different, but with Spitfire, it was definitely an experience in writing some of my biggest defining moments as an artist and as a woman. To be so honest and to be able to write a song like “Borrowed” on that record really opened up a whole new door of songwriting for me. Once I wrote “Borrowed,” I was an open book. I didn’t set out to write a record like that, but it just happened naturally. I felt like everyone was writing my life for me [at that time] so I wanted to take control and write what my true intentions were.
Do you feel that it’s easier to tap into your emotions through song as you’ve gotten older?
Oh, yeah. I feel there’s less shame and fear in it, for sure.
Have you always supported gay rights or was there an “evolution” on this topic for you?
I grew up in the South, and I know that growing up, the subjects of gay rights and gay people were talked about in…a very different way. I suppose I grew up one way, and through the events of my life, I ended up in another place. I’ve always had a lot of friends who were gay men and women. My mom once asked me, “Do you have any straight friends?” And I thought about it and said, “You know, I’m not really sure I do.” [laughs]
But yeah, I’ve always had a lot of friends who were gay, and I guess as a result I’ve always been accepting and non-judgmental of people, especially when it really just boils down to passion and love. I’ve always been a supporter of human rights and…just love. I’ve been judged my whole life, so I guess that’s why I understand and empathize with [others who have been judged] so much.
How long do you feel it will be before marriage equality is legal nationwide?
I got chills when you asked that, because when you hear about a new state striking down an old law, it’s just really exciting. It’s exciting to feel like we’re all taking new steps in the right direction. To me, it’s something that’s so easy to think about and say, “Why are we arguing about this?” But I hope that in the next few years it will be law everywhere. I feel like just in the past year, the momentum has been growing, and it’s been growing so fast. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Tickets to LeAnn Rimes’ concert at Parliament House in Orlando cost $30 each; you can purchase them in advance at ParliamentHouse.com or at the door. Follow LeAnn Rimes on facebook at facebook.com/leannrimesmusic and on twitter at twitter.com/leannrimes.