By Gregg Shapiro
Over the years, we’ve seen lots of young music stars grow up before our eyes. Grammy Award-winner LeAnn Rimes is definitely one of the best and most beloved of the bunch.
Rimes’ most recent album, Remnants (RCA), released in late 2016, finds the belting singer moving in various pop directions. I had the pleasure of speaking with Rimes, who will perform at the Houston Pride Festival on June 24.
Gregg Shapiro: LeAnn, as someone who began her artistic career at an early age, do you have any words of wisdom for young performers and the parents of young performers?
LeAnn Rimes: Oh, wow [laughs]! Each situation is so different. Everybody has their own path. I can give advice from what I have been through. I think the biggest thing that I have learned is to follow my instincts. I immediately tapped into them as a kid. I never questioned them. That got me far. Having so many opinions and people in your ear after that success, wanting to continue and grow that success, everybody has opinions about it. I think I lost that part of myself for a while. I’ve been regaining that. It feels amazing to tap back into that. As a young artist, find what feels good to you and work with that. Don’t let anyone change you. Even if it’s not what’s happening right now in music, what’s being played on Top 40 radio, just stick with what it is that you love. From there, success will blossom if it’s supposed to. Stick to your heart, and what makes you unique is really important.
Do you remember when you first became aware of your LGBTQ following?
I don’t remember when I don’t remember having one [laughs]. I’ve had the LGBTQ community behind my music and as part of my life for forever now. I do remember that a lot of young fans of mine, who were my age when I was 15 or 16, telling me that they were coming out to their parents around that time. They told stories about how my music helped them embrace who they were, and they were able to communicate through my music with their parents.
You have a history of connections with the LGBTQ community, including your 1998 duet with Elton John on “Written in the Stars.” What was it like to work with Elton?
I was 15, I think. When Elton calls and asks you to do a duet—I don’t know why I thought that was the normal thing at the time. I was like, “Sure. Whatever” [laughs]. As I got older, I realized that was pretty cool! I loved working with him. He was so kind to me and always has been. He took me under his wing. When we shot the video together, he couldn’t have been more gracious and sweet. I adore him.
Everyone knows how much gays love our dance divas, and you became one in 2000 with “Can’t Fight The Moonlight.” What was that experience like?
I always love being able to take a great song and put a different spin on it. It’s something I do in my live performances. We’ve rearranged a lot of my hits to bring them into the now. Dance music has always been a huge part of my life and something that I’ve always loved. We’ve always done remixes of my songs. I think “Can’t Find The Moonlight” was the one that kicked that off. When I make a record, as we’re making the album, we are talking about who we can work with for the dance mixes of all the tracks. It’s something that goes parallel with the regular record these days. To be embraced like that is fantastic. Every time I perform at a Pride event or a club with all of my gay fans, it’s pandemonium. It’s so much fun. I just love it [laughs].
You were recently honored by the Human Rights Campaign with the Ally of Equality Award in Nashville, and your latest single, “Love Is Love Is Love” from your new album Remnants, addresses your support for the LGBTQ community. Do you see your Pride events as tied in with that?
I think it’s definitely tied in. I’ve been doing Pride events for several years now. I think maybe the song was an extension of my love and appreciation for the community. Being able to experience the energy at those Pride events is totally different. I think all of that experienced the song more so than the opposite.
Another queer aspect of the Remnants album is the opening song, your amazing cover of lesbian singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile’s “The Story.” As someone whose career began in country music, what do you think about the increasing number of out artists, including Brandy Clark, Ty Herndon, Chely Wright, and your friend and fellow former child star Billy Gilman?
I’m so proud of all of them. I’m happy for them. I’ve known Ty since I was 8. I’ve known Billy since he came onto the music scene. As private friends, we knew who they were, what their sexual preference was. To me, it didn’t matter at all. But I saw how much they struggled with it. I realized, from my own experience, that sharing those deep, dark things— once you let that out, you realize that there are so many people in need of hearing that story so they can feel inspired to do the same. I’m so proud of them and I love them to death. Knowing them for all these years—Chely, too—it makes me very happy.
If I’m not mistaken, Remnants is the first of your albums to have a “parental advisory label.”
You are right about that [laughs].
Please say something about making that kind of a move.
Back in the day, my mother and I would argue about whether or not I could show my stomach in a midriff top. I’ve always been very aware of that kind of good girl kind of thing that I’ve had to carry for a long time. Obviously, that’s faded away, in a good way. I feel like I needed to be able to speak my truth and not edit. It took a lot in me to do that [laughs]. When I was writing the song—“Do It Wrong With Me” is the song that says “fuck”—it sounded so good. I said to (producer) Darrell (Brown), “Can I say that?” And he said, “Yes, you must!” I was a little timid about it, but after a while I rolled with it and it felt really good.
Finally, LeAnn, what can your fans expect from your performance at Houston Pride on June 24?
I’m so excited. Lots of love—to be bringing that on stage these days. I’m looking forward to partying with everybody.