20 Questions With LeAnn Rimes

She Talks About Rodeos, NASCAR, Monkeys and Growing Up

LeAnn Rimes can reflect on almost a decade of major stardom while — at age 22 — still being younger than most aspiring artists who are hoping to land a recording contract. The week before release Tuesday’s (Jan. 25) of her new album, This Woman, Rimes visited the CMT offices to answer questions submitted by fans throughout the nation. In her responses, she reveals a former desire to own a monkey, alludes to some blue jokes shared by her Blue Collar Comedy pals and talks about her life in Nashville with her husband, Dean Sheremet.

1. I love the video for “Nothin’ Bout Love Makes Sense.” Of all of your videos, which is your favorite?

“Nothin’ Bout Love Makes Sense” is obviously one of my favorites. I had so much fun making that video. We shot it here in Nashville on a beautiful ranch. I loved making a video where nothing had to make sense. That was the fun part of it. Kristin Barlowe, who’s the director, and I came up with the idea for putting a city in the middle of the forest. We had skateboarders and a bed hanging from the trees and human marionettes. It was just a blast to make, and it was really beautifully shot. It was just very lighthearted and fun. Another one of my favorite videos is “Life Goes On,” which we shot in New Orleans. … I had so much fun filming that video. We shot it over two days. I fell in love with the city, and it was just very magical. So both of those videos are definitely two of my favorites

2. You have sung the national anthem at NASCAR races and you do a great version of “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Are you a fan of NASCAR and rodeo events?

Yeah, I’m a huge fan of NASCAR. I grew up around the rodeo. I love horses. Every once in a while, I love getting away to a NASCAR race or a rodeo, especially when I’m singing the national anthem. I’m all business up until the end of the national anthem. Then after that, it’s kind of like a free for all — shoving my face with food and beer and hanging out with my friends. I love it. Cowboys are really cool to be around. They’re really sweet. All the NASCAR drivers, they’re huge fans of mine and I’m a huge fan of theirs, so we have fun being around each other. I’ve hung out with them, and they’re good guys.

3. Does songwriting come easy for you, and is it something you hope to do more of in the future?

I love writing my own music. This Woman is the first time I think really people are seeing me as a well-rounded artist, instead of just a voice. This record has the three songs on it that are very personal songs for me. There’s a song called “You Take Me Home,” which is really kind of about moving to L.A., finding myself and my husband, moving back home and finding comfort in all the things I didn’t think I really needed or wanted — but at a different point in my life became really important to me. There’s another song called “When This Woman Loves a Man” that I wrote really because I love Janis Joplin. I love that whole era of music. I find that there’s a lot of soul, a lot of honesty in that and a lot of freedom. I performed her version of “Summertime” onstage this past year in my show, and I found I could do so many different things with my voice that I never had experienced before. So I wanted write my own version of that. … There’s another song called “I Got It Bad,” which my husband and I wrote for NASCAR. We got hooked on NASCAR a couple years ago, and their whole slogan is, “How bad have you got it?” So we gave them an answer: “I got it bad.” They’ve been using it in a lot of their promos. It’s completely three different types — three different songs — completely. I love writing my own music. It’s kind of a gateway, I think, to people really understanding who I am. With this record, especially, you take away more of a piece of me than you ever have.

4. How is your husband, Dean, getting acclimated to living in Nashville?

Well, he’s from Michigan, so you know. He’s not from L.A. I think if you were from L.A. and moving to Nashville, it would have been a huge change. But he lived out there for four years. I was out there for five years. We both like being in a small town. I mean, I love the city. I love visiting. I’ve traveled all over the world. I’m a big fan of London and a big fan of New York and L.A., but it’s nice to kinda come home to something really quiet. So we both really enjoy it here.

5. How did you know that Dean was “the one”?

Dean made me laugh a lot. He really just brought out a side of me I’d never really … you know, the child side of me. I guess that’s been suppressed for so long because of being in this business. He just made me have a lot of fun and accepted me for exactly who I was. You know, you can’t explain it. You just know when you know.

6. Do you and Dean have a favorite recipe?

Favorite recipe? Nothing that I cook that’s for sure. (laughs) I get out of the kitchen. He makes really good grilled chicken, its grilled chicken that’s stuffed with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. That’s really good. It’s one of my favorites.

7. How many pets do you have?

We have seven dogs and four cats — two Chihuahuas, a Boston terrier, three Pomeranians, a German shepherd and four cats. We love animals. If I had a huge farm, I would probably just have the whole humane society down at my house and just let them go.

8. Is there a certain animal that you want to have that you’ve never had before?

I’ve always said I wanted to have a monkey, but I would never have one. … I have a friend — actually a friend of a friend — who was loaned a monkey one time. And after a show, she didn’t realize that they don’t sleep at night. He was in her closet in the hotel, swinging from the hangers and everything. So she had to call security and get them to take it out of the room. So after I heard that, my whole idea of having a monkey was gone out of the way. Not gonna happen. I’ll have children swinging from things before I’ll have monkeys.

9. What was your favorite Christmas present that you’ve either given or received?

Dean and I spend a lot of time together, so it’s really hard for him, especially around the holidays, to go out and shop without me. But he surprised me with diamond earrings this year — and he can never surprise me — so I was shocked and crying for about 30 minutes. I really wasn’t expecting anything this year. I’m one to plan ahead and buy my Christmas gifts months beforehand for everyone else, but I don’t really care about gifts. So it was just a big surprise and very sweet.

10. I love your book, Jag. What was your inspiration for writing children’s books?

Kids. My husband and I love kids, and we wanted to collaborate on a book that really touched my little fans. I have a lot of young fans. … They know my book before they know my music, so I really just wanted to give them something that would be on their level. I love children. It’s really obviously something I’m going to do one day, so it was kind of almost a joke at first that we’d write a children’s book that we could read to our kid one day. And then, honestly, three days after we talked about, it Penguin Books called and wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a children’s book. So it was kind of odd that it all happened that way. It was fate, I guess. … We are working on our third book right. The second one, Jag’s New Friend, came out not too long ago.

11. Has it been difficult for fans to accept you as a great adult singer since you were so very young when you recorded “Blue”?

It’s been very difficult, I think, for people to make the transition with me from the 13-year-old who sang “Blue” to a 22-year-old woman who has a new record coming out. … I’ve gone through the last 10 years of my life and have now become a woman. I completely understand that it’s just getting everyone else to catch up. People really do still want to keep me a kid, I think, though it’s starting to dissipate and things are starting to change completely. People look at me and they’re like, “Wow, you’ve really changed.” With This Woman, that’s exactly what the title is. That’s exactly where I’m at in my life now, and there’s no other way to see me other than who I am. I mean, I’ve been a married woman for the last three years. Things have changed, and things are great. I think people are really starting to catch up and understand and accept. I’ve been blessed to have had a decade in this business. I’m probably one of the only child stars to actually still have a career — and a very strong career — after being a child. I feel blessed to actually still have a career now.

12. Are you ever going to record more traditional-type country songs?

With This Woman, it’s my kind of country music, as I call it. I’ve dabbled in different things. I’ve been blessed with a gift that I can sing all different types of music. Country has always been my roots. So on this record, there are a couple songs that really kind of dig back into the more traditional style. Even “Nothing ’Bout Love Makes Sense” is kind of more of a traditional country song, with a little bit of a contemporary flair, that’s got it’s own sound. What I’ve tried to find over the last 10 years is really blending that bit of traditional with contemporary flair, with a little bit of rock, with a little bit of blues, a little bit of soul.

13. You have a very angelic voice. Do you consider yourself a religious person?

I’m a very spiritual person. Definitely, I think something that I have my own relationship with the higher power I call God. I think it’s a very touchy subject because so many people believe so many different things. Not to say that anybody’s wrong. I think it’s a very personal thing for everyone, but I am a very spiritual person.

14. I wanted to know what it was like taping the Blue Collar Comedy TV show?

I enjoyed doing it. All the guys on the show were incredible. Jeff Foxworthy is just a blast to work with, and all the guys are great. I’ve been around them and have known them since I was a kid. Now being an adult, they kind of like let me into their little group and I heard all these dirty jokes that I probably would never have heard when I was a kid. So it’s fun. I had a blast doing it. I was really totally freaked out by doing the show because I had never done sketch comedy. I was learning pretty much while I was doing it. They kinda took my hand and guided me along and made me feel real comfortable.

15. Do you have any new acting roles in the works?

Not at the moment. With this new album and everything, music is top priority. Eventually I think I will do something, but it has to be the right thing and the right time.

16. How do you feel about your records being remixed into dance mixes?

I think “I Need You” was remixed. There’s a remix album that was released in Europe, and dancing and dance music is such a huge part of European culture. I think it’s great. It’s just another way to get my music to a different audience. I love it. I love that type of music, especially the really melodic stuff when they take really great singers and put these great beats to it.

17. What do you think about the 2005 CMA award show being moved to New York?

I personally think I would rather have it in Nashville. I would rather drive home afterwards and sleep in my own bed, so it’s for a selfish reason. … I don’t think it will last very long. I love New York. But, like I said, for very selfish reasons I wish it was still here in Nashville.

18. What CDs have you been listening to lately?

I have a very eclectic CD collection, I guess. One of my favorite bands right now is called the Scissor Sisters. They’re actually a band from New York. They’re kind of a mix between old Elton John and Queen meets dance music. But it’s really interesting. The guy’s got an incredible voice. They’re just a very eclectic group, eccentric group. What else am I listening to lately? Maroon 5, I’m a big fan of. Oh yeah, Jason Mraz is someone I’m listening to. I haven’t had a ton of time to listen to lot of records lately because I’ve been working on my own, so those are probably the few people that have really impressed me in a while.

19. I recently read that you have dealt with eczema your whole life can you tell us about that?

Yeah, I’m actually working on a campaign right now called Treat Eczema Now. It’s really to make people aware of eczema and exactly what it is. I think people look on their body and sometimes see a red itchy patch and think, “Oh, it might go away” or “Maybe I’ll put lotion on it or kind of ignore it,” but there’s over 35 million Americans living with eczema. I was diagnosed with when I was 2 years old, and it’s something I’ve been living with my whole life and still battling ’til this day. I tried all different kinds of treatments from store creams and light box therapy things that were really harmful for my skin and my body. A couple of years ago, I found a wonderful doctor here in Nashville and also a treatment in Elidel, which is a steroid-free cream that can be used anywhere on the body, and I’ve been clear for the past two years. It was really tough going through life, having to be in front of millions of people and having to wear jeans in the middle of summer. It’s really uncomfortable … cracking and bleeding. It can be really mentally uncomfortable and mentally challenging and physically challenging and really debilitating. … I’m really here to encourage people to get out there and be proactive in treatment, to let them know there is hope and wonderful treatments… I’ve already heard from several doctors I’ve been working with on the campaign, of how kids are coming up saying, “Oh, LeAnn Rimes has this, so it’s OK now.” That’s why I’m doing it. I wish there was someone like me that was able to speak out about it when I was that age. … It’s such a hard thing to deal with, especially when you’re a child. Having a skin disorder … something that’s so visible, being called the scaly girl or always having to explain when you’re a kid, “It’s not contagious. You can touch me.” It’s tough, definitely, so I know what these kids are going through for sure. Even when you’re an adult, you can still feel very uncomfortable sometimes.

20. Looking back is there anything you would have done differently in your career?

No, not at all. I mean, it’s made me who I am today. I’m a very strong woman. All the highest highs and lowest lows that I’ve gone through have made me really strong. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.