When it came time for LeAnn Rimes to record her 13th album, she had a very specific idea in mind. Lady & Gentlemen adds a female touch to some of the most well-loved country songs in history — ones that rarely, if ever, had that touch before.
“The songs were originally recorded by men but now from a woman’s perspective,” Rimes tells CMT.com. “We made all of these songs my own, in a way, while always paying homage to the original.”
From John Anderson‘s “Swingin'” to George Jones‘ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Rimes and producer Vince Gill took on the daunting task of updating the classics and providing a new perspective. The album also includes two new originals (“Give” and “Crazy Women”) and a breezy new version of Rimes’ own country standard, “Blue.”
Meanwhile, Rimes also stars in a new CMT original movie, Reel Love . She plays opposite Burt Reynolds in the family-friendly story of a small-town girl returning to her roots after a long stint in the city.
During a recent visit to Nashville, Rimes stopped by the CMT offices to fill us in on the film, what it’s like to record with Gill, why she felt moved to include homeless teens in her “Give” video and how Nicole Kidman inspires her dream role as an actress.
CMT: Are you getting excited about Reel Love?
Rimes: I’m excited. It should be fun, and I can’t wait for people to see it. I just saw it the other day, and it’s really, really cute. And it’s totally family-oriented, so everybody can sit down and watch it with their family. I got to work with Burt Reynolds, who I adore, and I’m so proud of our scenes together. We don’t have a ton together in the film, even though it’s a huge part of the movie. He did his work all in, like, five days, but we had a great time together. It was so fun to get to learn from him and be on screen with him.
I think these days, especially with a family at home, I want to do the things that move me. It’s about finding the right times with everything. But I love doing both, and I want to continue to learn the art and craft of acting. It’s not just something that I’m dabbling in. I really do want to do more of it. It’s fun to go be somewhere and spend a certain amount of time in one place and get to have a family around. I have such a great touring family, but we’re always on the go, so it is nice to be in one place.
What’s a dream role for you?
I think it just depends on the script. I’m kind of a drama girl. I definitely love doing comedy, but I would love to do something that makes people go, “Huh?” It’s like Nicole Kidman doing The Hours, where she looks completely different. I would love to do something where I don’t look like myself at all. So who knows? I’m totally up for anything, really.
Your video for “Give” is very poignant. How did you first get involved in the efforts to end homelessness?
My manager lives in Ventura County in California, [where] there are a lot of homeless teens and kids. We had talked about the message of “Give” being so powerful. These kids don’t choose to be in the place that they’re in. And they deserve a future or at least a chance at one. So I started researching different organizations and Stand Up for Kids really stood out to me. They’re completely volunteer-based, and there are 45 chapters around the U.S. With the “Give” video, I wanted to share their story and their hope for the future. They taught me a lot that day. All the stereotypes were broken down for me with what we think about homelessness.
Is there a common thread with the classic songs on Lady & Gentlemen that drew you to them?
About half of them came from my childhood, whether they were my dad’s favorite song, like “Rose Colored Glasses,” and songs like “Swingin'” that I remember jamming out to when I was a kid. And then half of them came from Vince in random places. Like, he saw “16 Tons” in a car commercial, so we ended up doing that.
I was in a very vulnerable time in my life when I recorded it, so there is a lot of emotion behind everything that went into this record. There are tears at the end of “Help Me Make It Through the Night” that no one would know are there unless you really knew me or heard it. It was so fun to be able to just let all of my hurt and frustration that was going on in my life go through this record.
I wanted to ask about having Vince in the studio. I know you are friends, but having him be “producer Vince,” is he all business in the studio?
Vince is just so chill. Everyone’s always like, “He’s almost so quiet that it’s uncomfortable.” I love that he always was so sweet to me and wanted my vision to shine through. He approached it from an artist’s standpoint, so he understood where I was coming from. He’s just a great guy. He really is. We were in his house and there were amps in his bathroom. I recorded my vocals in a hallway. Amy [Grant, Gill’s wife] brought lemonade and iced tea to everyone every day. She was cooking and bringing stuff over. It was really sweet. It was just a chill way to record.
Were you worried at all about redoing “Blue”?
Oh, no, I was excited to redo “Blue”! (laughs) I was such a baby, I mean I was 11 when I recorded that. So it’s been 18 years. I loved being able to give it some new sound. We swung it a little more and sped it up a little, and it has a totally different heart. Obviously, going through my life from 11 to 29 … I mean, come on, there’s something to sing from. It was very weird, though. It was like “Whoa, time warp!”
CMT Radio’s Samantha Stephens contributed to this interview.