LeAnn Rimes didn't know how to swing dance before filming the music video for "Swingin'," but she figured she'd give it a whirl.
Hoping to capture the upbeat side of John Anderson's country classic, she partnered with noted choreographer and dance partner Benji Schwimmer and director David McClister for the colorful nine-hour shoot at the Moose Lodge in Burbank, Calif. In addition, the whole cast was informally supervised by two huge moose heads on the walls, peering down on the tiny dance floor. Or maybe they were just admiring her four-and-a-half inch heels.
"There was no pressure. It was so easy and chill," Rimes said during a recent visit to Nashville. "I just wanted everybody to feel the fun that comes off of that track."
"Swingin'" is the lead single from Lady and Gentlemen, a country covers album produced by Vince Gill and scheduled for an Oct. 5 release (Sept. 30 on vinyl). A friend had suggested an album of classic love songs, but Rimes later realized that nearly all of her favorite classic country songs were sung by men. The new album only steps out of its male parameters at the end when she's led by Gill and the Time Jumpers for a super-retro remake of Rimes' own career-starter, 1996's "Blue."
"It's cool that there is this buzz about it, so I can't wait for people to hear it and see that it's as good as they're thinking it's going to be," she said. "And I say that as humbly as possible because I think it's such a great record. People don't make records like this anymore."
Rimes describes her remake of Gill's 1990 hit, "When I Call Your Name," as a "John Mayer, kinda blues track." She hears Quentin Tarantino's influence in her reimagining of "Sixteen Tons," written by Merle Travis and made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford in the 1950s. (No finger snaps here.) She sings in Spanish on Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and considers her spare rendition of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" as "haunting." Waylon Jennings' "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" has been switched to a sassy "Only Mama ... " and she's now the first-person narrator of "Good Hearted Woman" -- in love with a good-timing man, naturally. She also tackles John Conlee's "Rose Colored Glasses," Merle Haggard's "I Can't Be Myself" and George Jones' enduring "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
"To hear all these men sing these songs, you know they've lived them," she said. "There's a raw energy to that that you don't hear in a lot of women songs because a lot of women at that time had to be very proper. You didn't kinda let it hang out, and you didn't tell the truth -- not until Tammy Wynette and those very strong women.
"My dad was the one who raised me on that country music. I listened to a lot of those types of men that he grew up on. Patsy Cline was the only female that I remember listening to over and over again. Otherwise, it was Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and Hank Williams. I think it was my dad who turned me to the light."
Rimes dropped by CMT's offices while she was in town for the Nashville Rising flood benefit concert at the Bridgestone Arena -- the same building she stood atop to film the futuristic "How Do I Live" video in 1997, just a few weeks shy of turning 15. Although she now spends most of her time in Los Angeles with boyfriend Eddie Cibrian and his two children, Rimes said she felt compelled to pay tribute to "a place that has been home to me for a really long time."
The singer and her band lost nearly all of their equipment at the Soundcheck storage facility when the flood hit Nashville in early May.
"Some things we can't get back ever, but that's such a small part of what everybody else lost," she said. "I wanted to just give back to the community. As artists, we can come entertain and bring some hope and some happiness to these people who have been going through such a devastating situation."
Of course, Rimes has been adjusting to a new situation in her personal life as well. Last year she separated from her husband, Dean Sheremet, to be with Cibrian, who was also married. She updates her Twitter followers daily with her domestic dispatches, ranging from trying a new quinoa recipe to snuggle fests with Cibrian's kids.
Asked about her typical day-to-day life now, Rimes replied, "Well, that changes daily. Sometimes I'm working, sometimes I'm on a tour bus, sometimes I'm living out of a suitcase -- packing and flying, recording and doing whatever. Right now, we are about to release the record, so we are amping up for that. And then I have my whole family life, too, which has changed drastically. My boyfriend has two children who are 7 and 3, so I'm kind of helping take care of them and raise them, which is amazing and something I totally didn't expect to have in my life.
"But I've been truly open to it, and the kids are so respectful with me and super cool. I cook a lot, do a lot of laundry. In the past year I have really learned how to cook, and I love it. It's kind of grounding for me, which is nice. You know, changing diapers is grounding," she added with a laugh.
"It's fun to be around kids. They loosen the world up a little bit, you know? It's not so serious, and that's nice because I think both Eddie and me, we have to take care of so much and we have so much responsibility, especially when you're out in the world and you have your own business. So it's nice to come home and it just be ... kids. It takes your mind off other things."
Speaking of family, Rimes said her father wept when she first played Lady and Gentlemen for him.
"He just heard it the other day and he cried. He's so proud of it," she said. "My dad is so hardcore when it comes to loving old-school country. If I didn't offend him with anything we've changed, hopefully no one else will be. I mean, I got it past my biggest critic and he loves it, so that's cool. I'm really excited about that."