LeAnn Rimes has a strikingly personal new album of country songs out called Spitfire, and she sees it as her chance to clear the air after nearly five years of turmoil.
"To become tabloid fodder when you have a talent you want people to hear is very frustrating," says Rimes. "It's like 'Hey, I'm over here! I sing still!'"
The singer has gotten plenty of national publicity since news of her relationship with actor Eddie Cibrian first became public, as the two were both married to separate spouses at the time. They've since gotten married themselves and have done their best to settle into family life, but Rimes has continued to be a popular topic of tabloid fascination.
The scandal took its toll on Rimes' personal life as well as her music career. Her prior album, 2011's Lady & Gentlemen, was a set of covers, so it has been six years since her previous project of original material. With Spitfire, she hopes to put the focus back on her music for good.
"Hopefully, I can take the celebrity and use it for what I need, instead of people using me," Rimes says. "Maybe I can use all of this craziness and have people hear my music. That would be awesome, and that's my plan."
CMT: In order to get these songs so personal, you really had to open up to your co-writers. What did you do to build that trust with somebody?
Rimes: Darrell Brown, who co-produced the record with me, co-wrote nine songs, and I trusted him enough to know the other writers he brought in he was bringing for a reason. Those were very intimate conversations. Even with Darrell, a lot of the time, there were certain songs that I hadn't even brought up to him that I've been carrying around with me for a long time. He was caught off guard by it, too, about how honest I was in the room. I had nothing to lose. You either jump off the ledge, or you walk back. There is no in between. At least for me, there wasn't. And a lot of those sessions were like therapy sessions. There were a lot of tears that came out of certain things. A lot of anger at times where I was just able to get out something that I hadn't been able to say.
So much of the record is inspired by your relationship with Eddie and the fallout, but why did you want to write about it? Like anyone else, you'd probably like to move on.
I have to relive it, obviously, singing it. I've moved past a lot of it, so I can almost separate myself from it a little bit these days. I think it was cathartic to be able get that out, and I feel like everyone has kinda written a life for me -- what they think it should be or what's going to sell a magazine that week, no matter if it's truth or not, for four and a-half years. This is the truth. People have projected what they think I feel or what they think I should do or shouldn't have done, what my intentions are. They've projected all of that on to me for a long time. These are my feelings. And I've been very quiet about it, and it came out through my music.
The song "Spitfire" is kind of your chance to fire back a little bit. And I think a lot of people might relate to trying to resist fighting back. What was that like for you?
Yeah, self-control is something I've learned. To bite my tongue so many times is hard. For a human being, I think, you can never really wrap your head around being lied about like that and to have to pick and choose what battles you're gonna fight. It's carried into my relationships, and that's a good thing. You really go, "Wait, do I want to fight this battle today or not? And do I feed into it? Even though it's a lie, and I'm trying to tell the truth, no one wants to hear the truth anyway, and it's all gonna drag out for longer, so I'm just going to keep quiet." That's a hard thing to do sometimes, but it makes for a great song.
To me, "What Have I Done" is a classic country weeper. You say it's more than an apology. What do you mean by that?
I wrote the song over five years ago about a friend's relationship. I guess I was foreseeing the future because I didn't realize I could relate to that song so much. I think that people want to make it so easy, like, "That's an apology to [Rimes' ex-husband] Dean." I think there's just so much more than an "I'm sorry" to that. There's a lot of complexity to that "I'm sorry." It's a sad song. It really is. To look at yourself like that and to really admit wrongdoing and that you hurt someone else, it's hard, and no one really wants to be in that situation. To understand just how much hurt you caused, I think that's what that song was about.
"Borrowed" is another one that's probably hard to sing. You said it took a while to get around to that one. Why is that?
It was just so honest. I knew where I had to go to write the song, and I wasn't sure if I was ready to go there.
Like head-space wise?
Yeah. It was just scary to be that honest about a situation that's usually taboo. No one wants to talk about it. And to be that honest about my feelings in that situation and how pathetic I felt, I don't think I had ever really talked about it to anyone until I started writing that song. It was like a big slap in the face sometimes when I was writing it, like "Wow, I really did feel like I was a pathetic human being at that time." To look at yourself in that way, it's intense. But it sort of swung open a door for me to be able to approach the whole record that way. I have nothing to lose. Nothing's off limits anymore. If I can go there, then there's no place that I can't.
Do you think the drama will ever truly be over?
I hope so. I have learned how to deal with it a lot better than I would have dealt with it a couple of years ago. I really hope so. That would be nice, but unfortunately the drama is what some people use as a career. I don't see it going away anytime soon. The dramatization of it is what was interesting, but I'm happy the conversation is changing for me. I make music. I don't live off of drama. So it's nice to be able to change that conversation with this record. And I'm happy about that.