Photo: Sara Hertel

LeAnn Rimes Q&A: 'Eddie & I Are A Gay Man's Wet Dream'

Country Superstar On Not Giving A 'F-ck,' Recording A Dance Album & How Her Hubby 'Works It' At Gay Clubs

By Chris Azzopardi

LeAnn Rimes can't fight the moonlight, but she can fight the spotlight - or, at the very least, shift it.

Ready to divert attention from tabloids back to music, the 31-year-old Grammy winner just released "Dance Like You Don't Give a ...," a collection of remixes spanning her 20-year career.

LeAnn, the title of your new album, "Dance Like You Don't Give a ...," leaves a lot to the imagination.

(Laughs) I'm actually old enough that I can name a record that! It was my producer whom I work with a lot and is a very good friend, Darrell Brown, who came up with that. I was like, "That is genius!" He came up with it as a title for a song - we're actually writing a song called that - and I was like, "We have to name the record that."

Are you at a point in your life where you just don't give a fuck anymore?

Yeah, I'm getting there, for sure. It's funny, I grew up in the business, and so, from a very early age, I was taught to care. I had to care what people thought because it was my job to. It really took me so far in the direction of having to care that I've had to reel it back in.

Everything I've gone through publicly in the last five years - if you really start to care what people think and let all of that penetrate, it can really mess you up. I think I've come to a really good balance. When it comes to my personal stuff and music, I'll listen - and I'm really open to people's opinion - but there's a time when I'm like, "OK, you have to go with your intuition and who you are." The more I figure out what that is and who I am, the easier it is to say, "I don't give a fuck."

Based on the album cover, where you're shouting angrily, I gathered that.

(Laughs) We shot that on top of the Roosevelt Hotel, and I'm actually on the Roosevelt sign... in heels! In a teddy! Which was probably not safe. It captures a moment for me where I needed to let it all out. And, I mean, who gets to stand on the Roosevelt sign and scream?

You do! And it does look like you're not caring in that moment.

Not at all! (Laughs)

Did you have the gays in mind when you were putting the track list together for this remix album?

Yeah. Honestly, the reason this record is out is because of the fans asking. And it's great. I've had a lot of success on the dance charts. I love that world, personally. I love to dance. Releasing a record like this has really set up an opportunity to actually make a full-on dance record after this.

Are you definitely considering that?

Oh yeah. It will happen for sure.

Looking back at your catalog, what songs of yours have resonated most with the gay community over the years?

"How Do I Live," definitely. "I Need You" did. Definitely "Can't Fight the Moonlight." I actually had a No. 1 dance record with "What I Cannot Change," which is off of my "Family" album and that, just the message of the song, seems to resonate very heavily with a lot of the gay community. I think a lot of my music does, really.

Watching your VH1 reality show, "LeAnn & Eddie," I've noticed just how much you enjoy dancing. During one episode you went to a gay country line-dancing bar...

Oh my god, so fun. A bunch of gay cowboys - you can't have more fun. They're hysterical. And there were some cute boys there!

Do you frequent gay clubs more than any other kind?

Yeah, it's so much more fun to me, and it's also kind of selfish - you go there and have all these sweet men who are like, "We love you!" It's fun to be around that energy! I went and performed during Gay Days in Orlando not long ago - it was the first time I actually performed my remixes live - and I had the best time. I've never experienced so much love in a room, and also so much excitement for music. Just really incredible people, and I got such a high off of doing that. I don't really have many firsts in my career anymore, but that was a first for me. Now, I really wanna develop that, because it's just a whole different crowd to perform in front of. It's a whole different energy...

Not at all like performing at a casino, huh?

No, no, no. It's different when you go into a place with thousands of gay men. The one thing I think we have in common is non-judgment. The last thing you wanna do is be judged. And the last thing I wanna be is judged, especially when I'm performing, so for me the most freeing experience was that. I just got to have a good time and not worry about anything. You're just up there singing, having a good time. Everybody's dancing. I think we have a mutual respect and love for one another that you can't really find everywhere.

We also share a mutual respect for your husband, Eddie Cibrian.

(Laughs) Yes. I've always said that Eddie and I are a gay man's wet dream. I sing, you can look at him, and it's perfect.

Does he tag along with you when you're doing your gay gigs?

He came to that show (Gay Days) and was like, "I am not walking out on stage." Of course I got him out on stage and it was so funny.

He gets embarrassed?

He does! It's funny. He's very low key. I embarrass him often!

Has he ever come to a gay club with you?

Oh yeah, many times. It's fun for me to watch! (Laughs)

Fun to watch him get hit on by guys?

I don't think that's ever happened, but I've definitely watched him get looked up and down in every way, shape or form ... so yeah, basically hit on. It's hysterical seeing these guys freak out over him. For me, I laugh so hard, because Eddie is really pretty cool about it all, but sometimes he can be shy and uncomfortable, and I love to see him in that element. It's completely not his element, but he knows how to work it.

Is this remix project the beginning of a new chapter for you? What's next?

I'm figuring that out. It's been nice to not be attached to anything at the moment and to have the opportunity to do whatever I want musically. I think after taking some time and starting to create music again, and writing and figuring out what that next move is, I'm starting to grasp it a little bit more. But I needed to take some time. I've been at the same place since I was 11 (until recently, Rimes was signed to Curb Records). But I love all different types of music and, like I said, this is laying the groundwork for me to really do a dance record. And it's sad actually: The album ("Dance Like You Don't Give a ...") was in the top 10 the other day on iTunes, but I was the only singer with a full-on dance record.

Considering your artistic evolution through the years, would you still call country music your home?

Is my home country radio and that world right now? No. But the cool thing is, I'm not sure that I have a home just yet. Not at this stage in my career. But that's where I started. I've had success across the board. I think even more so on the pop charts than on the country charts, but I think the basis for all of my music personally has always stemmed from what I learned listening to old-school country music. That was really influential in my life, and that's the kind of country music that I love. Unfortunately, it's really not around much these days, but just the organic nature of that I carry into everything that I do. So it's an interesting thing to go, "Where do I want to find a home?" I guess that's what I'm looking to do, and I have such great fans. People have followed me through so many different changes. I have fans who have pictures of me with them when we were 13, and now, all these years later, they're still listening to my music.

When you look back at yourself in those pictures, what do you see?

That was such a whirlwind time in my life that I don't remember a lot of it. Looking at pictures definitely brings back some crazy memories. I was so young. I was a kid that thought they were so much older. Now, being older and having two stepsons, I realize how young I was. That's really what I see.

It's interesting hearing what you used to sing about and what artists like Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert are singing about now. How is the country music landscape different for female artists now? Can women be bolder than you could be at the start of your career?

Kacey and Miranda are two of my favorites because there's some grit there and some authenticity that I feel is missing in music in general, but especially in country music. Everything I grew up on, you lived, you wrote, you sang. You weren't trying to mask anything or not tell the truth, and that's what great country music to me is about. So, it's nice to see a couple of artists sticking to that.

The landscape for women - there's not much available. It really has become very male dominated. In the '90s there was a lot more room for women. Reba (McEntire) released "She Thinks His Name Was John," which was about a woman who had AIDS and who was dying. It was a huge statement and a bold move. So I think people were doing it back then - it just wasn't as loud as it is now. With different platforms able to bring music to people, it's just a whole different world. But I think definitely the '90s was geared more toward having women involved in the format than it is now.

How do you think the way you've been portrayed in the media has affected your professional music career?

I think, unfortunately, the direction and the conversation have been turned off of music for a while now. With the new show on VH1, and these eight episodes that we filmed, you really do get to see the story that is us and not some soap opera that people have made up because it sells magazines. And it's hard to sit back and not be combative about it, but there's so much and only so many times you can say, "That's a lie," because it all is. To be able to take control of it in a way and laugh about it, which we do, has become very much a coping mechanism.

So, with the show, the tide is turning, thank goodness, and it makes it harder for people to go, "Oh my god, they're horrible people," but to maybe stop and think for a minute. I'm hoping with the show the conversation will turn back to music, because we're like, "OK, chapter closed."

Time for people to move past your personal lives?

It's time. And it's time for me to get back to what I love doing and what I do best, and that is music.

What's the most common misconception about you?

I think my whole life is really just a misconception. Like I said, we have been drug through so much and portrayed whatever way they (the press) feel works for them that week - and also, there has been a third party (Brandi Glanville, Cibrian's ex-wife) - and so, the whole thing is a misconception. But the good thing about the show is all of these misconceptions kind of just crumble.

Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at http://www.chris-azzopardi.com.
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