Shania Twain’s new documentary “Not Just A Girl” delves into a rich archive of video footage to tell the story of the Timmins, Ontario. the native’s rise from hopeful bar singer to global superstar.
Along the way, the feature film sheds light on the many struggles and triumphs that color his nearly 40-year career.
“Not Just a Girl” was produced with the participation of her record label and premiered Tuesday on Netflix. Twain issued a new song named after the documentary on streaming services to coincide with the release.
Along with interviews with Lionel Richie, Avril Lavigne and Orville Peck, Twain shares memories of his past.
Here are six highlights from “Not Just a Girl”:
BAR STORIES: Twain recalls how many of his early childhood gigs occurred after last call at the watering holes of small-town Ontario. “She was crazy, she had school in the morning,” she says. “There weren’t other kids singing in the bars, period. And it wasn’t the norm.” Twain says that she kept 100 songs in her repertoire to receive requests. Those locations served as a training ground for her first television appearances, which included CBC’s “The Tommy Hunter Show” under her birth name, Eilleen Twain.
FIRST TWAIN MANAGER: Twain credits Canadian country singer Mary Bailey with helping her find her place on the music scene. The two met when the 11-year-old Twain opened for Bailey’s concert in Sudbury. “(His) guitar of hers was bigger than her, actually,” recalls Bailey. “She was backstage and I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe this.'” Their professional relationship would grow stronger in the years that followed, after Twain’s parents were killed in a car accident, leaving the young artist in her charge. two brothers at 22. Bailey would remain Twain’s manager until the mid-1990s.
‘FREEDING’ HERSELF: Twain credits the music video for his 1993 debut single “What Made You Say That” as a personal turning point. Unlike many country videos of the time, it showed the singer flirtatious with a shirtless man, and even sultry and independent. “The women didn’t really show her stomach very much,” notes Bailey. Twain finds another way to put it: “I absolutely disrupted the image of country music.”
GLOBALIZE: After her 1995 hit album “The Woman in Me” made her a household name in country music, Twain decided her next career would have to up the ante. She changed management companies and hired Jon Landau, known for her work with Bruce Springsteen. He recalls their first meeting: “She wanted to cross over into pop, she wanted to be an international superstar, and she wanted to be an absolutely top touring artist. Those three goals, clear as a bell, the first time I talked to her.” The partnership spawned “Come On Over,” an album that Landau says he knew instantly was a hit. “For me, and I’m pretty good at it, every song was a hit,” he says. “It was as simple as that.”
DISADVANTAGES OF ‘UP!’: Twain reflects on the dark times that befell him in the early 2000s when he wrapped up a massive tour for “Up!”, his fourth chart-topping album. “She was horseback riding and I got bitten by a tick,” she says of the pivotal moment that led to her Lyme disease. “Before I was diagnosed, I was very dizzy on stage, I was losing my balance. I was afraid of falling. I would have these millisecond blackouts, regularly, like every minute or every 30 seconds.” Twain says that in the years that followed, she struggled with how the disease affected her vocal cords: “I thought she had lost her voice forever. I thought that was it; she would never sing again.”
THE HEART OF TWAIN: While facing a crisis with her voice, Twain divorced her husband and producer Robert (Mutt) Lange, who had left her for another woman. Twain does not acknowledge that Lange’s affair was with her best friend, nor does she appear in the film to offer her perspective. “I’m at another low point now and I just don’t see any point in continuing with a music career,” Twain says she remembers feeling. “When I lost Mutt, I was thinking that the pain of that was as intense as losing my parents. It was like death…the permanent end of many facets of my life.” Later, Twain reminds herself that she is a survivor who continues to perform live and is planning a sixth studio album.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 27, 2022