Interview: On New EP, LeAnn Rimes Revisits Her Teenage Hits With More Wisdom
LeAnn Rimes is 35 years old, but her career dates back more than two decades: She first recorded her breakout hit, "Blue," originally written by Bill Mack, when she was just 11, and broke into the mainstream country music scene a couple of years later with the release of an album of the same name.
It's easy to understand how Rimes would be drawn to look back and reinterpret her earliest hits in 2018. While her soulful, original of version of "Blue" conjured emotional depth and maturity well beyond her years, Rimes was, nonetheless, a preteen when she first recorded it, without much personal context for the subject matter.
"Obviously, I didn't completely know what I was singing about when I was 11," Rimes told The Boot backstage at the 2018 Taste of Country Music Festival. "I could act my way through it, but there is a different groundedness to truly understanding it."
That song is one of several Rimes classics featured on her new Re-Imagined EP, which also includes a recording of her 2013 hit "Borrowed" reinterpreted as a duet with rock icon Stevie Nicks. Rimes says that revisiting the songs with a new perspective has been a fun process, and she hopes that re-releasing the results will allow fans who grew up with her music to look at the songs with fresh eyes, too.
"There's so many people that grew up with these songs," she goes on to say. "People are constantly asking for these versions of the songs, because they're grown-up versions. Now, everybody who grew up with these songs gets to relate to them the way I do. There's a wisdom behind [the music.]"
In the country music world today, when shows such as American Idol and The Voice are introducing artists to the genre at younger ages, Rimes' path to fame isn't out of the ordinary; in the mid-'90s, however, she was the youngest breakout star since Tanya Tucker released "Delta Dawn" at the age of 13, in 1972. These days, Rimes is still keenly aware of how rare her story is, and how "Blue" was, in many senses, the song that kickstarted her career and changed her life.
"You can't buy that kind of fame, or publicity, or whatever," she says. "That was just magic."
Although she's performed the song countless times since its release, Rimes says she doesn't get sick of doing so: "As I grow into a woman more and more, and have more wisdom about myself, I appreciate it and I like singing it more than ever because of the trajectory it put that little girl on," she explains.
"It solidified who I was and my name into every household, not just in America but around the world. So I've never taken [the song] for granted," Rimes adds. "I mean, I'm sure I've taken it for granted along the way! But I don't take it for granted, you know. I look back and think, 'Wow, that was really amazing for anyone, much less an 11-year-old kid.'"
Having become a country superstar at such a young age, Rimes is in a unique position to look back at her first hits and realize the full depth of their messages, maybe even for the first time. "I go back to "One Way Ticket": [When I first sang it], I didn't know that kind of yearning for freedom, and when I sing it now, I think, 'Oh wow, I've been there,'" Rimes shares. "Once you've been there, it takes on a totally different vibe.
"After we revamped it, I don't know how many times we went through it onstage where I couldn't go through it without crying," Rimes continues. "I was like, 'I feel this!' To me, it's always been about people feeling me feeling it. These days, though, I feel like it's even more about people tuning into these emotions that we don't normally tune into on an everyday basis. So that one, for me, really hits home."
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