Spitting Fire and Bleeding Out: An Interview with LeAnn Rimes
When LeAnn Rimes released Spitfire a little over a month ago, the personal new album was heralded by some as one of the best country records of the year. Indeed, with this release, Rimes—whose affair with and subsequent marriage to Eddie Cibrian, her high-profile engagements with Cibrian’s ex, Brandi Glanville, and her divorce from her first husband, Dean Sheremet, have kept her name in headlines over the last five years more than her music has—leaps back into the country music world with her first album of original material in six years.
Spitfire features Rimes’ searchingly honest songwriting and some of her most scorching, sultry music yet (the Buddy and Julie Miller-penned “Gasoline and Matches” features a searing solo by Jeff Beck and Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas singing harmony), balanced by some aching country ballads (as Merle Haggard told Rimes about one of those songs, “Borrowed”: “Now, that’s a real country song.”) Engine 145 caught up recently with Rimes for a quick conversation about the album and life since its release.
Tell me a little bit about the title of the album and the opening track. Where did they come from? When you wrote “Spitfire” did you know it could be the title track?
I didn’t write this song until after we had some other songs written for the album. The word “spitfire,” came to me in a dream, and though I didn’t know what the dream was about, I woke up, sat down, and wrote down the words. Right then, I pretty much knew it would be the opening track and the album’s title. The emotions just poured out when I started writing this song. It was like the anger statement of the album; I was spitting fire—and yes, I’ve been called a “spitfire,” too—for all these emotions I had been holding in. The song came from how people I didn’t know were talking about my personal life, not just judging me, but making up lies. I couldn’t exactly fight with them—it would just fuel the fire—and watching it helplessly felt like having a piece of tape over my mouth. But it felt good to put all that into a song. It was very cathartic to write the song.
Tell me a little about your writing process.
I love collaborating on songs because it gets me out of my head. I write a lot of songs in my house; I’ll often have writers over and we’ll sit around working on tunes and lyrics. It’s a very laid back process. You know, I never try to force anything; everything depends on whatever emotions I’m feeling when I write. The titles of my songs, as well as the words and music, grow out of my feelings and experiences.
What message do you want listeners to take away from Spitfire?
You know, I was writing this album to bleed out; I was emotionally exhausted after I cut the album. In this album, I’m speaking more honestly than I ever have, from the truth and pain and love in my life and hoping that people connect with those emotions. Listeners are going to take a piece of me away with them when they hear the album. There’s a lot of humanity on Spitfire, and I hope listeners will relate the songs they hear to different situations in their lives. I hope they find themselves in the music and connect with me through my music in a deeper way than ever before.
You’ve been doing this for 18 years now. How have you grown as an artist between “Blue” and now?
Well, we only have five minutes, but I know I’m braver now; I’m more settled in my sound. Of course, I wasn’t writing my own songs back then, and I’m a lot more comfortable now exploring new directions in my music. I feel like I have matured so much. I’m comfortable being honest now, and so I can say that I feel like people never really saw me as a person. I want people who listen to my music to see me, know me, and recognize me as a normal human being who can sing and write. I certainly wouldn’t have been this honest about myself and my work when I first started, but I’ve found the freedom to do so now.
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