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TWAIN SPOTTING

The Return of Shania Is Now

To put Shania Twain’s return to the music marketplace in context, it’s important to look at some numbers.

We’re talking about numbers like 35 million (total album sales, making her the 15th-biggest-selling artist of the modern era). Then there’s 15.7m (units moved by Come On Over, the second-biggest-selling album of the modern era). Also 7.5m (digital tracks sold), not to mention 300m+ (streams since 2014). Oh, and five (Grammys) and three (consecutive Diamond-certified albums, a feat achieved by no other female artist in history).

Those figures explain the anticipation greeting the megastar’s forthcoming Mercury Nashville set, Now (due out 9/29 and in pre-order, um, now). Lead track  “Life’s About to Get Good” hit radio in June.

“She has been out of the recorded music scene for around 15 years, so nothing can ever be taken for granted,” acknowledges manager Scott Rodger of Maverick, who began repping Twain early last year.  “She’s one of the biggest-selling female artists in history, but people consume music in a very different way these days. So we’ve been doing a lot of building towards the introduction of new music.”

In recent years, Twain’s done a Vegas residency, as well as a 72-date North American tour in 2015 that saw her sell nearly 700k tickets.  “That gives an artist the confidence that there’s still an audience for new music,” Rodger notes.  “I also feel that Shania has never been cooler. Perhaps it’s retro-cool, but every artist that we’ve crossed paths with recently, in virtually every genre, has nothing but love and respect for her.” That said, he adds,  “There are never any guarantees—and without a doubt there is a huge amount of work for her ahead as we lead into the album launch period.”

Rodger praises UMG Nashville chief Mike Dungan, President Cindy Mabe and their team, as well as international players like U.K. head of promo Bruno Morelli (Now will be released via Virgin EMI in the U.K. and Universal labels worldwide). Multiple European trips with a heavy TV focus are in the offing, and U.K. radio, especially BBC Radio 2, is said to have been especially receptive. Mabe credits UMG Nashville VP Marketing Strategy and Planning Matt Voss as crucial to the global campaign.

“Shania’s a fired-up, renewed artist who now has the confidence to come back,” says Mabe.  “She’s overcome heath issues, the fear of coming back and writing about the process. It is a remarkable story, but also highly relatable. While ‘Life’s About to Get Good’ is a catchy, hooky song, it’s about looking back at everything she had to overcome to get to this point, what’s she’s experiencing at the same time.”

 “From a global standpoint, fans have wanted her to come back, but thought she never would,” Mabe continues. “It’s fascinating, the power of her brand—everyone knows who she is. She’s a country artist who draws all ages in. Those songs changed people’s lives and have remained current. You see it on everyone’s faces in interviews, the reaction online and also the way brands are coming to us.”

Rodger recalls that when he came aboard, Twain was already working on the record and had done the basic work on  “Life’s About To Get Good” (which was produced by Matthew Koma and Ron Aniello).  “She got it off the ground herself with no label involvement just to see how things would progress,” he emphasizes.  “She self-A&R’d this entire record as well as writing every song to realize her vision. Though several producers were involved, this is very much a Shania-driven project; she directed every session in detail. It was incredible to observe her at work.”

Throughout 2016, the team amassed 23 tracks from which the album’s 16 were selected. Producer/engineer Spike Stent, Rodger adds, proved indispensable in the mix sessions.

 “This is my first Nashville-based project,” says Rodger, who says Music City at the moment “has such a great energy and isn’t jaded in any way. I’m fortunate that I can always reach out to my Maverick partners in Nashville, Clarence Spalding and Chris Parr, for advice, as well as Maverick President Greg Thompson in our L.A. office, who has spent a lot of time on the ground in Nashville and with everyone on the Universal Nashville team.”

 “The main difference that we have with Shania,” Rodger observes,  “is that she is a global artist, which isn’t necessarily the case with most Nashville-signed artists. So that’s been the challenge, as the focus isn’t just on the U.S.”

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