Doing the work

LeAnn Rimes was winning awards for her music before she was legally allowed to drive and spoke with Oklahoma Gazette in advance of her free Scissortail Park performance this month.

It’s been a quarter century since Blue made LeAnn Rimes the youngest Grammy Award-winning artist at the age of 14. Since, the multitalented artist has won a multitude of awards, not only for her music but for her advocacy and humanitarian work as well. On Sept. 16, the acclaimed performer will release her 19th studio album, god’s work.

“For me, god’s work was all about a journey of reclamation, where humanity meets spirit,” Rimes said. Spirit, passion and intention reverberate throughout the project, and Rimes hopes people don’t miss the point. The lowercase title and tracklist was intentional, she explained.

“If we’re arguing about why the ‘g’ is or isn’t capitalized, we’re missing the whole point. It’s so important for us to focus on the messages, rather than the nuances,” she said.

Rimes took some time to chat with Oklahoma Gazette about her new album and her upcoming tour, “the story…so far,” ahead of her free concert at Scissortail Park coming up on May 21.

OKG: We’re quite close in age, so I have been a fan of yours since Blue. How does it feel 25 years later coming out with your new album god’s work?

Rimes: It feels good. I feel like I’m at a new cycle or a new phase of my career and making music. I’m honoring and celebrating 25 years of making music and coming out with a new record kind of feels like a new timestamp for me. So it feels really, really good. I find myself listening to this record a lot in my own time and that’s kind of unusual for me. I think there’s a lot of storytelling on the record, and the messages that it carries I need in my everyday life. I find myself listening to it a lot, so yeah, I’m really proud of it.

OKG: What messages are you hoping listeners will take away from this new record?

Rimes: I think there’s a lot of them on this album. I like to think that my music does this in general, but I like to think that this record, in particular, is one that makes you feel all the feels. It will definitely pull your heartstrings. It will make you contemplate life and it will piss you off. I love all of it. I’m here for it. So I think god’s work takes a look at the duality of life and how it all is a part of creation. I’m hoping that people walk away contemplating some of the deep complexities and mysteries of life. Hopefully, it goes to the heart and makes them recognize what we all are, which is human. I have a podcast called Wholly Human and I think this is kind of an extension of that, where it’s recognizing the humanity of who we are and the holiness of that also and knowing that we can’t be whole without both sides of it. So I think this album celebrates it all.

OKG: You have several collaborations on this album. What was your inspiration to work with these artists?

Rimes: Well, you know, everyone was sitting at home in their sweats. We’re making this record, which I think served me well. I just started asking people that I thought would sound great on the songs, and if they would come join me and they said yes. I don’t think I’ve ever thought I’d have Ziggy Marley on the record, but on ‘the only’ for him to say yes and for him to set his own spin and just coolness, I feel like he really brings out a joy to this record and especially to that track. Ben Harper, Ledisi, Mickey Guyton, and Sheila E. There’s so many people on this record that join me. Everybody brings their own thing to it. And specifically on a song like ‘the only’ there is a sense of community, I think there’s a sense of community to this record too and having so many talented artists join me. Most of the time it takes a village to make a record, to burst anything into this world, especially creativity like this. So it was wonderful that everybody said yes and went with this. We kind of cast as we were going along, with who I thought would sound great and fit the vibe.

OKG: I read that this album is mixed, recorded, and mastered all by women. Why was that important to you?

Rimes: I think in this industry, as many do, we’ve had our challenges as women and trying to pave our own way. Anytime that I can uplift women in the industry, especially when it comes to women’s creativity and their voices with their creativity, it’s really important to me. That was definitely a solid choice on this record. I wanted to celebrate the women of the industry that sometimes don’t get heard as much as they should.

OKG: What is your favorite song off of this album?

Rimes: That’s like picking a favorite child; that’s impossible. Gosh, what is it today? I do find myself singing ‘the only’ a lot because it’s very hooky and very happy. So when I need some joy in my life, I tend to sing that. I think there’s something about ‘the wild’ too that is really powerful for me as a woman, as a songwriter. There are a lot of things, as I was writing it, specifically for that song, I was afraid to say. And I remember as I was writing it, I was like can I say this or that, and I know I’m pushing the edge as a songwriter and where I’m comfortable, what I’m comfortable with saying, when it feels uncomfortable to say, to sing. We wrote and rewrote that song three or four times. Ended up we hadn’t even finished it when we started recording it. I was still trying to find this, like, hook thing to do with my voice on it, and I was like, “Just put the track on — let me just see and see what comes out. And there’s this kind of primal yell-yodel thing that happens and I was like, “Oh, that’s the song. It’s written now. So usually songs will flow out and maybe we’ll have like one rewrite just to kind of tweak things. But that one was its own animal of sorts. And there’s such an animalistic quality to it that I have never brought to my music before. So, for me artistically, it’s super freeing to have an expression through my music in that way. So that when I need to go find my power, I definitely listen to that.

OKG: Oklahoma City is really excited to welcome you to Scissortail Park. What are you looking forward to most as you embark on tour this year?

Rimes: I’m looking forward to seeing people and experiencing the energy of a crowd. We did tour a little bit at the end of last year. At the beginning of this year we did a few shows but to go out and play some new music is exciting. We’re going to be celebrating the last 25 years also. It’s going to be a really cool storyteller kind of experience. People will get to hear some stories behind the older songs, and playing new music from the new record will be really exciting too. We’re actually starting rehearsals tomorrow, so it feels like new energy for me. I’m looking forward to it.