No new Shania album but fans still gather
For the seventh year in a row, Shania Twain fans are gathering at a conference in the country superstar's hometown of Timmins, Ont.
But it's also been seven years since they've had a new Twain album to listen to, and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime in the near future.
A spokesman for Twain's label said a new record from the singer is still "nowhere in sight," despite internet rumours to the contrary.
The 43-year-old hasn't released an album of new material since 2002's Up! And yet in an oft-fickle music industry where artists are forgotten in the time it takes to download a new ringtone, Twain's fans and peers are proving extraordinarily patient in waiting for new material from the singer.
"One of the things that's very unique about Shania is that she writes her lyrics and she writes her music — and subsequently, she doesn't turn out an album every six weeks or every other year. It takes her a while," said Richard Sessions, a 51-year-old from Goshen, Ind., who has made the trip for all of Twain's fan conferences.
"We understand that she's also had some other things in her life that have distracted her from her music, so we're patient."
Singer-songwriter blogs about delay
Twain, apparently, appreciates it.
In a June 12 blog posting, Twain apologized to her fans for her delay in creating new music, writing: "I realize I'm not holding up very well on my end of the relationship!"
Twain, who has always shunned the spotlight when it comes to her personal life, has kept an even lower profile since splitting from her husband and producer Mutt Lange.
In June, she wrote about the difficult time she's endured, and discussed trying to keep her emotions in check for the benefit of her young son.
And she also described a creatively fruitful period that followed the "personal crisis."
"Since then, I've been inspired by my pain to write and use writing as a therapy through the suffering," Twain wrote. "I truly wouldn't wish this on anybody as a means to get inspired, but it's been a productive period with so much emotion trying to find its way out.
"However, there is no telling how long it will take me to actually finish these songs and record them so they can get out to you."
Rumours swirled on the internet earlier this year that Twain would, in fact, have a new album out in the spring, and then the fall. But her label rep said there definitely won't be a new studio album from Twain out this year.
Drop in Twain Centre visitors
Meantime, many people are anxiously waiting that new material, including the staff at the Shania Twain Centre in Timmins, a $6-million facility that opened its doors in 2001.
Tracy Hautanen, the centre's manager, said about 30 people registered for this year's Twain conference, which started Thursday and runs through Sunday. That's down from 100 a few years ago.
"We were hoping for more people, but of course, the numbers are low for a few reasons — the economy is not helping, and then this is a quieter time in [Twain's] career, as well," she said in a telephone interview. "So we know when things pick up with her, our numbers will pick up again."
Hautanen said just 500 fans have toured the centre this year. That's quite a comedown from the 55,000 annual visitors projected when the centre opened to much fanfare eight years ago.
Standing ovation in Nashville
Twain's peers are also eagerly awaiting the singer's return. A surprise appearance at last year's CMA Awards in Nashville earned Twain a standing ovation, and a chorus of country stars — including Taylor Swift — have been vocal about wanting to see Twain come back.
"I was so proud of our country music family in Nashville when [Twain] came out onstage at the last CMAs," country legend Reba McEntire said.
"They were so glad to see her again. They showed their love and support by giving her a standing ovation."
As far as Twain's staying power, it's no mystery to McEntire.
"She's beautiful, she's very talented, great material, lord — what's not to love?"