Country singers to open CCMA Awards with Shania Twain tribute

Three of Canadian country music's new generation of female voices are gearing up for a tribute to Shania Twain.

Singers will meet Twain for first time at Sept. 9 award show

Shania Twain will get a special tribute ahead of her hosting duties for next month's Canadian Country Music Association Awards: a four-song homage by a trio of rising country stars. (Rob Grabowski/Invision/Associated Press)

Three of Canadian country music's new generation of female voices are gearing up for a tribute to Shania Twain.

Jess Moskaluke, Kira Isabella and Madeline Merlo will open next month's Canadian Country Music Association Awards with an homage to the Timmins​, Ont. singer, organizers announced on Tuesday.

The trio will each perform one of Twain's songs before the superstar joins them onstage to begin her hosting duties for the live broadcast on Sept. 9.

It's a "girl power" moment Moskaluke says she never dreamed would happen. She's been a longtime Twain fan and regularly credits the country singer with giving her the confidence to pursue a music career.

"I had every album, I know every word to every song — whether it was a single or not," Moskaluke says.

"I remember her music always being a part of my life."

Jess Moskaluke, tied with Brett Kissel for the most CCMA nominations — they each have six, will perform Twain's Man! I Feel Like a Woman. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Over the past few weeks Moskaluke has been texting with Isabella and Merlo to iron out the details of their collaboration. They've discussed their outfits, the songs they'll sing, and how excited they are to meet Twain for the first time.

Moskaluke will perform Man! I Feel Like a Woman! while Merlo is down for a rendition of Life's About to Get Good, Twain's comeback single released last year.

Isabella is set to offer her take on Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? one of the singer's earlier tracks.

Kira Isabella will offer her take on Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

They'll unite to sing Honey, I'm Home, a foot-stomping finish to their set.

Moskaluke, 28, grew up in Saskatchewan during the 1990s when she says artists like Twain, Faith Hill, Martina McBride and LeAnn Rimes ruled over the country music airwaves.

"For me, Shania was the one really paving the way," she says.

'Overwhelmed with excitement'

Moskaluke has a few other things to be excited about at this year's show. She's tied with Brett Kissel for the most CCMA nominations — they each have six.

Merlo is nominated for female artist of the year.

Madeline Merlo, a CCMA nominee for female artist of the year, is set to deliver a rendition of Life's About to Get Good. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

"Brett always cleans house," Moskaluke says of her friend. "Year after year he has a fantastic career."

But Moskaluke's country stardom, which includes three consecutive female artist wins at the CCMAs, is opening new doors in Nashville. She's been working on a number of collaborations she's keeping under wraps, and this summer recorded a Christmas album that'll be released later this year.

"I always thought I'd have to work really hard to get into the Christmas spirit," she says of her studio time in July.

"But you can't hear Christmas spirit, you just have to sing the song... We put up a Christmas tree and that's it."

Moskaluke also plans to get married this weekend at her Saskatchewan farm, which she says added another layer of complications to her busy schedule.

"I haven't had time to breathe. I don't eat anymore, or sleep, because there's no time for that," she jokes. "I guess I'm overwhelmed with excitement."

The CCMAs air Sept. 9 on CBC.


If the jukebox was filled with Shania Twain songs, which one would you pick to play?

Choosing favourites is tough for the singers who will pay tribute to Canada's country music queen at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards next month. They say, how do you decide on just one great Twain song?

Her library ranges from crossover hits like Man! I Feel Like a Woman!You're Still the One and That Don't Impress Me Much, which exploded on both pop and country radio

And then there's ballads like From This Moment On, which has been embraced for years as a popular first dance at weddings.

But Jess Moskaluke, Kira Isabella and Madeline Merlo decided to dig a little deeper. The trio, who open the CBC's broadcast of the CCMA Awards with a powerhouse homage to Twain on Sept. 9, selected favourites that might not necessarily be most obvious to casual Twain fans.

Jess Moskaluke's Pick

Song: No One Needs to Know

The album: 1995's The Woman in Me

"I don't have one single favourite, but (this is) one of the very first ones I ever remember hearing," Moskaluke says.

"It was such an easy song to sing along to — and fun when she flips into her falsetto. Even before I was a singer I knew that was a fun song to sing."

Kira Isabella's Pick

Song: It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing

The album: 2002's Up!

"I love country music for the way so many artists have been able to describe a broken heart. And she does such and incredible job of that," Isabella says.

"When I was 11 or 12 listening to that song I just loved the melody, but I didn't really understand it. Now that I'm older I love it on so many different levels because I've had my heart broken like that."

Madeline Merlo's Pick

Song: Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?

The album: 1995's The Woman in Me

"The harmonies — sonically it didn't sound like anything else at the time," Merlo says.

"It made so many waves in the industry and she shook everything up with that song. I performed a lot of Shania Twain as a kid and that was definitely one of them."