Shania Twain doesn’t take her voice for granted. The country superstar almost lost her ability to sing after being diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2003.
She first thought something was wrong when she couldn’t project her voice. “I couldn’t call out for the dog,” she says on Thursday’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s weekly podcast. “I wasn’t heard very well on the phone. I couldn’t speak in loud environments.”
She initially believed that her issue was fatigue because she had just come off tour and was a new mom, but the problem persisted. “No voice doctor could explain,” she said. “They were like, ‘It’s probably psychological.’ I didn’t buy it, and I was sure it was a physiological thing.”
It would be seven years before she would finally get a proper diagnosis from Dr. Robert Sataloff, a specialist at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. The nerves of her vocal chords were damaged.
Sataloff also happened to be an opera singer who once had the same ailment. He suggested surgery that he himself had underwent. “What they do is they put little Gore-Tex braces on either side of your larynx to make up for the weakness of the nerves,” Twain said. “And it worked. When I’m laughing now, I’m the loudest one in the room.”
Twain says her singing voice isn’t the same as it used to be, but she’s learned to “navigate” in order to “belt out” her hits. “I’m just grateful to be able to sing again,” she said.
And for the second time ever, Twain is on the big screen, acting in Lionsgate’s new faith-based drama “I Still Believe,” the true story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) and his first wife, Melissa Lynn Henning (Britt Robertson). The two married shortly after Henning was diagnosed with cancer; she died less than five months after the wedding. “Knowing she’s going to die, they still marry,” said Twain, who plays Camp’s mother, Terry.
While Twain appeared as herself in “I Heart Huckabees” and on an episode of “Broad City,” her acting debut was playing John Travolta’s girlfriend in last year’s car-racing movie “Trading Paint. “He’s such a wonderful guy, so sweet and kind and he was very nurturing about it,” she said of working with the “Grease” star. “I did say to him, ‘I have never played a character in my life, so I don’t know how it’s going to go. This is a completely new experience.’ And he’s like, ‘Don’t worry, I got you,’ and he really did.”
On the music front, Twain said she’s happy to see that the Dixie Chicks have a fourth album coming out. Their last was released in 2006, three years after the group’s career were derailed when Natalie Maines said during a concert that the band was “ashamed” that then-President George W. Bush invaded Iraq. “I was devastated that they were gone — or that they’d been kicked out is a better word, probably,” Twain said. “I was so sad about it. I’m huge fan. They are extremely talented and I missed hearing their music.”
Twain knows what it’s like to face backlash in the country music world. When she was first trying to make a name for herself in the 1990s, executives — both male and female — warned that women would feel threatened by her because she was dressing too sexy. She was also told her lyrics were too “male-threatening.” “It was just a little bit scary and new, and there was a lot of unknown to it, and I think people thought I was going to get rejected by the public,” Twain recalled. “And so why invest in this artist if they thought it was self-destructive?”
Obviously, she proved them wrong. Twain has sold more than 100 million albums and has five Grammys. She’s also headlining her second residency in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood.
And now, she’s looking to make music with… Post Malone. Twain first met him when she went to see him perform as an opening act for Justin Bieber. “The photo I have with him, he doesn’t have those tattoos yet,” Twain said with a laugh. “I think he just has one little fine barbed wire on [his forehead] that you can barely see.”
She added, “I think we’re destined to jam and creatively get together.”
You can listen to Twain’s entire interview on “The Big Ticket” below. You can also find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.