People who buy tabloids might enjoy imagining being chased by hordes of paparazzi with cameras. This is life for country singer LeAnn Rimes.It wasn’t always like this. Rimes caught the nation’s attention at age 8 on the 1990 version of “American Idol,” Ed McMahon’s “Star Search” (video below). In 1997, at 14, she became the youngest person ever to win a Grammy for her debut album “Blue,” which reached No. 1 on the country charts. As a teen, she sang of heartbreak, love and loss.
“I would get totally offended when people would say I didn’t know what I was singing about,” says Rimes, 30, in a phone interview before performing Saturday at the Clearwater River Casino’s new events center east Lewiston.
“They were definitely right about that,” she says.
“What Have I Done”
Rimes’ mistakes in love and life forced her to face the deep corners of her soul, she has said. In her career, this translates into honest song-writing for her forthcoming album “Spitfire,” out June 4. The album reflects the dark time Rimes faced after the public learned she and her current husband had an affair in 2009 while still married to others. They divorced their spouses and married in 2011.
With “Spitfire” she’s said, “I hope I’m saying things that are hard for others to express.” Among its songs are “Gasoline & Matches,” which features guitarist Jeff Beck and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas. Alison Krauss adds her voice to “What Have I Done.”
In her private life, Rimes’ choices have thrust her into the spotlight of the tabloid media.
“It wasn’t as big an issue when I started as it is now. Tabloids weren’t as huge,” Rimes says of the attention she attracts. “Things will pop up in life, and it gets worse for a short period of time. The last four and a half years seem an exceptionally long, short period of time.
“I never realized I was that interesting,” she continues. “My husband gets great joy out of trying to lose them. I guess I just ignore it.”
That can be hard. A Mother’s Day trip to the beach last weekend turned into a photo shoot for 40 or 50 people following her and her family.
“There’s moments where it’s frustrating. It’s definitely not a normal way to live,” she says. “But it seems like part of what we have to accept these days.”
With all the photos, articles and publicity, people might think they know Rimes. She uses Twitter to keep in touch with her fans and is one of a few performers who replies to comments.
“I love having that access,” Rimes says, but it can come with a price.
“It’s amazing how people think they know your intentions from 140 characters. It can be really twisted and misconstrued. I’ve definitely gone through that,” she says. “My music would be the best way to get to know me.”
From the start, Rimes’ voice was compared to that of Patsy Cline. Her hit single “Blue” was originally intended for Cline. Rimes says she’s never seen the comparison as a burden.
“I take that as a huge compliment. She not only had one of the great voices, she knew how to connect with people in such a deep way,” Rimes says. That’s what separates a good singer from a great singer, she adds.
Musically, “Spitfire” has an “organic country side,” threaded with the old country music Rimes loves and made “a little more modern.” She’s reluctant to shelve it within a genre.
“Hopefully it falls into the good music category,” she says.
Categories aside, she has called the album an intimate conversation between her and the listener, which leads her to share one of the best compliments she ever got. She was playing to 17,000 people at one of Europe’s biggest venues, London’s O2 Arena, but afterward a fan said it was like being in a living room with her.
“For me to be this honest and expose so much, that’s new to me. It’s a pretty amazing place to be as a human being and a writer,” Rimes says.
if you go
Who: LeAnn Rimes
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Clearwater River Casino Events Center
Cost: $25-$75, available at the casino box office and ticketswest.com
LeAnn Rimes on “Star Search” in 1990: