Most bios for albums talk about the artist’s achievements and accolades, but you all can Google that. I don’t want to do that at this point in my life. I’ve been making music for eighteen years, but I’ve never felt like people really saw me as a person. They saw me as a prodigy with a big voice. I felt like an alien child. I don’t want to be “LeAnn Rimes,” a name in lights. I want people who listen to my music to see me, know me, recognize me, as a normal human being who can sing and write and, I hope, connect with me through my music in a deeper way than ever before.
That’s what this album is about for me. I took a step back from the years of work and came back to the essence of what music means to me. I made this album for me, for the pure joy of making music, and I think the power of that shows. I looked as this record as making a film. Every song that I wrote and every song I recorded by another songwriter fit the whole vision and story that I wanted to tell. In this album, I’m speaking more honestly than I ever have, from the truth and pain and love in my life and hoping that people connect with those emotions.
I’m not just a voice -- I have something to say. I met my husband Eddie under complicated circumstances, and you can Google that too, but if you really want my truth, just listen to the music. The experience of meeting him, falling in love with him, and weathering the resulting fallout has taught me and changed me. It opened me up to being myself and not what everyone wanted or expected me to be. The last three years have been a time of taking things apart and putting them back together on my terms. I’m grown up, but I still had a child in me that hadn’t been able to develop. Now it has. Writing songs from such a personal space is part of that growth. I’m learning to let go of myself and just feel the emotion of what I’m doing. On this album, I feel like people are going on that journey with me. We’re embarking on it together.
Spitfire covers a range of emotions that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, from anger to love, from frustration to letting go. My co-producer and co-writer Darrell and I talked about telling that story in chronological order, but that didn’t work sonically, so Darrell said, “It’s the truth… in no particular order.” And isn’t that what life is about?
Darrell Brown and I have been writing together for ten years. Over the years he has taught me so much about the writing process. He’s my writing soulmate. I trusted Darrell to bring in some co-writers that he knew I could be just as honest with. He brought in Dan Wilson and David Baerwald. I had faith in Darrell, but I had no idea that when it came to songwriting I’d click with those two the way we did. I used to be afraid to say what I was thinking. I worried that if I threw out an idea that sucked, people would think less of me. Now I just dive in! We all throw out ideas that suck, and then we find something we all like.
With me and Darrell, David co-wrote “What Have I Done?” one of the most soulfully transparent songs on this album, and he also co-wrote with us “Spitfire” and “A Waste is a Terrible Thing to Mind.”
My favorite moment of recording this album might have been working on “Borrowed.” I didn’t know Dan Wilson at the time, but he’d written “Someone Like You” for Adele. There are so many songs on that record that I love so much. Explaining to Dan what I wanted to express in “Borrowed” was a special moment for me. I went to a deep, dark place that I’ve never shared with anyone, but one that so many of us have experienced: waiting around for someone to call, watching TV, alone, lonely, wondering if it was going to end or was already over. That period wasn’t a memory I wanted to revisit, but I think I had to face it. And to be that open with someone I didn’t know was very cathartic and a revelation for me as a songwriter. Dan also co-wrote with us the song, “I Do Now.”
When I first met Niko Bolas, who engineered the record, I told him that I couldn’t stand having the microphone hanging down in front of me. I always wanted to sing with the microphone in my hand, but all the engineers I’d ever worked with told me I couldn’t do it. They’d say, “You won’t sound the same. It’ll bleed.” But Niko is fearless. He said, “Whatever you want, we’ll make it work.” Somehow he figured it out. I stood there in the middle of everyone and experienced live music instead of being in the booth. Holding a mic, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted. I recorded “What Have I Done?” lying flat on my back.
We initially recorded with as simple a band as possible. We wanted acoustic instruments and steel as the focal point. We added electric guitar on a few songs, a little B-3, and background vocals, but we tried not to build too much on the original tracks. Willie Weeks plays bass and upright. Steve Jordan is on drums. Dan Tyminski is on acoustic, mandolin, and background vocals. Paul Franklin plays steel guitar. Waddy Wachtel and Dean Parks are on acoustics as well.
I was lucky that Dan Tyminsky, who plays with Alison Krauss and Union Station, was teaching himself “What Have I Done” on the bus while they were on tour. Alison called Darrell to ask to sing on it. I was awestruck. She and Dan Tyminsky sing backup together.
We experimented with a couple mixers, and we weren’t getting exactly what we wanted. Then we went to Vance Powell, who mixed the last several Jack White records. I knew I loved his stuff. So Darrell played him some of the basic tracks we recorded, and Vance said, “I have to do this.” We gave him “Spitfire” to try mixing first. It kicked down the walls!!
Al Schmitt, the god of all mixers, works down the hall in Capitol Studios, where we were recording. One day he popped his head in and asked, “Can I mix that?” He ended up mixing three or four songs for us.
Alison, Dan Tyminsky, Dan Wilson, Rob Thomas, Jeff Beck, Vance Powell, Willie, Steve Jordan, so many people moved their lives around to work on this record. Every time I reached out to someone whose work inspired me and they said yes, I was blown away. Nobody had heard any of the music yet, but they wanted to come create together.
As a kid, I used to get easily tired of working in the studio. I have a short attention span. But now that I’m writing my own stuff and it has meaning, it’s a completely different experience. The people I worked with felt like a family, and I didn’t want our time in the studio to end. I don’t think anyone did.
This album is a peek into my world; who I am, what I’ve gone through, what my emotions are. It’s an intimate conversation between myself and whomever’s listening. I hope I’m saying things that are hard for others to express. It certainly took me a lot of work to get to this point. And it’s still easier to sing these thoughts than it is to say them out loud. The intimacy in my music is just beginning.
LeAnn Rimes - "Borrowed":
LeAnn Rimes - "Give":
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