LeAnn Rimes was a seasoned star at age 11 and scored her first chart-topping hit at 13. She is the youngest recipient of a Grammy Award and has charted 42 Billboard country singles. And she’s had her fair share of headline-grabbing attention. The singer, songwriter, actress and author opens up about the tumultuous early years, the truth behind the tabloid headlines and how she’s found peace in the 90-minute biodoc, Backstory: LeAnn Rimes, Sunday, April 24, 8/7c on Great American Country (GAC).
“LeAnn’s story is so compelling, we were moved to make this episode of Backstory 90 minutes in length instead of the typical 60 minutes,” said GAC’s GM, Sarah Trahern. “Since she was a child she’s had the ability to touch people with her music and although still a young woman in her 20s, she continues to do just that.” Interviews with her mother, friend and agent Rod Essig, friend and songwriter Darrell Brown, label head Mike Curb, childhood friend and artist Steve Holy and industry insiders along with archival video clips and photos complement Rimes’ no holds barred interview.
Watch a sneak peek:
LeAnn talks candidly about her father’s insistence that she stay on the road while she was hot. “From the time I was 14 to 16 and a half I did 500 shows,” Rimes says. “I was worn out, I was done.” After a forced two week break from performing to recover from the flu, LeAnn started questioning her father and the strain of her relationship with him was one of the things that took its toll on her parents’ marriage. “Her father and I just did not agree on the way things should be done,” mom Belinda recalls. “I felt like I lost my daughter at a young age and it’s a terrible feeling. It feels like both she and her father went on an airplane flight and it crashed and they never came back.”
By now she was 17, living with her mother in LA, in a relationship with actor Andrew Keegan and pushing to make more of her own decisions. A lawsuit against her father was followed by a lawsuit against her label, Curb Records, for a contract enacted when she was 13. She lost that suit. “I had actually already talked to her manager about readjusting her contract because at that point, doing that extra album each year for gospel didn’t make any sense because she was out on the west coast at Playboy parties and we couldn’t have put a gospel album out at that time if we had wanted to,” says label chief Mike Curb. Over time she made up with her father and renegotiated a more favorable contract with Curb, yet, she remained fodder for the tabloids.
LeAnn was busy making hit records and touring when the offer to do the TV movie “Northern Lights” in Canada came up, an offer she didn’t readily embrace. “I had toured all year and was like, ‘Oh god, don’t make me go to Canada for four weeks.’” Rimes of course did go and worked opposite co-star Eddie Cibrian. “We met and became really good friends. We spent a lot of time together on set and got to know each other well and then it just sort of snowballed after that.”
Soon the tabloids broke the story of the married music star’s relationship with the married actor. “I know I didn’t do it (handle the situation) the right way. It got messy but I have learned a lot. I’m not glad it happened but I know why it did. The decision wasn’t about Dean or Eddie, the decision was about whether or not I was in the right place.” By now the world knows that Rimes and Cibrian are engaged to be married.
“It’s such a double standard in country music,” LeAnn notes in looking back at how she’s been treated by some. “I mean Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and all of those guys, god knows what they did back in the day. If a woman did it, you were never accepted or forgiven but if it was a guy, they could write a song about it, it’d be huge and they’d move on. It’s quite interesting to navigate those waters as a woman in this business.”
There’s no slowing down for the young artist who has already experienced a life time’s worth of fame, success and heartache. She’s recorded Lady & Gentlemen, a collection of hits previously recorded by men, and she continues to tour.
“I’m still growing up and some parts of me are still childlike which is good in a way,” says LeAnn. ”I’ve learned that the imperfections are what’ve made my life so interesting.”