Country music star LeAnn Rimes is agitated by the top search result on Google.
“LeAnn Rimes spotted in revealing top,” it reads. The TMZ-style click bait features a few sparse lines accompanied by photos of the 32-year-old walking back to her car after a trip to… the grocery store.
Rimes is wearing a sheer white blouse with a black bra underneath, which is apparently big news.
“It was 112 [degrees] here yesterday,” Rimes says. “If I could’ve worn a bikini to the grocery store I would have!”
This is the kind of thing Rimes has been dealing with for years, press that often has nothing to do with the reason she became famous: Her magical soprano voice, often likened to Patsy Cline.
Rimes rocketed onto the scene at 13 years old and became the youngest country music star since Tanya Tucker. She delivered greatness immediately: Rimes’ debut, Blue, went multi-platinum and reached No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart. She’s gone on to win 12 Billboard Music Awards, two Grammys and a Country Music Award. She also deserves credit for paving the way for young stars like Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson.
But Rimes has had to deal with very public – and career damaging – plot twists.
“I’ve learned to live my life without listening to all the craziness,” she says. “I know how it works: [US Magazine or People] make up something just to continue their story; it’s a soap opera to them. Some people don’t take it for what it is, which is entertainment, and take it as the truth.”
In response to the personal-professional attention imbalance, she’s created a section on her website entitled “Songs and Hymns Inspired by Tabloids.” It’s a place for nuggets of empowerment like a recent video post of her exclusive debut performance of “Alive (Thanks to You).”
The song works as a reminder why the world fell in love with her in the first place – that sweet soprano. The song was originally written to fans that have stuck by her through all the ups and downs.
Speaking of highs and lows, Rimes isn’t afraid to admit her 2013 record, Spitfire, is inspired by her relationship with her husband, Eddie Cibrian, whose ex-wife is Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville.
She’s also unashamed of using the media machine toward her own ends. LeAnn & Eddie, her and her husband’s VH-1 reality show that came to a close a few weeks ago, often felt like a wisely plotted, G-rated publicity play so Rimes could win back the hearts of all the fans who felt deceived by her affair with now-husband, Cibrian, while she was still married to Dean Sheremet.
“You got to see the side of who [Eddie and I] are that’s completely different than the way we’re portrayed sometimes,” Rimes says. “Comedy became the tone of the show. We were pretty self-deprecating and we took some jabs at each other.”
The show – a more wholesome version of The Osbournes – also seemed to have a positive impact on Rimes’ family itself.
“I think we saw our family more than we have in a while,” she says. “It was great to be able to work and hang out with our family every day.”
While she’s been sharing a career full of achievements and awards with the rest of the world – her big hits include “Life Goes On,” “We Can” and “Blue” – she often had to share everything else, which hasn’t been quite as joyful.
“I think when you’re called a little girl with a big voice people forget that you’re human,” she says. “Humanity has never been there for me. I’ve always been like this alien child put on a pedestal. There’s nowhere to go except to fall at some point.”
Rimes has impressively accumulated nearly 40 million album sales worldwide. While her music continues to touch huge swaths of people, she also pinpoints her impact through several charities including, most recently, Stand Up to Cancer, overseen by the American Association for Cancer Research.
But when she takes a moment to look back and reflect on the arc of her career, Rimes believes her biggest accomplishment is the fact that she’s still relevant.
“People are still talking about me and listening to my music,” she says. “Just to be able to make music like I have and still be alive, is a good thing.”
Rimes recently finished a 20-year record deal. For the first time in her professional life, she’s calling her own shots. And she’s enjoying herself so far.
One of her first projects following her longtime contract with Curb Records is Dance Like You Don’t Give a **** Greatest Hits Remixes (August 2014), a greatest hits album of Rimes’ music that has been remixed as dance songs throughout the years, including “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “Grace” (featuring The Crystal Method).
The country star says fans have been demanding an album that includes all of her dance remixes. Next, Rimes is releasing a Christmas EP in the fall, which is going to be the first of three she’ll release through 2016.
“I’m blessed, though everything I’ve done has definitely come with a price,” Rimes admits. “But here I am at 32 and success continues to find me.”
LEANN RIMES 8pm Friday, Sept. 26. Sunset Center, Ninth and San Carlos, Carmel. $75; $89. 620-2048.