Shania Twain is back with her first full-length album since 2002. The queen of country pop talks to Kerri-Ann Roper

IT'S not easy returning to something after 15 years. Especially when that certain something is a very successful music career. There would be so many reasons to run in the opposite direction: new, younger artists dominating the charts, a different music landscape, fans who can praise or tear you down on social media in an instant...

If you're Shania Twain though, you return in style and you make cementing your place as the queen of country pop look effortless.

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Canadian-born Twain, 52, returned this year with a new album - her first full-length one in 15 years - called NOW. The 16-track record hit number one on the UK album charts shortly after its release, as if Twain had never been away. But she has been and her return is more than just a comeback - it's a victory over major life obstacles like thinking she'd never sing again and a divorce from her husband of many years.

"It's a big undertaking to put another album out," she says matter-of-factly over the telephone. "Especially because I wrote all the music alone, which was another huge commitment and responsibility, so that was a bit nerve-wracking. But now that it's finished, I'm relieved and excited."

A few weeks before our call, I meet her in the flesh at a listening session for the album. In my head I can see her in her 1999 music video for her hit song Man! I Feel Like A Woman, peeking out from under her top hat and saying confidently: "Let's go, girls!"

Twain is warm and understated in person - and you can sense a quiet confidence brimming under the surface as she talks about her music. "Just getting to the point where I would even be able to make a record, record the voice, that was the scariest part and committing myself to writing it alone," she explains. "All of that period of just getting started was the most difficult part, the scariest part."

Twain has had a struggle with Lyme Disease and nearly lost her voice for good. It threatened to end her successful music career. She says: "I lost my voice and it was total use of my voice. It was terrible and so for seven years I really just believed I would never even know what was wrong with it. I felt like I'd lost one of the great joys of my life. Then the last seven years have been all about the rehabilitation and hard work."

Her voice aside, there was also her divorce from her producer husband Robert "Mutt" Lange following 15 years of marriage after he had an affair with her best friend. Twain is very clear though when I ask her if this is in any way a divorce album.

She says: "Well, I would describe this as a transition album. I went through a very long transitional phase of recovering from a lot of things, reflecting on my whole life and recovering my voice. All of that rehabilitation and just starting life over after divorce, so it's definitely not a divorce album. It's more about a much longer phase in my life than just the divorce period. There are so many more things in my life of importance and that's why there's a lot of positivity in the album as well. There's a lot of optimism, I touch on the dark side and I also touch on coming out of the dark side, coming out the other end."

And she's right. The album is dangerously catchy and there are a few of the songs - anthems like Swingin' With My Eyes Closed - that you can sense will be played on repeat.

Twain is a five-time Grammy award winner and has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide. Last year she ranked ninth on the Forbes Highest Paid Women in Music list, with a rumoured fortune of around £20.7 million ($27.5 million), just a position above other music big hitters such as Celine Dion.

Before her recent return to the studio, she performed regularly as part of a residency in Las Vegas. Given the long break from making new music, fans won't be disappointed with her new album - it's just as vibey and catchy as some of her previous hits.

"I mean I really do hope that it inspires people... this album still has all the optimism that my other music has, but there is more of a contrast between reality and how difficult life can really be and also how great it feels to survive those times," she says.

Around the time I'm talking to her, the film industry is reeling from sexual harassment claims being made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne are among the high-profile women who have made claims about his behaviour towards them.

"I'm inspired by the fact that this light is being finally turned on and in a really big way. I think culturally for the kids growing up right now in this time, maybe they will be liberated from this," she says. "The winds of change are here and I'm excited about it. I hope we just keep moving forward and we never stop highlighting that, so that our kids grow up with a different norm."

  • Shania Twain will tour the UK next year and her new album NOW is released through Virgin EMI