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Shania Twain Grateful for Her Past, Excited for Her Future at Country Music Hall of Fame Exhibit Opening [PICTURES]

Rock This Country, Shania Twain‘s new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, illustrates her extraordinary life and career, from her humble beginnings in Timmons, Ontario, Canada, through her rise to country music stardom, her marriage (and subsequent divorce) from Robert John “Mutt” Lange and her current career. The singer-songwriter toured the exhibit on Tuesday (June 27), prior to its official opening on Friday (June 30).

“A child of tension and hardship. A girl who slept in a one-bedroom house with three siblings and two dogs. A teenager who joined a rock band called, appropriately enough, Longshot,” Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young said while introducing Twain to the media members gathered for an opening reception on Tuesday. “How does that girl make it through danger and disappointment, arrive in Nashville, Tenn., and receive an unheard-of-at-the-time $20,000 advance from Polygram Records? … Then, how does this same girl, now a woman, go from struggling Nashville debut artist to international superstar?

“How does she re-imagine country music into a genre-bending swirl of rock, pop, soul, twang and sex and sass empowerment?” Young continued. “The odds are 1 in 7.5 billion — that’s a rough, probably low, estimate of how many people are alive on this planet at present. And only one of them has become Shania Twain.”

Twain, clad in a one-piece gold pantsuit, seemed humbled by her newest honor, and by Young’s kind words. With a laugh, she recognized the “handful of people, when I first came to Nashville, who were happy to see me;” industry executives Norro Wilson, Buddy Cannon and Harold Shedd, Twain said, were among those who welcomed her with open arms.

“I used to speak incredibly fast. I was quite hyperactive,” Twain remembered. “They would all say, calling me [my given name] Eilleen: ‘You know, maybe you need to just calm down a little bit.’ And I swore a lot, too, when I first came to town; I’m a small-town Canadian from a mining town, and I spoke like a lumberjack a little bit.”

After getting her “social graces” in order, Twain knew she’d still have to do plenty of work to do if she wanted to reach the level of stardom that she spent her childhood dreaming about. Bolstered by the fact that her parents were deceased and that she had younger siblings to take into consideration, Twain began the difficult task of preparing herself for what she hoped would be a lengthy career.

“My early beginnings in Nashville were the grooming for preparing me for what was to come. And I embraced it as a very important part of my life, knowing that there was no turning back,” Twain explained. “Once I came to Nashville, with a record deal — which was a miracle — I had no parents to call to say, ‘It’s not working out,’ or, ‘Can you send a bit of money?’ I had no one to fall back on, and my new family was now the future, and whatever I made of that future. And my beginnings were humble and very difficult, but they prepared me for standing alone.”

Twain took jobs at McDonald’s, in clothing stores and in coffee shops. She’d worked alongside her parents in their lumber business as a child, so she wasn’t afraid to get  her hands dirty, as long as it would take her where she wanted to go.

“I had to find a stronger person then, both to stand alone in the sense that no one was going to make the decisions for me — mostly because I didn’t want them to — and I knew that unless I was going to be strong and stand alone that [others] would make those decisions for me, and I would never be what I wanted to be,” Twain noted. “And I was willing to take those risks.”

Shania Twain Through the Years

During her speech at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Twain recalled her whirlwind romance with Lange, a producer; they originally met up to collaborate, but in the early 1990s, they fell in love and wed within a few months. Lange’s production credits include Def Leppard, AC/DC and Bryan Adams, among others, and he helped Twain hone in on the sound and lyrics she wanted to create.

“He gave me all kinds of freedom [and] respected that — respected my opinions — and I grew in that period. But when [we split up in 2008], I was alone again, and I didn’t know where to begin; I didn’t know where to pick up,” Twain reflected. “So I went back to square one and figured that finding myself alone wasn’t such a bad thing, and maybe it was an opportunity to reacquaint myself with independence again and test that and get back in touch with where I started, which was making my own way in life.”

Rock This Country is a look at Twain’s life and career thus far, but these days, the 51-year-old is only concerned with the present and the future. Twain says that summing up all that she has accomplished so far made her realize there was still much more that she wants to achieve.

“What I longed for a lot, was just getting reacquainted — reunited, I guess is a better word — with my largest group of supporters, the fans. And I realized how much I missed them,” Twain said. “And in speeding past the ‘90s, and all of the craziness of that — which was beautifully crazy, but I never got to enjoy the moment. I was just racing on to the next thing, racing on to the future, and I didn’t really appreciate the fans the way I do now. Now, when I’m in concert, I see them as a lifeline and as people that I understand and people that I write music for.”

It’s with the fans in mind that Twain began working on her new album, Now, which will be released in September. With the project, she shared, she’s “not running away from the past … not apologizing for the past.”

“I’m acknowledging crappy times and saying I wouldn’t be here without them. I don’t want to relive them, but I’m not running away from them, and I’m not in a rush any more,” Twain said. “I’m just here, I’m just now, I’m just who I am. And I’m grateful to be standing here. It’s a miracle how that I’m standing here.”

Twain’s Rock This Country exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum includes family pictures, concert attire, awards, plaques and other memorabilia. The exhibit will remain open until July 15, 2018.

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NEXT: Does Shania Twain Belong in the Country Music Hall of Fame? A Debate

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