By Annie Reuter

It has been a long 15 years since Shania Twain released her last album and on September 29 she returns with her boldest album to date with Now. The 16-track project was solely written by Twain as well as co-produced by the singer alongside Matthew Koma, Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen, Gavin DeGraw), Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes) and Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones). It marks the first time since her sophomore album in 1995 that she hasn’t collaborated with her ex-husband, Mutt Lange, whom she divorced in 2010.

Related: Shania Twain Shares New Song ‘We Got Something They Don’t’

“I had to go through a lot in life to get to where I am,” Twain admits. “I can actually say that I’m home. Optimism is what you hear.”

Twain spent much of 2015 and 2016 writing her fifth full-length album and describes the project as “an organic thread” with “a bit of a retro sound.”

“I’m a songwriter first,” she explains. “That absolutely drives everything. It was a big step toward independence. I pushed myself, knowing it was going to scare me and knowing that I, alone, was responsible for however it turned out. I love collaborating, but I didn’t want any emotional, psychological, or musical influence. The minute you invite somebody into that space, you’re influenced. And then it wouldn’t be me. It wouldn’t be pure. This may be the purest work I ever do.”

Throughout the release, Twain reveals the ups and downs of her divorce. On the lead single, “Life’s About to Get Good,” she sings, “I wasn’t just broken; I was shattered,” before adding, “I’m ready to be loved, and loved the way I should, life’s about to get good.”

“The song started out being about letdown and disappointment,” she admits. “When I was writing it, I was at home looking out at the ocean, and I said to myself, ‘Here I am stuck in this past of negativity, but it’s so beautiful out. I’m not in the mood to write a feeling-sorry- for-myself song.’ Because with all that s–t comes all the great things, too. That’s what the song ended up being about. You can’t have the good without the bad.”

The heart-wrenching “Poor Me” shares Twain’s heartache upon learning of her ex-husband’s affair with her best friend. With slick beats and her slowed singing style, Twain gets her emotion across on the song. “Still can’t believe he’d leave me to love her,” she sings.

The entire album isn’t about loss, though. In fact, there are several triumphant moments that reveal Twain’s newfound confidence and willingness to adopt a different sound or flavor within her music. Opening track “Swingin’ with My Eyes Closed” is just one example where she infuses reggae beats with a feel good sound.

“Whether it’s joy or pain, the first thing we do when we experience a feeling is close our eyes,” she says. “If you watch newborn babies, their eyes aren’t open yet, but they’re waving their fists in front of them. They’re swingin’ with their eyes closed. This is who we are intrinsically. I’ve often gone through things with my fists forward like, ‘I don’t know if what’s coming is going to be good or bad, but dammit, I’m ready for it’.”

Throughout the 16 tracks, Twain showcases exactly why she’s the top-selling female country artist of all-time and an inspiration to many of today’s country-pop leaning artists like Kelsea Ballerini and Taylor Swift. Using her heartache to inspire Now, Twain created a standout release that is relatable to the listener.

“I’ve been gifted with the ability to relate to people through music. That’s my comfort zone. Some people only feel comfortable socializing at work, or in a bar. But when you have music to connect you, it’s a really cool experience,” she adds. “I want people to feel moved by the album. It’s really just an emotional exchange. I hope I can provoke that in a listener.”

Shania Twain’s fifth studio album, Now, is available on September 29.

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