Before “American Idol” was trolling for young talent, there was LeAnn Rimes, the 13-year-old Mississippi girl with the Patsy Cline-sized voice.
Rimes scored big with her 1996 breakout single, “Blue,” becoming the youngest star to hit No. 1 on the Country charts and wooing a devoted fan base, thrilled with her rich vocals and yodel. She bought her family a house when she was only 12 and cut four albums before she turned 15.
Rimes’ three-octave voice brought her critical acclaim and fans rejoiced in the way she was able to recreate the emotional tug of Cline’s dynamic voice.
Now 31, Rimes can look back on a career that has included roles in movies and television, four books and 15 albums. She makes her Billings debut on Saturday night at the Alberta Bair Theater, part of the Billings Clinic Classic.
In a recent interview with The Gazette, Rimes talked about her latest album, the 2013 “Spitfire,” a work that Rimes said is her most personal yet.
“There is such humanity in ‘Spitfire.’ That is the blessing of all the negativity and the struggles I’ve been through these last few years,” Rimes said. “The title came out of a dream. I woke up and wrote it down. My friend Darrell Brown, who wrote most of the album with me, came over and I said, ‘I’m really pissed about something.’ He said, ‘Wherever you are, we are writing it at this moment.’”
Some of the songs on “Spitfire,” including “Borrowed” and “What Have I Done,” reflect the situation Rimes and her current husband, Eddie Cibrian, found themselves in when their affair in 2009 led them to divorce their spouses and marry each other.
Rimes said the album and her new reality show with Cibrian, “LeAnn & Eddie” is a way to tell her side of the story.
“We’re in our fifth episode of the show and it’s doing well,” Rimes said. “Eddie and I have a great time doing it. We get to tell the side that no one has heard before. That’s just who we are.”
Rimes said Montana is one of her favorite vacation spots — especially the mountains near Phillipsburg, where she and Eddie visit every summer.
“I love Montana so much; that’s where my husband and I want to move to after we retire,” Rimes said.
Rimes won two Grammy awards in 1997 for Best New Artist and for her single “Blue.” She has also been recognized by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Museum, winning Top New Vocalist and Single of the Year for “Blue” in 1996.
When Rimes recorded “Just Stand Up” in 2008 and donated the proceeds to the American Association for Cancer Research, She was also honored with ACM’s Humanitarian Award. In 2010, Rimes performed “The Rose” with The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles in remembrance of the gay teenagers who committed suicide that year. Rimes sees it as part of her responsibility to help out with causes she believes in.
“I feel if I can make a difference in my music, that’s what I am fit for,” Rimes said. “I think the one thing the LGBT community and myself have in common is being judged. It’s such a big thing for me to let people be.”
Rimes portrayed Connie Francis in the TV series, “American Dreams,” and performed for former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush at the White House in 2006. But the most important feat of her career, Rimes said, is its longevity.
“Just to be around and relevant and have people listening to me after 20 years is a feat in itself,” Rimes said. “I’m very blessed that people still care and are still listening.”