Few musicians (or celebrities in general) have had to contend with media scrutiny, and the stress that comes with that, as LeAnn Rimes. After releasing her debut album at age 13 and becoming the youngest person to ever win a Grammy (for Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance, in 1997), the singer-songwriter found herself unprepared for the spotlight’s glare. Drawn-out legal battles with her father, manager, and record label, and brutal tabloid fallout from her extramarital affair with actor Eddie Cibrian (who was also married at the time), followed — and Rimes struggled. In 2012, about a year after marrying Cibrian and the day after her 30th birthday, she checked herself in to a facility for a month of treatment for anxiety and depression. It was only then that she started to find peace, through the breathwork, meditation, and daily mantras that inspired her new spiritual album, CHANT: The Human & Holy.
Rimes, now 38, recently spoke with Yahoo Entertainment about her nearly decade-in-the-making CHANT album, overcoming her “trust issues” in order to strengthen her marriage and other personal relationships, and her overall ongoing mental health journey as she leaves her painful past behind.
Yahoo Entertainment: It’s good to speak with you again. You mentioned a little bit the last time I talked to you about the chant record you were working on, which now I know was called CHANT: The Human & the Holy. So I guess the obvious first question is, how did you get into this chanting?
LeAnn Rimes: Chanting for me was really just a tool in my toolbox, I guess, that I have come across. Meditation and breathwork and chanting has been something that really helped me come home to my own voice and use it for my own healing. I've utilized my voice for the world my whole life, and it's the last thing I think of when I think of my own healing, to utilize it for myself. … I was thinking I wanted to meld like my spiritual world, my music, and then I started thinking, “Well, I write choruses which are basically chants, because they're repetitive, all the time. So maybe there's a way to intentionally create chants that really, I feel like touch the soul and people and remind them of who they are innately.” And that's the idea morphed into creating a chant record. And I would literally sit in meditation and just start singing. And as soon as I liked something, I would press record. And that's how the CHANT record was born.
When you say chanting was important in your healing and your journey, how did it specifically soothe you when you started doing it?
My voice has always been the it's been a point of entry for emotion for me. Even when I sing my own music, there's some times where all of a sudden, an emotion will be touched so deeply because of a lyric or just because of the actual vibration and the freedom of singing. It's always been a very pinpointed entry point for me for true emotion. So, I think for me it was emotional release — a way for me to stop performing around my voice. My voice has been utilized for performance my whole life.
You started off so young in the business, and I'm wondering if there was a time, especially with all the things you've gone through, when you lost the joy of singing, lost the joy of using your voice?
Yeah, absolutely. That is completely it. I think anybody, when you find the thing that you love and then the thing becomes a job, you can lose the joy and really the original passion that started it all off. And yeah, there's definitely been moments of that, and I think not in just music, but in when everything, where I've lost some joy. And I think it's been about reclaiming that joy for myself and being able to being able to live from that joyous place. You know, my voice being the most joyous thing, the thing that I have always had since I was a kid. I think that was probably the first place that I felt that the deepest, is that it became a job. And that joy was stripped.
The last time I talked to you, we talked about when you went into a mental health facility around the time of your 30th birthday, voluntarily, because of all the things you were going on. You were at a low part in your journey. And obviously that wasn't that long after you got married, maybe about a year or so. I've always had this empathy and sympathy for you, because none of us are perfect, and I feel like the media and fans were much harder on you during the Eddie situation [than they were with other celebrities]. With all of that kind of backlash that you were getting in general, did that contribute to that dark period in your life?
Absolutely. There’s no way, no matter who you are, that anyone can tell you how to handle that. Especially when you know what's true. That's really tough to sit with: to know truth, and to be made out to be like something other than you are.
Is it because you started out young and they thought of you as this sweet 13-year-old? Or because the country music audience is more conservative? Like, why were people so vicious to you?
Oh, that's a good question. Well, I like to think that it was part of my journey. There was a lot there as they say, you know, grist for the mill, and of me learning so many things about myself. And also, I think there's a lot of people in this world that have a lot of hurt. Look, I've also been cheated on myself, in prior relationships. So I know how it feels. There's no question about the pain of it. I feel like there's a lot of people who haven't dealt with that pain and a lot of people that needed to project. And that's part of, I think, in the spiritual frame of things, a piece of what I was here for. … There's a lot of people who have a lot of hurt and that are unwilling to look at it. And so hopefully now at this point in my life, I am the opposite for them and hopefully they see me and they go, “Oh, I can look at that hurt. It's not going to kill me. And there's healing on the other side.” And for me, that's been the journey. ... It's actually been really freeing when you can finally sit back and go, “Whoa, like, not all of that was about me at all.”
As I mentioned, when you went in for treatment, it was not that long after you got married — and also your whole courtship played out in the media in a stressful way. It's the kind of thing that could break up relationships, and here you are, 10 years later. So, how did you withstand as a couple, all of that stuff? Obviously Eddie was there for you at a time when some men might've been scared or walked away.
It’s really interesting. My whole life I've had major trust issues, because I've been burned — and very publicly, many times. And I feel like I was constantly testing him, like, “Can you do this? Can you deal with this?” And it's interesting. He's always been such a rock and his love for me is pretty deep, and mine for him. And you know, finally one day I gave in. I’m like, “I know I can trust you.” I think it's interesting the way our relationship did start — you know, most people are like, “You’re never going to be able to trust each other.” And it's actually completely the opposite. He's just he's an amazing guy, and you're right, there's many times when I expected someone to run. When you're in a lot of pain, once again, there's a lot of projection and a lot of things that you don't understand; not only are you in pain, but people that you love around you, you can also be causing that pain and projecting that onto them. … And so, he held my hand through that whole journey, and I'm so incredibly grateful. Without him, I truly don't think that without having that rock in my life, I would have been able to feel safe enough to dig deep into the pain that I've been through. … That being said, in our relationship, my friendships, my business partnerships, it’s still something that I'm learning, to be honest. I think it's something we all hold onto: learning how to dance with being hurt and still loving unconditionally, you know?
Do you think that the media or the public in general has become more empathetic and just chilled out a little bit?
I think people are connecting to the true me because I'm connected to that peace. It's not like I'm trying to keep up a facade in any way. I'm not trying to be “LeAnn Rimes, the singer.” It's just LeAnn. And, I think people have really started to experience me through that feeling, that lens, that energetic space. If I can't change the way people think, if they want to hold onto the past, then so be it. There's a lot of people that live there. I choose not to. And I think there's a lot of people that are choosing not to also, so we'll just leave it at that. That's a good thing.
Yes. And chanting sort of helps you to live in the present, right?
Absolutely. Chanting definitely brings you into the present. Once again, one of my daily practices is coming into the moment and truly being here, being embodied. There's so much fragmentation, I think, that happened in my life. And to now feel like I can be present and I don't have to live in an older version of me, that I'm not stuck there, is a beautiful thing.
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Produced by Jon San, edited by Jimmie Rhee.