Lila McCann - Traveller's Choice

First Published in Country Music International – August 1998

“I’m still in school, trying to carry on as normal a life as I can, hanging out with my friends, roller-blading and swimming, but recently it has been real hectic. These past few weeks, I’ve been appearing on the George Strait stadium tour, and that will continue right through the summer. It means getting into a routine of finishing school Friday afternoon, rushing home, collecting my stage clothes and going to the airport to fly out to where the concerts are being held.

This coming weekend we’re going to be in Kansas City, Missouri and then Minneapolis, so Mum is going to pick me up from school and we’re going straight to the airport. It’ll probably mean that I’ll still be wearing my school clothes. At least that way I’ll probably not be recognised!

It’s fun when people come up and say ‘Hi!’ But occasionally you get people that can be a nuisance, and when you just want to relax and unwind at the airport, that can be annoying. I usually get up around 6.30am on school days, so by the time I get to the airport on Fridays I’m pretty tired. I usually have my Walkman with me, so I’m kind of oblivious to what’s going on around the airport. This past couple of years, I’ve become quite a regular traveler and a lot of people who work at the airport recognise me, but they tend to leave us alone now.

I always carry some music with me—I shouldn’t really. When I’m on the plane I should be studying, doing some homework or working on a school project. I find that I can do better and concentrate if I have some music with me; it helps me to shut out all the other noises and distractions.

I’m hardly ever without Shania Twain’s THE WOMAN IN MEWhat I like is the feel of it. Shania’s attitude is awesome, and she’s real funny. All of the songs I can easily relate to, like It Don’t Take two; I’ve had boyfriends, so I know it takes two to tango. Any Man Of Mine is a fun song. It reminds me of Yippee Ky Kay, my new single. It kind of says: ‘Shape up or ship out.’ All the songs on THE WOMAN IN ME are really cool. Like Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anybody putting their boots under my bed, but I can relate to the message in that song.

Another singer I like a lot is Barbra Streisand. I have several of her albums, but when I go out on a trip, I like to take the GREATEST HITSWith that you have her very best work. I listen to her in awe, wishing that I could put as much feeling and emotion into a song. Celine Dion also has me listening very much with a technical ear and being totally amazed at her phrasing. I’m still listening to her last album, FALLING INTO YOU. Though I have the new one, LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE, it just hasn’t connected with me in the same way as FALLING INTO YOU. I particularly like (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman—she puts so much feeling and emotion into that song. It’s so soulful.

Then there’s Deana Carter. I met her in Nashville last year and immediately fell under her spell. She is so down-to-earth and friendly. DID I SHAVE MY LEGS FOR THIS is what country music is all about for me; songs with stories that you can listen to over and over again without getting bored.

I listen to all kinds of music, not just country: soul, rap, contemporary pop and jazz. I guess that I tend to go a lot for women singers with powerful and distinctive voices, like Natalie Cole. She did an album of popular standards with her father that I never get tired of listening to. I think it’s called UNFORGETTABLE. Lovely lush arrangements, a little jazzy at times, with incredible vocals.

I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about me. I do like male singers, and one of my favourites is Kevin Sharp. Because we’re on the same label, I’ve got to know him quite well and Kevin is real fun to be around. His album MESSURE OF A MAN, is a lot more serious than he is in person. When I’ve played shows with him, he’s always playing jokes and when he gets on stage, he is just a bundle of fun. I still get a little scared playing in front of those large crowds. When I started out, I was only playing little clubs; now with these shows with George Strait it’s often in front of 40-50,000 people. It's all a good experience and I’m learning all the time to open up in front of the audience and just have a little fun.

That’s what I like about Garth Brooks. He goes out on that stage and seems to just have a ball. We have most of his albums at home, but the one I have out with me now is his latest, SEVENS. It’s a real county album, but one that I can play to my school friends without being embarrassed. Most of them didn’t really like country music until I started having some success. I think it was more a case that they hadn’t really listened to any of it. Now they are getting hooked on country, and want to know all about John Michael Montgomery, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who are also on the George Strait shows. I think they are a little envious and want me to tell them what the stars are really like. They want to know the gossip, the little personal details.

Since I’ve been in the business and met the big stars, I’ve found all the singers I’ve come into contact with have been real helpful, giving me advice and tips. I’ve really got to know Tim McGraw and Faith Hill since I’ve been on this George Strait tour. They are really great people. I love Tim’s EVERYWHERE album. He has a great country voice and the songs he has chosen are so real and he puts such feeling into the ballads.

Away from country music, I’m a big Jewel fan. Most of my friends at school have PIECES OF YOU, and though I originally bought it just to know what they were talking about, I have to say it’s become one of my favourite albums. It’s already in my bag ready for the trip out of town this weekend.

I almost left out Bryan White. Bryan is a good friend and one of my favourite singers. I guess he’s probably the singer I’ve got to know the best. Maybe it’s because he started out quite young and understands what it’s like to have success when you’re still a teenager. Though I like all of Bryan’s albums, I think his latest one, THE RIGHT PLACE, is my favourite. Bryan has a real smooth voice, but with lots of feeling and emotion, and I just curl up to songs like One Small Miracle and Call Me Crazy. Because Bryan and I are on the same label, we often bump into each other. One day I’d love the opportunity to sing a duet with him.

I love going out at the weekends for the George Strait concerts. It’s real cool, but sometimes it means that I don’t get back home until the early hours of Monday mornings. I’m usually the first or second act on, so often on Sunday evenings I leave soon after I’ve finished my performance. Then I try to have a nap on the plane, but if it’s been a really great show, it’s hard to unwind after getting all excited in front of a wild crowd. When I finally get home to bed, I usually drop off to sleep easily, but it’s not so easy for me getting up the next morning. It's a case of coming back down-to-earth and going off to school and being with all my friends again.”