LeAnn Rimes opens up about anorexia rumours and explains why she is OK with gaining a 'few pounds'
She first burst onto the scene as a precocious 13-year-old with a number one debut album Blue and after following it up with hits such as Can't Fight the Moonlight and How Do I Live, not to mention a youthful marriage to back-up dancer Dean Sheremet, LeAnn looked to have avoided the typical pitfalls of early fame with a relatively calm, trouble-free existence.
Then in 2009, she met actor Eddie Cibrian on the set of the film Northern Lights and all that calm was shot to pieces. 'It's definitely been a turbulent four years,' the 30-year-old now admits, 'and to say I've been on several rollercoasters is an understatement.'
Feeling good! LeAnn Rimes, seen here on the beach in a recent Twitter picture, says she feels confident and happy with her body these days
Her affair with Cibrian, which led to divorces from their respective spouses and their subsequent marriage to one another, has been well-publicised, but it also provides much of the material for her latest album, Spitfire – her first album of original material in five years.
Concern: The singer seen here looking scarily skinny in August 2011
It's moving and at times quite emotional to listen to, 'and I think the last four years of my life just came out through my music,' she says. 'I don't think I expected the album to be this honest, but I found that the emotions just came pouring out of me. It was liberating and cathartic to write, but it wasn't easy.'
Songs such as What Have I Done (whose lyrics include the line: 'I broke the sweetest heart of the only man that's ever loved me') describe the regret at causing pain to a former love after falling for someone else.
'And that was the first song I wrote a little over four years ago,' LeAnn told MailOnline. 'I actually wrote it about a friend, but it was almost foreseeing things that were going to happen, in a way.
'I was still with Dean at the time and he heard the song and knew it was about [Eddie and me] before I did. I said to him: "What are you talking about?", but he was totally right.'
In another song, Borrowed, LeAnn captures the pain of being in love with a married man ('It's pathetic how I lie around and wait all the damn time') and it's clear that as harsh as her critics have been with her (and more on that shortly), she's been just as harsh on herself.
'Obviously, it was a very controversial topic to write about,' says LeAnn, 'and as hard as it was for me to write the song, I think it painted a true picture of that situation. I wasn't being hard on myself when I wrote it – that line about feeling pathetic was just true – but I wanted to describe a very stark moment in my life. You just feel in complete limbo and I felt guilty too; it wasn't pretty at all. But I made my choices and I'm living with them. I know I'm not the first person to go through it and I won't be the last.'
Considering the criticism she has faced since her marriage to Cibrian two years ago, LeAnn would have plenty of reason to be guarded and yet she is a friendly and warm interviewee. But while her candour is somewhat refreshing – in a recent TV interview she admitted to worrying that the exceedingly handsome Eddie may one day cheat on her – it hasn't gone down particularly well with everyone.
Moving on: Rimes married back-up dancer Dean Sheremet when she was 19, but fell for now-husband Eddie Cibrian while she was still married to him
'It's nice to have a husband who tells you you're beautiful all the time. I'll say to him: "I've gained a few pounds" and he'll say: "Good!"'///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Brandi Glanville, who was married to Cibrian before his affair with LeAnn ended their marriage, has been highly vocal in her criticism of her love rival (Granville's recent book, Drinking and Tweeting leaves no spurned-wife stone unturned).
Moreover LeAnn, an avid fan of social media, was faced with a barrage of criticism over her affair with Cibrian from assorted Twitter followers – criticism that helped play a part in her decision to enter rehab for a 30-day treatment period last August for 'anxiety and stress' issues.
'I have considered staying off [social media],' admits LeAnn, 'but I've basically just learned to deal with the criticism. The people who do it hide behind a computer screen and don't even show themselves and it's interesting to have people judge you but have no idea about who you really are and what you're all about.
'I did stop [tweeting] for a while but then I was like: "Screw this! I don't want to stop communicating with my real fans". The block button's a great thing – if you talk crap to me, I'll just block you!'
The spell in rehab appears to have done LeAnn considerable good. She looks fit, healthy and happy these days and a contrast to the somewhat worryingly slim figure she cut two years ago.
Rising star: LeAnn broke onto the scene as a teen with a number one debut album Blue and after following it up with hits such as Can't Fight the Moonlight, seen here in 1998
'People said I was [anorexic],' says LeAnn, 'but I didn't have a problem with eating as I ate a tonne all the time – I could eat my husband under the table! But I was going through a time when I just wasn't sleeping – my mind wouldn't shut off and my heart was breaking.
'Now I'm secure about my body, although I'm like any other woman and have my moments of self doubt. But it's nice to have a husband who tells you you're beautiful all the time. I'll say to him: "I've gained a few pounds" and he'll say: "Good!".
LeAnn's love rival : Eddie with now ex-wife Brandi Glanville, who he cheated on with LeAnn
'It just gives you another level of confidence. But being in this business, I've noticed that image-wise it's definitely worse for a woman.'
Having performed since the age of five and entered the public's consciousness as a 13-year-old country music star, LeAnn is probably better equipped than most to discuss the vagaries of the music business. She once described herself as 'an alien child', thrust into the spotlight with that great big grown-up voice, and as she says now: 'I remember my dad sitting me down and explaining the meanings of the songs I was singing and yet I was somehow able to convey those feelings, even though I was so young.
'I was always one of those old souls I guess and working and travelling from a young age made me develop way beyond my years in some respects. But in others, I was still a real child. I always had my parents or someone around me so I had a real attachment to people and I always had to have someone around. The stage was where I felt most confident, but in normal life, I felt really out of my element.'
By 18, LeAnn had a worldwide Number One with the song Can't Fight the Moonlight (taken from the 2000 film Coyote Ugly) and a year later aged 19 – 'an old 19' – LeAnn had married dancer Dean Sheremet, the couple having met during the 2001 Academy of Country Music Awards. Though she continued to make albums and enjoy considerable success, 'my twenties were hard,' she admits.
'They were very rewarding and challenging but I felt like there were two different "me"s out there. I had a lot of anxiety and depression – not just in the last four years but as a part of the whole crazy business I was in and I didn't want to go through my thirties not feeling like a whole human being.'
Having settled down at such a young age, one wonders whether the last four years may have been an attempt by LeAnn to go crazy and reclaim her youth in some way, but she says: 'This wasn't a rebellion. I obviously fell in love with Eddie, but it wasn't done with abandonment at all and it was tough for everyone involved. But growing up the way I did, I don't think I had the tools to handle it the way I should have done.'
Playing the step mother: LeAnn with Eddie and his son Jake over the weekend going to the park in Los Angeles to watch him play in a baseball game
LeAnn admits that she and her husband would like to have children together, but that she is also enjoying being a stepmother to Cibrian's two sons by Brandi Glanville – Mason, nine, and Jake, six. 'I grew up saying: "Yes ma'am" and "No sir",' she says of a childhood spent in Mississippi and Texas, 'but when I say it out here in LA, people think I'm crazy! But it's good to have manners and I like teaching that to my stepsons too.'
As well as her latest album, there are rumours that LeAnn and Cibrian are shopping around a scripted comedy based on their lives together, featuring, according to one source, 'a crazy ex-wife' in the storyline, and if true, you have to wonder why the couple would want to reignite the feud between themselves and Glanville, which appears to have calmed down in recent weeks.
But for now LeAnn says: 'I've made mistakes along the way, but I hope I've learned from them. And,' she adds, 'I hope I never stop trying to figure it all out.'
LeAnn Rimes new album Spitfire is released 15th April on Curb Records / Rhino UK. Order on www.amazon.co.uk