Before she was a tabloid jezebel straight out of central casting, LeAnn Rimes was a pint-sized country star. The Mississippi-born Rimes had a handful of huge hits (“Blue,” “How Do I Live”) and sold millions of albums when she was still a teenager.

Rimes, now 33, found the transition to adult stardom a rocky one, in which attention paid to her personal life far outstripped attention paid to her albums. In 2009, she and actor Eddie Cibrian left their spouses and eventually married each other, a seismic event chronicled on her 2013 comeback album “Spitfire,” and in the pages of Us magazine.

Rimes, who recently signed a new record deal, got on the phone to talk about her in-progress, “drama-filled” new album, her strange childhood, and life among the haters.

The following is an edited transcript of that conversation:

When you started out, you were making very mature adult contemporary albums. How involved were you in that sound?  That was definitely me. I was definitely an old soul when it came to what I was listening to. Being on Curb (Records) for 20 years, there were specific things I had to abide by, certain sounds.

Do you ever look back and think, I should’ve been in school?  I was 5 when I won my first song and dance competition, and my parents asked me if that is what I wanted to do, and I said, “Yeah.” At 5, how can you know that? On some level, I knew that was my gift. I signed my deal when I was 11, and the success I had, no one could explain that to an adult, what’s about to happen to them, much less a kid. There’s not many people around who’ve experienced that.

It’s 20 years since “Blue.” Do you look at it as one chapter closing, and now another opening?  Oh, for sure. I’m on great terms with that chapter. I can look back at all of those little pieces of me, ever since I was a kid, and have great respect for them and appreciation, and not feel any kind of bitterness or contempt for any situation I went through. I can look at the whole picture and say, OK, this set me up for (where) I am now. Being where I’m at, standing in these shoes, it feels amazing. It feels like a weight has been lifted.

“Spitfire” was a very personal, autobiographical album. Is the new album a continuation of that?  Absolutely. (This is a) completely different point of view, completely different place in my life. There was a lot of heartbreak and a lot of confusion, a lot of love on that record, but just from a different perspective. This album has a lot to do with love for myself, and appreciation for myself. It’s taken a lot for me to get there. I talk a lot about family on the album. I’ve never heard a song written from a stepmother’s point of view, about their family. That’s somewhere I went on this record.

The subject of you and your stepkids can be sensitive. Do you ever think, “I’m not putting this on the album, it will just rile people up?”  Oh, I know it will (laughs). … No matter which way I move you, that’s a powerful thing to be able to do. I think I’m realizing I’ve always been able to move people, just getting people to talk. I’m talking about a subject that doesn’t get written about. I know society these days, I know people are wanting to find everything they can to pick things apart, but I have to write from my heart and my experiences, and I fully own them. Those are mine to share.

Can you move people with an album? Did people look at you differently after “Spitfire,” and say, “Oh, now I understand.” Can you see a movement in your direction?  I think I see some movement in (the reporting of) truth. It was my honest account of what happened in my life. I’m not the only one who’s ever been through that situation. I don’t know if a lot of people in that situation have the guts to even talk about it. I don’t know if I would’ve had the guts to fully embrace all of that if I hadn’t gone through it as publicly as I did. Sometimes you’ve gotta say, “Screw it.” You’ve gotta own it.

It’s probably hard to have a sense of humor about tabloid stuff.  I have a wicked sense of humor anyway, but when it comes to people lying about you and making money off it? It’s not human. I’ve gone through many different feelings about all of it. It still gets to me at times, but it’s for hours, not days or months. I know myself, and when you start to really know who you are, you don’t question it when you read what someone says about you. We live in an epidemic of self-hatred. I see it daily with people coming at me, and they do it to everybody, it’s not just me. The hatred is really stemming from them not liking themselves. When you look at it that way, I feel so much empathy and understanding for those people. It takes a burden off my back. I don’t take it personally.

———

©2016 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.