Q&A: 27 years into her career, Dion preps for next tour

Sat Feb 9, 2008 5:18pm EST
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By Chuck Taylor

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Since her first album at the age of 13, the French-Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion has released 37 full-length collections in French and English and has become one of the globe's best-selling female singers, moving more than 200 million CDs, according to Sony Music Entertainment. In 2006 she celebrated 25 years as a hit recording artist, and in December 2007 she wrapped her four-and-a-half-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where she performed 717 sold-out shows.

On the eve of her 11th tour, which launches in mid-February and will take her to 100-plus cities during the next year, Dion reflects upon her early ambitions, her take on negative press and her love-hate relationship with singing.

Q: It has to feel utterly surreal to consider all that you have accomplished over time -- well more than two-thirds of your life.

Celine Dion: "I can still see myself standing on the kitchen table at 5 years old singing in front of my family ... my mom writing my first song ... meeting when I was 12 with Rene (Angelil, her manager, whom she wed in 1994). It was all very intimidating to travel from my little suburb (in Charlemagne, Quebec) to Montreal to meet him. Taking the bus and the subway then was a wild adventure, riding in an elevator to go to an office where I sang for a man in a tie. There I was, about to meet the world.

"To finance my first album, Rene mortgaged his house, and because it was cheaper, we rented a studio from 10 at night to 6 in the morning. We recorded my first French album and a Christmas album at the same time. I still see it all so clearly. And I still prefer to record at night. That's how I started my career, and now it's hard to imagine doing it any other way."

Q: After that first recording in 1981, you achieved great success singing in French, with nearly a dozen albums and 16 hits by the end of that decade. Why the decision to cross to the English-speaking world?

Dion: "I came from such a big family and grew up listening to so many English recording artists known around the world -- the Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles, Janis Joplin, the Eagles, Supertramp -- and it sets a standard. As a family, we sang in French; it's in our blood and we're made of that. But English is the universal language, and I always thought it was cool when my brothers and sisters would sing in English. To be able to cross the barriers, to sing to more people, artistically, it was just so powerful."

Q: Your first U.S. single, "Where Does My Heart Beat Now," was a top five hit in 1991. But it was "Beauty and the Beast" a year later that is often credited with connecting your voice to your name. Did you feel you had arrived?   Continued...

<p>Celine Dion performs her song "Taking Chances" during Thomas Gottschalk's TV show "Wetten, dass..?" (Bet it..?) in the eastern German city of Leipzig November 10,2007. REUTERS/Eckehard Schulz</p>