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Before she was a worldwide country music star, Shania Twain worked at a small resort on rural Canada as a singer in its live shows. The job helped reignite her passion for music at a time when she was about to give up on pursuing music altogether.

Shania Twain, who sang as a hotel singer before becoming a global superstar, wearing gold and accepting an award.
Shania Twain | Erika Goldring/Getty Images for ACM

Shania Twain got her start as a resort singer

In 1987, Twain and her siblings suffered a great personal tragedy after their parents died in a tragic car crash. At 22 years old, Twain was left to raise her younger siblings. She developed a love for singing throughout her childhood and adolescence, but realized that she would have to put those dreams on hold — perhaps forever — to raise her family.

Twain looked back on the difficult time in her 2022 Netflix documentary Not Just a Girl. “At the time I just really wanted to quit and get a real job,” she said. “I’ve got kids now; I’ve got kids to support. How am I going to do it?”

Twain’s manager at the time, Mary Bailey, suggested that she look into working at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario as a singer. “Deerhurst was a resort that had shows. They did sort of an Off-Broadway production of musicals. And it was a gig. It was a job. It was an opportunity to make some money to feed her family,” Bailey said of the position.

Twain quickly realized that it was a good gig for her after all. “It turned out that live performing was going to pay better, even at this level, at that little level, than working a regular day job,” she said.

“It was pretty decent-paying,” Twain added. “I was able to support my brothers. I was able to make enough money to put food on the table singing at this resort.”

Singing on a major stage was a huge change for Twain

Up until that point, Twain had performed primarily at bars, first getting her start singing at local watering holes at the age of 8. So when she got on a stage with real production value, she was awestruck.

“Once I was performing at Deerhurst, the Vegas-style show was a whole different thing. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that,” she said honestly.

“It was pretty scary,” she laughed, looking back on the time. “I didn’t really know what I was doing at all. I had no idea how to sing and wear high heel shoes, for example, at the same time. I had to learn fast because this was now my new job.”

She eventually decided she was ready to pursue country music full time and moved to Nashville. She landed a record deal in 1992 and released her self-titled debut album the following year.


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She learned that she couldn’t give up on her music dreams while working at the resort

Twain realized while working at the resort that her musical talent would be too much of a waste to give up, and she had come too far to let her dreams die.

“Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I learned to respect and appreciate that I did have a talent that would be a shame to throw away and not pursue,” she admitted. “I was busy rehearsing, running the kids back and forth. Before and after the show, I would go home and write. There was no other way to get ahead except working my a** off, really. That was it; there was no other way. All I could do was keep working, keep demoing, keep writing, and hoping I would get a break.”