Shania Twain Was Singing In Bars at 8 Years Old to Help Pay Bills

Country music icon Shania Twain has been a force in the music industry since the mid-’90s. As one of the biggest acts in country music, Twain was able to successfully cross over to the pop charts as well, with hit songs like “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “You’re Still the One.”

Shania Twain smiling
Shania Twain | Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

Twain, a fashion icon and beloved celebrity, remains a relevant part of the music business to this day, with many critics claiming that Twain is one of the most successful artists of all time. While Twain is a big star now, she had to work hard to overcome a childhood that the artist herself notes was extremely traumatic. 

Shania Twain had a difficult childhood

Born in Canada in 1965, Twain was raised by her mother, Sharon Edwards, and her stepfather, Jerry Twain. Her biological father was not in her life, so Jerry Twain became the only father that young Shania Twain would ever know. In 2018, Twain opened up to The Guardian about her childhood, which she noted was full of depression, fear, and even violence. “I was worried about my father killing my mother,” Twain said.

“I thought they’d kill each other. My mom was quite violent, too. Many nights I went to bed thinking: ‘Don’t go to sleep, don’t go to sleep, wait till they are sleeping.’ And I would wake up and make sure everybody was breathing.”

Twain noted that she experienced abuse at the hands of her father, saying that she wanted to “escape” by turning to songwriting. “It’s therapeutic. A lot of kids play with dolls, and I played with words and sounds,” Twain said.

The young girl, who showed a natural talent for entertaining others, began singing in local bars as early as eight-years-old in order to earn money to help support the family. In 1983, Twain moved to Nashville to pursue a career in the music industry.

Shania Twain experienced tragedy after starting her music career

It wasn’t long after Twain moved to Nashville that tragedy struck yet again. In 1987, just as Twain was poised to experience her first big breakthrough, she was informed that her mother and her stepfather had been killed in a car crash.

According to The Guardian, Twain immediately put her music career on the back burner, moving back home to take care of her younger siblings. With Twain supporting her family by singing at a local resort, she started thinking through the trauma of her childhood.

“I started peeling back the layers of pain I was in, and all the other griefs and disappointments and challenges came to the surface. And I thought: ‘I’ve been through worse, and it’s time to put it all into perspective,'” Twain noted. 

What did Shania Twain say about overcoming trauma?

Twain eventually found success as a country music star, breaking into the industry in the early ’90s after taking six years off in the wake of her parents’ deaths. “When my parents died, I experienced a much deeper grief than even the betrayal. I was just out of myself,” Twain told The Guardian, speaking of her split from her longtime partner, Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

“When you add shock to grief, it does crazy things to your mind. And that really helped me through – this was not nearly as bad as my parents dying. I survived that and I don’t want to give this so much credit.”

These days, Twain stands firm in her convictions and doesn’t mind speaking openly about her difficult past. After a battle with several health conditions, a painful divorce, and career highs and lows, Twain says that she is “comfortable” in her skin and notes that “whatever scars I have, I’ve earned.”

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

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