It’s been 25 years since Shania Twain and producer/co-writer Mutt Lange released The Woman In Me, the album that set Nashville on its ear by selling over 10,000,000 units in under three years. During that time, Staci Griesbach was a young singer in Wisconsin, listening to Twain’s music while performing in a touring song and dance troupe. She ultimately graduated from college and worked her way into a high-ranking executive position with one of Hollywood’s largest movie studios.
After spending over a decade in the corporate moviemaking industry, Griesbach opted for the world of music, and combined her love of both country and jazz to release last year’s My Patsy Cline Songbook, which featured jazz arrangements of some of Cline’s best-known classics. Now she’s done the same with some of the songs from Twain’s landmark diamond-certified album, releasing My Shania Twain Songbook, with seven self-produced Twain songs that include “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” “No One Needs to Know,” and “Any Man of Mine.” Griesbach took a couple minutes for a phone call from American Songwriter to talk about how she came to record the album.
“Shania mentioned on one of her socials the 25th anniversary of The Woman In Me,” Griesbach said, “and I started listening to it again. I think it kind of triggered something, it made me look at my career path and my own American Songbook, and how can Shania Twain not be a part of that? She was so important during my coming-of-age time period, when you’re 16 to 20 and really figuring out who you are.”
“I had just played the Birdland Theatre in New York,” she continued, “and was scheduled to play South by Southwest and was on the plane coming home from New York when they canceled SXSW. So I had some time because of Covid 19, and I started thinking maybe I would record a single [of Shania’s], but I thought there was no way I could do it – it’s Shania Twain, how could I possibly do that? Finally in July I started on it, and one song turned into two, then turned into three.”
Griesbach enlisted the cream of the crop of LA’s jazz players and arrangers for the album, as well as some instrumental legends. The track “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” gets a bass treatment that recalls Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” played by the man who originated that song’s iconic bass line in 1965 himself, Wrecking Crew upright player Chuck Berghofer. Nashville cats like sax player Rahsaan Barber (Kelly Clarkson, Jeff Coffin) and fiddle player Stuart Duncan (Alan Jackson, Marty Stuart) also make appearances. The rhythm tracks were recorded in LA, and the soloists then dubbed their parts or electronically sent them in from remote locations. “I just had to pinch myself when Stuart Duncan said yes,” she said. “I had seen him in a little town in Italy when he was playing with Diana Krall.”
“When I started this journey it was really about finding my voice,” Griesbach said, “and I’ve been really enamored of jazz, so I started taking jazz piano lessons, and I locked in a residency at a hotel for almost two years. I was pulling stuff from the Great American Songbook, which is a treasure trove of material, and it gave me a sense of where the incredible females who came before us, like Ella Fitzgerald, got started. But I wanted to present something that was meaningful for me and for the audience, that really shared part of who I am. I wanted to create my own authentic voice, and that’s when the idea was born of going back to country music. To me, Patsy Cline is as much a teacher as Ella was. So that was how I got started on this trajectory of looking at the Country Music Songbook, if you will, looking at a style of music that I was more familiar with and applying it to a style that I am enamored with.”
Griesbach said she has spent time in Nashville and has been involved with songwriting for years, but doesn’t have original material that she’s ready to record at this point, especially when the world is so full of good songs. “I think that’s what’s so incredible about country music, and music in general, the freedom and creativity that comes with putting pen to paper, starting with a blank page and seeing something come to fruition. There’s a magic to songwriting, and I hope someday that I’ll be able to do that. Right now I’m having so much fun, and I’m learning so much, by going back through my own American Songbook. And my desire is also to introduce people who’ve listened to country music their whole lives, as I have, to this great world of jazz.”