Simple Stardom: Lee Ann Womack Embraces her Roots

Music Features Lee Ann Womack
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Simple Stardom: Lee Ann Womack Embraces her Roots

Fifteen years ago, Lee Ann Womack was handing out demos door-to-door in Nashville, baby daughter in tow. “My husband at the time was on the road. I couldn’t afford a babysitter and thought, ‘I’ll probably never have a career now because I have to take care of this baby,” she says, perched on a barstool in her kitchen. “Then I finally decided, ‘I’ll stop bitching about it and take the kid with me.’"

Four platinum records, two Grammys, another marriage and another daughter later, the inconvenience has paid off. Womack’s 1997 self-titled debut and 2000 crossover smash “I Hope You Dance” plunged her into country-pop stardom, paving the way for her to sing the more straight-ahead country she prefers. “‘I Hope You Dance’ was a blessing and a curse,” she says. “It’s hard to get over that, and there have been strategic moves to redefine my music.”

One of those moves was 2005’s wistful, down-home There’s More Where That Came From, an instant classic. Womack’s new record, Call Me Crazywith George Strait), as well as a few poppier songs. (“The Story Of My Life,” for instance, may seem like “I Hope You Dance, Part Two.”) But Womack’s got the story to back up the sentimentality. “I didn’t come to Nashville with anything,” she says. “Now I can’t stand to hear people complain about how they can’t pull themselves up.”

Although her gated-community house in Nashville—complete with a Hummer in the driveway and a pair of Yorkies in the back yard—is no humble abode, it’s free of instruments, platinum records and anything else that might signal the presence of a country queen. “It’s constantly a challenge,” she says, pulling muffins, baked by her assistant, from the oven. “I find it a struggle to be the star I’m supposed to be—to dress like, act like, live like a star—but then be a normal mom.” Womack’s 17-year-old daughter Aubrie sings harmony on Call Me Crazy, and both girls appear in the video for “I Hope You Dance,” but they’re not allowed to participate in the celebrity aspects of their mom’s career. “I don’t like for the girls to watch award shows when I’m on, and we don’t listen to the CDs,” she says. “We just don’t live that way.”

Womack grew up in a family where the kids had to pitch in around the house, out of necessity. While her girls are accustomed to quite a different lifestyle, they still do chores. “Lord knows everyone has to learn how to clean a bathroom,” she says. “Even if it’s to show their housekeeper how they want it done.”