Shes only 15
LeAnn Rimes provesBy Tim Ryan
that youth is no obstacle
Country singer phenom LeAnn Rimes thinks she's "somewhere in Colorado" but isn't sure of the town where she'll perform this particular night.
"Uh, it's real pretty here and the weather's great, but I'm don't really know, exactly, where I'm at," Rimes, 15, said in a telephone interview.
It's not surprising that the 5-foot-5-inch, 115-pound, blond, blue-eyed Rimes can't keep up with her own itinerary. Last year she did 167 concerts; this year she performs 108, and next year at Maui's Hula Bowl in January (ticket sales information has not yet been announced).
"Guess I'm slowing down a little bit," Rimes laughs. "But I love what I do."
Born Margaret LeAnn Rimes -- named after her godmother, Margaret Ray -- she started singing at age 2 and won her first talent competition at 5. She then told her parents that performing was what she wanted to do with her life.
"My dad still has tapes of me doing 'You Are My Sunshine,' 'Getting to Know You' and 'Have Mercy,' by the Judds," Rimes says.
But is she missing anything in being such an early star?
"Not at all," she says emphatically. "Yes, I've traded a normal childhood to do what I do, but I love what I do and there are many rewards."
The family moved to Texas when Rimes was 6 and she soon auditioned for -- and nearly got the lead in -- "Annie II" on Broadway. A year later Rimes made her stage debut in a Dallas musical production of "A Christmas Carol." Then an 8-year-old Rimes became a two-week champion on the television program "Star Search."
Slowly she built a following in Texas through a cappella performances of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Dallas Cowboy games, the Walt Garrison Rodeo and the National Cutting Horse Championship in Fort Worth.
"Once I performed in the middle of a rodeo on the back of a pick-up truck," remembered Rimes, who was paid $1,500.
At 11, she recorded her first album, "All That." The LP featured a version of "Blue" -- sent to Rimes by its songwriter, Bill Mack -- and that "put me on the map," Rimes says.
Rimes' dad thought the song was too old for his daughter.
"But I loved it," she said. "And I kept bugging him about it. Then I got the idea to put the yodel thing to it."
The album created a stir in Nashville and sparked a bidding war among several labels for Rime's talents. She eventually signed with Curb Records.
"For some performers, early success can be very destroying, but it all depends on the person," she said. "For me it's been a blessing. And I have people around me to keep me in place. I always have wanted just to be myself."
Rimes, who has a full-time tutor, skipped two grades and is now in the 10th grade. Her favorite subject is math; favorite past time is shopping. She also has a boyfriend.
"I definitely have someone in my life who is very close," she said. "I just started taking time to have this, because before I kept myself too busy."
As for musical influences, Rimes said she has several, but never copies another performer. She enjoys music from country to pop, Patsy Kline to Barbra Streisand. And in the last couple of years she's "gotten into" Prince and Aerosmith."
"I want to grow professionally and do a lot of other things, like acting," she said. "To maintain success you have to grow."
Rimes' advice to young wannabe performers is "practice, practice, practice."
"Practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes for perfect performance," she said. "And get as much experience as you can. That means start young."
A few of her
Sports: Softball and baseball
Foods: Pasta, pizza, chicken, steak, potatoes, grilled ham and cheese on white bread
Dessert: Strawberry ice cream soda
Midnight snack: Cheez-It crackers
Actors: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman
Actress: Whoopi Goldberg
Movies: "The Shawshank Redemption," "Twister"
TV shows: "Friends," "Beverly Hills 90210"
Nail polish colors: Pink and purple
Hobbies: Cutting horses, tennis, swimming
Clothes: T-shirt and jeans
All-time activity: Shopping
Worst thing she's ever tasted: Anchovy
Most exciting moment: Meeting President Clinton in December of 1996, when she flipped the switch on the White House tree
Little known fact: She used to dot the "i" in Rimes with a circle