LeAnn Rimes and Kelleigh Bannen Discuss the 25th Anniversary of ‘Blue’

Get the story behind the classic hit, 25 years after it was released.

LeAnn Rimes and Kelleigh Bannen Discuss the 25th Anniversary of ‘Blue’
UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12: Singer / Actress LeAnn Rimes visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on November 12, 2020 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

While it only seems like a few years go, 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of LeAnn Rimes’ stunning smash of a debut single, “Blue.” The 1996 track and its album found a teenaged vocalist injecting classic-country balladry into a scene defined by mass-market theatrics, and its impact can still be felt today — especially by Rimes.

Although she’s moved her career in many different directions since then, she’s still inspired by what Blue turned into, and what it meant to fans. So to mark the album and single’s 25th birthday, she explored its story with Kelleigh Bannen on Apple Music Hits for a special Essential Album episode.

Early on, Rimes and Bannen talked about Rimes’ super-young entry into the industry. She was only 13 when “Blue” dropped, and had already been singing onstage at the age of 5. But despite her reputation as a vocal powerhouse, Rimes says she was never professionally coached.

“I didn’t have voice lessons. I didn’t have any of that kind of stuff,” she says. “It was just a natural gift. I had dreams of where it might take me, but I don’t think anyone can ever expect their life to take off like it did at any age, much less at 13.”

Rimes goes to to explain that her life of country stardom almost never happened, because her father threw the “Blue” demo he was pitched into the trash. Describing herself as a “defiant” child, Rimes says she fished the demo out of the trash herself and was determined to prove “Blue” could be special to her dad — and after she injected that signature yodel into the hook, he was convinced.

The song went on to became her calling card — and introduced an artist who stood out in the ’90s country scene.

“I definitely had a very strong sense of my own artistry, I guess, or what I loved and what moved me as a child from very, very early on,” Rimes explains. “There’s something about [“Blue”] that’s just so classic. … It brought kind of the roots of country music into a genre in the 90s that was very, very different. That was a very different sound for the time.”

The track and Rimes’ vocal talent often left audiences in awe, she says. But it also pigeon-holed her as a Patsy Cline-style crooner early on. Rimes had to work hard to show that she was more, but the comparison’s didn’t come out of nowhere.

“[Patsy Cline] was such a huge part of how I created my sound,” Rimes admits. “I listened to so many different artists growing up, female artists, and took something from each of them. From her, really it was about this true, honest, emotional connection and the way that she could just take you to a place that you don’t normally go within yourself when you listened to her music. We are all unique and special and one of a kind, and also we are the influences that we have grown up listening to when it comes to being an artist. We all pull pieces from each of them or something from each of them and then create us in our own selves and our own sound. Yeah, each of them were very influential in what you see and hear me do now.”

Rimes went on to develop her own unique approach, and it all started with “Blue” and her debut album. The project sent her on a rocket ride to stardom and down a path of standing apart in the industry, and looking back now, LeAnn Rimes says she is so proud of that 13-year-old girl.

“I really respect myself as a kid,” she says. “I’ll start crying talking about it, but yeah, it’s beautiful. I don’t think I’ve had the respect that I have had for her, or have for her now until recently. Because I was just in survival mode for 25 years and now being out of survival mode and being able to reflect, and that’s a recent thing… I’m kind of always looking to reconnect with what was it about her that was so clear and so powerful. I know that because of that respect and that connection, I now have to that piece of myself that it’s back online.”

Listen to the Essential Album: Blue special in-full this Friday (July 9) at 1pm PT / 3pm CT / 4pm ET / 9pm UK on Apple Music Hits, or anytime on demand at apple.co/_KelleighBannen.