LeAnn Rimes settles into new chapter of life after leaving label of nearly 20 years _lowres

Photo provided by L'Auberge Casino -- LeAnn Rimes

Singer, actress and soon-to-be reality TV star LeAnn Rimes reached a crossroads last year. Curb Records, the label she signed with when she was 11 year old, issued her final album of newly recorded songs for the company.

“Spitfire” got a haphazard release through digital music services in Europe, Australia and the U.S. It showed up in physical CD form as a Wal-Mart exclusive.

Not a great farewell for an artist and label that together sold 40 million albums and sent 45 singles to Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Those numbers are paralleled by the many awards Rimes received, including two Grammys and 12 Billboard Music Awards. And she became the youngest artist to ever receive a Grammy.

“We had a lot of success together,” Rimes said of her nearly 20 years with Curb. “I can’t complain at all, but we definitely had our ups and downs. In the past several years, the label itself has been up in the air. It’s been sad.”

Nonetheless, “Spitfire” is Rimes’ consolation prize.

“I made the best music of my life,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to be a major chart-topping success, but it was a huge success for me. I’d been fighting for so long to make a record like that. I finally had the guts to do it.”

Rimes, who’ll perform Saturday at L’Auberge Casino, strived to make a great album even though she knew it likely mattered little to Curb.

“I could have turned in anything to finish the deal, but that’s not how I operate,” she said. “But it was super important to me to go out on a high note, to prove to myself what I knew I could do all along. So making that album totally changed the way I look at music.”

Rimes co-wrote eight of the 13 “Spitfire” songs. Although she’s always written songs, she got serious about writing with her 2007 album, “Family.”

“I did a little writing for ‘Twisted Angel’ back when I was about 18,” she said with a chuckle. “But I was still hiding a part of myself that, as a songwriter, you really do have to bare.

“With ‘Family,’ I opened up more. With ‘Spitfire,’ I found the freedom to write all of these feelings and things. Everyone had been writing my life for me anyway, or what they thought my life was, so it was liberating to share my true feelings.”

Rimes, 31, finds being separated from the record label that had been such a big part of her life for so many years to be an interesting place.

“I don’t think many people have been in this place at 31,” she said. “I feel a little bit isolated, but it is an amazing place and a terrifying place. I have all of this experience and success under my belt, which I’m so grateful for, but that’s one chapter in my life. This is a new chapter.”

Country music, the genre that brought Rimes huge success at 13 when Curb released her phenomenally popular hit, “Blue,” has always been her first musical love.

“But I have many different albums that I would like to make,” she said. “Anything from a dance record to a duets record. We’ll see what happens. I’m ready to go as soon as I find a place I’m comfortable with.”

Meanwhile, the singer’s upcoming projects include a Curb collection of dance songs and a Christmas EP.

“I’m so proud of the EP,” she said. “It’s symphonic but it’s also got these earthy instruments. I do ‘Blue Christmas’ with just a guitar and me and a little bit of organ and tiny bit of steel guitar. And we recorded ‘Hippopotamus for Christmas,’ my favorite Christmas song.”

Rimes also contributed to the new Mötley Crüe tribute album, “Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe.” To be released Aug. 19, the album includes Rimes and New Orleans’ Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews performing “Smokin’ In The Boys Room.”

Rimes’ new reality TV show, “LeAnn & Eddie,” starring herself and her husband, actor Eddie Cibrian, premieres at 9:30 p.m. July 17 on VH1.

“There’s a lot of humor on the show,” she said. “You get Eddie and me 100 percent.”