Shania Twain had to eat 'mouldy' bread during impoverished childhood

Shania Twain used to survive on "mouldy" bread and mustard.

The 'That Don't Impress Me Much' hitmaker may be a millionaire now, but her childhood in Ontario was blighted by poverty, with her mother Sharon struggling with depression and her stepfather Jerry Twain facing racial discrimination in his attempts to find work, so there was little food to spare for the family, which also included the singer's four half-siblings.

She told You magazine: "It was an event in our house to have a grocery day.

"Sometimes two to three weeks would go by without groceries.

"We’d be down to mouldy bread, whatever the absolute bare minimum would be. If there was only mustard in the fridge, we would just put mustard on the bread and take that to school."

To bring more money into the home, Sharon began taking Shania to perform in bars when she was just eight years old, where they quickly learned loopholes in laws to enable her gig to happen.

The young Shania wasn't allowed to perform while alcohol was still being served, but after last orders, between midnight and 1am, she could go on stage once the audience had "loaded up" with beer and whisky.

She recalled: "It was uncomfortable. It was loud. It was smoky – like, really smoky. Always smelly, you know? Beer and alcohol – stale alcohol."

Sometimes the 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman' singer's stepfather would accompany her and Sharon, but at other times he would ban them from going but Shania's mother sneaked them out anyway, causing more problems.

She explained: "‘If he had a job and had work the next morning, how was he supposed to get there if we took the gas and I didn’t get paid anything? This was the Russian roulette that my mother was playing at times. That went wrong. Often.

"They would get violent. It would be a fight, which was very dangerous and very traumatic for everybody in the house. It was not unusual to have the police show up at the door in the middle of the night. So, yeah! A lot of mixed feelings about my mother wanting to have the next Tanya Tucker!"

Jerry sexually abused Shania, now 58, from the age of 10, and that was what turned her to songwriting.

She said: "Whenever I’m going through something difficult in my life, I tend to process those times through writing. The purpose, I guess, is the joy and the relief that it brings me. It’s like how kids do colouring.

"I’ve been angry… but I’ve always been a very productive person.

"I don’t think I’ve ever had anger issues. I think it’s my character.

"I don’t take credit for overcoming anger. I don’t even take credit for not holding a grudge. It’s just part of my character."