WITH MORE THAN 20 YEARS TOPPING THE CHARTS THERE IS NO SLOWING DOWN FOR THIS DYNAMIC MOTHER OF THREE WHO COMBINES THE VALUES OF A MID-WESTERN UPBRINGING WITH ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL CAREERS IN COUNTRY MUSIC.
This has been an incredibly busy year for Martina McBride. During the first few weeks of 2014, she performed at all-star salutes to Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame members Gregg Allman and Carole King, and was a presenter at the Grammy Awards. In the spring, she joined Country Music Hall of Famer George Strait on his farewell tour and she released her latest album, Everlasting, on her own record label.
Currently on the road with Everlasting, a full-blown musical tour that will encompass more than 20 cities and some 50 performances through the end of the year, Martina has also made time to write a cookbook, Around The Table, based on family food and her grassroots style of family living.
Just how this dynamo hit maker—whose ballads of passion, revenge and remembrance have consistently kept her on top of the country music charts for more than two decades—keeps pace with a career while balancing a commitment to a husband and three daughters is what makes Martina the extraordinary woman she is today.
Everlasting has the Kansas-bred singer moving away from her signature Nashville sound to a varied selection of vintage soul and pop songs like Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” and Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.” She takes a flirty spin on the Supremes’ “Come See About Me,” and duets with friend Kelly Clarkson to belt out a fun rendition of Etta James’ “In The Basement.”
COWGIRL caught up with the busy country superstar and asked her about her hectic schedule:
COWGIRL: How did you select the songs for Everlasting?
MARTINA MCBRIDE: There are so many great songs it’s like a bit of a treasure hunt. It really comes down to finding what fits you and what makes sense. It came down to a list of about 20 to 30 songs. I got together with my producer, Don Was, and a keyboard player, and tried them on for size. It immediately became obvious which ones fit and which ones I could sing and had a connection to.
CG: How did you get that vintage sound?
MM: We used a lot of vintage instruments and microphones. We recorded at [Martina and husband, John’s] Blackbird Studio, here in Nashville. It has an amazing collection of vintage equipment—outboard gear, microphones, amplifiers, guitars, drum sets and whatnot, so we used the original kind of instruments and gear. I also have an incredibly talented group of musicians who approached the album with an open heart and who really wanted to capture an authenticity about it. They cared, so when you have a talented group of musicians who are also passionate…passion and talent equal greatness.
CG: Is there one song on the new album that really resonates with you?
MM: Honestly, with all the great songs that you can choose from, I wouldn’t have put them on the record if I didn’t resonate with them all. But I’ve always wanted to cover (Elvis Presley’s) “Suspicious Minds.” I always thought that would be really fun to do. I’m really proud of the way “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” turned out because it’s a really difficult song—it’s a very complicated little number, musically.
CG: How are your fans reacting to the new songs and mixing them with your hits?
MM: I think before the word got out about what the tour actually was they were surprised. I have a four-piece horn section and three amazing background singers. The guys are dressed in matching suits and the girls have moves; it’s a bit of a throwback to a review. But now that the word is getting out about what the tour actually is, I have fans that have come already to five and six shows. To me it’s the best show I’ve done in over 20 years.
CG: You have a new book coming out in October. What’s in Around The Table?
MM: It’s a cookbook, but it’s more than just a cookbook. It has a lot of tips for how to entertain at home, decorating tips, as well as tips for cool invitations and being able to pull it off without a hitch. There are ten different parties in the book, so it’s kind of a ‘how to’ plan and pull off ten different dinner parties at your house.
There’s a fall supper with braised short ribs, mashed potatoes and oven roasted vegetables. It’s kind of cooking by the seasons, which is something I like to do. There’s a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. There’s a Valentine’s kind of retro supper club, Mad Men-style kind of Valentine’s dinner. For every party, I came up with a ten-song playlist, which is actually one of the hardest things I had to do. It’s the very last thing I turned in—everybody’s like, ‘You’ve got to get these playlists in.’ The book has a lot of stories from my childhood and a lot of beautiful pictures we shot at my house. It’s something I think people will really enjoy.
CG: You grew up in a musical family and were encouraged to sing as a child. Are your daughters following in your family footsteps?
MM: My oldest daughter is 19 and she’s getting ready to start a job in the music business side of things in my production company. My middle daughter is 16 and she wants to be an actress, and I have a nine-year-old who could literally be anything. She’s amazing. It’s just interesting to see where they’ll end up. None of them have aspirations to really perform as far music or to do exactly what I do, but they all have aspirations to be involved in show business in some way, which is exciting.
CG: As a high-profile personality with an active public schedule, how do you keep your girls grounded?
They keep me grounded. My husband, John, and I both grew up in Kansas in very Mid-western, middle-class surroundings. We grew up very grounded and we are still the same people. My kids have always realized what I do, that I have this really cool job, but I also come home and do laundry, cook, go grocery shopping, take them to school functions, and ‘mom’ as well. So it’s all just kind of just rolled into one big happy amazing life. As they get older now they understand what I do, but I don’t think it crosses their mind every day. It’s not the center of their world. I go out and do shows, and maybe I’m on TV once in a while, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of their existence.
CG: Married 26 years this past May to John McBride, what is your secret to a strong, long-lasting marriage?
MM: We li
ke each other a lot. We have talents that complement each other’s. He’s my house sound engineer on the road and also my engineer in the studio. We just like to be around each other. I think it’s mutual respect for each other. We have three kids we are raising together and we’re best friends.
CG: You are known for singing lyrics of substance and songs that challenge listeners. You’ve addressed domestic violence in “Independence Day,” female empowerment in “This One’s for the Girls,” child abuse in “Concrete Angel,” alcoholism in “Cheap Whiskey,” poverty in “God’s Will,” and cancer in “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.” Tell us about Team Martina.
MM: Team Martina is a group that was actually started organically by fans that came to me and asked if they could use my name on a t-shirt as they walked in a breast cancer fund-raising walk. I said sure, and it’s grown from there. We do things locally and in the towns that I’m touring in. Fans will come together and do things during the day to benefit local charities. They raise money for charities in their own communities, and then we do national and international things. We just raised money for Covenant House, a Guatemalan orphanage, where we started a music program with an actual classroom with musical instruments and a teacher for underprivileged and rescued teenage girls. What I love about it is all the ideas come from the fans. I participate when I can, but they really cook up the ideas, the issues they are passionate about—what they want to raise money for and what they want to dedicate their time to.
CG: What would people be surprised to know about you?
MM: I don’t think I have any surprises. Honestly, I’m kind of like what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I don’t know that I have surprises, which probably in a way is a good thing. I think people realize that when they see me or listen to me it’s real and honest.