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May 31, 2014

Martina McBride talks music, motherhood

May 31, 2014

Paul Hyde, The Greenville News 10:44 p.m. EDT May 31, 2014

Martina McBride is best known as a superstar of country music, but she grew up listening to, as she puts it, "everything."

"My dad was a hard-core country fan, but he also liked Elvis, Ray Charles, and Etta James," McBride said, speaking on the phone from Nashville. 

"It was a beautiful time, when there were not those strict musical boundries," she said, "My family listened to Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis."

In her just-released new album, "Everlasting," McBride took the opportunity to pay tribute to several of her musical heroes, particularly from the R&B side of pop: Etta James, Linda Rondstadt, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis.

She'll feature several of the songs from that album - as well as her big country hits - when her "Everlasting Tour" arrives at Greenville's Peace Center on June 13.

Her new album features such classics as “Suspicious Minds,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “Do Right Woman.”

Motown gets some new twists in McBride’s versions of the Supremes’ “Come See About Me,” Sam Cooke’s 1962 “Bring It on Home to Me” and the 1966 Etta James/Sugar Pie DeSanto romp “In the Basement.”

The “Everlasting Tour,” featuring 11 musicians, may be the biggest one ever for McBride.

“It’s a very visual show as well as a musical one,” McBride said. “I’ve got a horn section and backup singers. I’ve got the guys in matching suits, so it’s a little bit of a throwback to a Motown revue. It’s so different from anything I’ve done before and so fun to have that many people on stage. It may be my favorite tour thus far.”

Comfort food

She compares the smooth songs on "Everlasting" to "comfort food."

“I just meant this album to be like a gift,” McBride said. “In today’s world we’re so busy and pulled in so many directions. I wanted to make a record that’s easy and fun. You can put it on when you’re cooking or hanging out with your friends or out on the lake, and it’s easy to listen to and you can sing along and dance. It is like comfort food.”

It was important to McBride to put her own individual stamp on the classic songs.

“I realized, ‘I don’t have to try to be something else. I’m just going to be me,’ ” McBride said. “If Elton John made a country record, you wouldn’t want him to put on a fake Southern accent. You’d want to hear Elton John.”

In her 2005 “Timeless” album of country classics, McBride stuck close to the songs’ original arrangements. For “Everlasting,” McBride and her band offer a new take on the R&B chestnuts.

“On each song, we wanted to pay tribute to the original, but also make it our own,” McBride said. “I tried to refocus on the lyrics. I couldn’t find a female version of ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now,’ and all of the male versions were kind of angry and accusing. I realized that the song is actually really sad, so I feel like this version is emotionally different than every other one.”

The album also features Ronstadt’s 1967 “Little Bit of Rain,” Van Morrison’s “Wild Night” and Jimmy Ruffian’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”

“Choosing the songs was like going on a big treasure hunt,” McBride said. “It really just came down to what I felt most comfortable singing and the songs I was drawn to. ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ is kind of sad and hopeless for most of the song. But there’s a glimmer of hope at the end, and I wanted to bring that out. I tried to bring some tenderness to it.

“We approached ‘Come See About Me’ a little differently than The Supremes record and gave it a little heavier groove so that it fit the rest of the album,” she said.

Eclectic tastes

“Everlasting” reflects McBride’s own eclectic taste in music.

“I love all kinds of music,” she said. “If I had my way, I’d make a different genre of record every time I went out and made a record. I want to make a gospel record, a big band record, and I’d love to do a record of Frank Sinatra-like crooner songs. I love to sing all kinds of music.”

McBride grew up singing country music in rural Kansas, accompanied by her father’s band. She married John McBride in 1988, and the couple moved to Nashville in 1990.

He became a successful recording studio owner. She became a country star.

She first made the country charts in 1992. Her hit records since then have included classics such as “Wild Angels,” “Safe in the Arms of Love,” “My Baby Loves Me” and “A Broken Wing,” among many others.

She is known also for singing songs that touch on serious subjects. McBride 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.”

To date, she has had 20 Top-10 chart-toppers and six No. 1 hits. The Country Music Association named her its Female Vocalist of the Year four times. She’s been awarded 14 Gold Records, nine Platinum honors, three Double Platinum Records and two Triple Platinum awards.

McBride may be singing the blues on “Everlasting,” but the release of the album last month comes amid several career highlights.

During the first weeks of 2014, McBride 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. She joins Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait on his farewell tour in the spring.

Trying to be a good mom

McBride also is looking forward to the publication of her first book, "Around The Table," due out this fall. 

“It’s about entertaining at home,” McBride said. “It has recipes and menus and decorating tips, personal stories and fun ideas for invitations. It’s kind of a how-to book. I think people feel intimidated by having people over to their home. I wanted to give people some simple ideas for how to entertain at home.”

The Greenville News solicited questions from readers via social media for McBride. One reader asked McBride, a mother of three daughters: “What’s the best advice you can give to a working mom?”

“That’s a tough one,” she said. “Some days I feel I’m great at it and sometimes I feel like I’m the worst mother in the world. I think we all feel that way. Whatever job you have, you always feel torn. Some days you feel like you’re pulling it off, and you’re all things to everybody. Some days you feel like you drop every single ball. But at the end of the day, I always try to let my kids know how important they are to me, that they’re my priority, and when I’m with them at home, I’m really present.”

For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

YOU CAN GO

What: Martina McBride: The Everlasting Tour

When: 8 p.m. June 13

Where: Peace Concert Concert Hall

Tickets: Starting at $65

Information: (864) 467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org