Martina McBride‘s high octane soprano is one of the most beautiful and powerful voices in music. Thursday, February 16, McBride will bring her dynamic show to the BOK Center in Tulsa with another star you may have heard of – George Strait. Now, twenty years into her career, McBride has become an iconic figure in country music and a lock as a future member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Instead of staying the course on her latest album "Eleven" the superstar made some major changes. She discussed everything from her new role as a songwriter to Smokey Robinson’s admiration for her talent in an exclusive interview recently in Atlanta for Tulsa Today.
Question: A lot of things are different about this album from how it was launched to where it was recorded . Most superstars with an established 20-year career don’t veer from the path that brought them the kind of success you have experienced. What prompted you to change labels and management and become so involved in songwriting at this stage of your career?
McBride: As far as the change with the label and management, it just felt like the right time to make a change, After working with the same people for a really long time, you tend to get really comfortable. I felt like it was time to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to shake things up a little bit and get a different energy.
As far as songwriting, I really took the time and decided to get serious about it. I’ve always written songs but never gave it the time or attention it deserved and so I decided to do that and I’m really glad I did. [she co -wrote eight of the 11 tracks]
Question: You’re known for being a great song selector; how does it feel to be on the creative side as a writer?
McBride: It’s great. I didn’t think they would feel more personal because I always thought I made all my songs my own, anyway. But it does feel more personal, especially when you sing a song about your life, like “Teenage Daughters,” so it’s really a cool feeling, you feel a connection to it in a different way.
Question: The first two singles were songs about cancer support and raising teenage girls; powerful and relatable themes that labels consider prime chart material. Does commercial success ever drive your choice to put certain songs on a record?
McBride: No, not at all. I don’t ever assume. The radio world is so unpredictable, you never know what will work and what won’t. I just try to find songs I think people can relate to. Obviously, lots of people can relate to having teenage daughters and unfortunately, a lot of folks can relate to loving someone through cancer. When you’re looking at a forum like radio where a lot of people are hearing the songs, you want people to relate to them.
Question: What are your thoughts on country music becoming too “pop?” Many acts that have broken through under the country umbrella have gone on to be huge crossover stars. For example; Taylor Swift’s 2011 tour was second in total revenue behind only U2, one of the biggest bands in history.
McBride: I think it’s great, country music has always had pop stars, from Johnny Cash to Glen Campbell. There have always been artists that have crossed over and have been on the pop charts and it’s good for country music
Question: You have a strong public image with a loving family; you support worthy causes and are scandal free. One of your tour sponsors was Sunny Delight. With a few exceptions, many country artists fit a similar profile. What is it about this genre that keeps it so G rated and accessible to fans of all types of music
McBride: I think it’s just who we are. Country music is about real life and strong values and those are the types of artists we have in this business
Question: Smokey Robinson asked me if I ever heard a country artist cover a Motown classic. I mentioned what a great job you did with “Natural Woman” He replied, “That’s because Martina Mcbride is the bomb, baby.” I then asked him if he would entrust you with one of his songs. He said, “I would trust her with any of them.” Coming from a Motown legend, what does that mean to you?
McBride: That’s amazing. So cool. He’s obviously a legend and one of the greatest Motown singers so that’s an extremely flattering thing to say.
Question: When this era of country music ages enough to be called “classic” who do you think will be labeled as the pioneers 30 years from now?
McBride: That’s a really good question. I think people like Keith Urban, George Strait and Alan Jackson. Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert are also breaking new ground on the female side.
Question: The 1980s were a strange decade for music of all types. As a teenager during that time, who were your influences?
McBride: Everybody from Reba to Pat Benatar to Journey. I was also influenced by the country music my dad used to play like Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn.
Question: Do you consider yourself a crossover star?
McBride: I don’t really think about it, I haven’t really had a pop hit, maybe a few on adult contemporary. I just make the music I make and I’m up for anybody playing it that wants to.
Question: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
McBride: Definitely doing the same thing I’m doing now; making music and doing concert tours, I love what I do. I’m having the best time I’ve ever had on stage and in the studio.
About the author: Michael Rampa is a nationally published freelance writer specializing in country music primarily for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If the Martina McBride / George Strait tour provides review and photography passes for Tulsa Today, we will post a review and photo gallery after the Tulsa appearance — work aside, this will be a top talent show to enjoy.