Interview: Martina McBride

May 10, 2006 11:26 AM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Country star Martina McBride calls her current concert tour's set list a bit "strange." Although she recently released an album of classics, "Timeless," she does not want to alienate her longtime fans who want to hear her previous hits.

So, she decided to play one hour of "Timeless," take a 15-minute break, and then perform an hour of hits, including "Concrete Angel."

"It's kind of a strange concept a little bit," McBride said via telephone from her home, where kids were heard playing in the background. "Doing the two shows, I didn't know how it was going to work out, but the crowds have been so receptive, especially to the second part of the show.

"Even to the first part of the show, people sing along. It's great when you can look out and see all ages--even 7 and 8 year olds--singing to the Ray Price songs. Everyone who comes through the autograph line has the CD and they seem really familiar with the music, which is great. It's a lot of fun."

Fun but a lot of hard work, said her manager Brad Garrett.

"The second set is chock full of 14 hits right in a row," he said. "For her to be able to sustain that singing for two-plus hours every night is one thing that amazes me."

McBride talked to LiveDaily about the massive number of songs she listens to in creating an album, and producing her music herself.

LiveDaily: How did you chose the songs for "Timeless"?

Martina McBride: There's a bunch of songs I've always wanted to sing; them being classics, I had a lot to chose from. The rest of it, the band and I sat around and just talked about the songs and just tried out different ones, got everybody else's ideas and had a lot of fun going through those old songs.

How long had the "Timeless" project been percolating in your mind?

I think I had the idea for it really since, I want to say, a year ago September. A year before it came out.

It must have been fun to sing the songs in the studio and put your own spin on it.

It was a complete joy from beginning to end. Getting to sing those songs and getting to work on those classic melodies and records every day was really fun. It wasn't even work.

Did you find it difficult to produce your own record?

I didn't find it tough at all. I love it. I co-produced all my records. This was the first time doing it all on my own. It was a blast.

Why did you decide to take the leap and produce it all on your own?

I just felt like it was time. I made eight records with Paul Worley. I felt like I kind of wanted to step out on my own, and kind of make a record on my own. So I guess I did. He was still involved. He played on all the tracks. We had fun sharing music together. But I just did all the work. I produced it myself.

Have you started working on a new record?

I started gathering songs but I haven't started recording yet.

What do you look for in songs when you are preparing to record an album?

It's really instinct. The song has to hit me the right way. Something I want to say, or a song that I feel I wanted to sing for a really long time. I might listen to 1,000 songs, and the ones that stand out and draw me in are the ones that make the record.

How many songs do you listen to in the course of recording an album?

Between 1,000 and 2,000. It's a lot of work. It's a long process. The thing is, listening to that many songs, the good ones--the ones that are right for you--really stand out. The trick is finding the song that's right for you. It's a perfect fit. It's like, there might be 20 beautiful dresses hanging on the rack, but there's one that looks great on you. They're all beautiful, but you have to find the right one. That's the challenge. I really look forward to that part of the process. It's a lot of fun.

In paying tribute to her roots, Martina McBride doesn't merely cover a selection of classic country favorites, she conjures an entire era. You'd swear that was Floyd Cramer playing piano on the album-opening "You Win Again," and Chet Atkins picking guitar on the following "I'll Be There." The steel guitar featured so prominently throughout Timeless recalls a time when country sounded distinctly--and proudly--different from rock, while the background chorale on "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Once a Day," as well as the soaring strings on "Rose Garden," remind one of the "countrypolitan" crossover sound. Except for a delicate rendering of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," McBride's versions don't really add anything to the originals, because these songs weren't missing anything. But she makes "I Don't Hurt Anymore" sound as fresh and pure as it did when Hank Snow recorded it more than a half-century ago, while her rendition of "Till I Can Make It on My Own" has all the brittle conviction that Tammy Wynette invested in it.

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