Martina McBride Shines on Lucky Number ‘Eleven’
With more than 18 million albums sold, four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year wins, three ACM wins for the same honor, a Grammy and an impressive list of other achievements, Martina McBride certainly knows the recipe for country music success. She just likes to change up the ingredients every now and then. That certainly rings true on the Kansas native’s brand-new album, ‘Eleven,’ which hit stores today (Oct. 11). The project is her first for new label home, Republic Nashville, and the first with a new co-producer and new management team. As with every disc in Martina’s spectacular collection, ‘Eleven’ showcases some of the most powerful pipes in all of Music City history, but this album arguably shows her growth as a musician more so than ever before. With six co-writes on the project (the most she’s ever had), the songbird dabbles in different genres on ‘Eleven,’ throwing dashes of blues, soul and pop into the mix, while at the same time serving a heavy helping of country flavor.
The Boot sat down with Martina at the Republic Nashville offices to talk about her new music, as well as the first two videos from ‘Eleven.’ One stars several celebrities, and the other features some potential future celebrities: the singer’s three beautiful daughters. We also chat about the Mommy/artist balancing act and her big cross-country trip to promote ‘Eleven’ like no album has ever been promoted before.
What’s going to surprise fans on this album?
The surprise is kinda subtle … It’s not like a rap album or anything! There’s definitely me in there, but it has a lot of different styles in it. There is a song that has an island feel. There’s a song that has an R&B feel. There’s one that’s straight-up country. There’s fun things like ‘Teenage Daughters’ and ‘Broken Umbrella.’ It’s just a good variety.
You mention the song with an R&B feel, which is ‘Whatcha Gonna Do.’ What attracted you to that song when you first heard its demo?
I love the feel of it, but the thing most attractive to me was the lyrics and the melody. I had never heard anything like it. The woman in the song is strong and stands her ground. She knows she has to leave if he doesn’t change, but she really does want him to change. It’s bittersweet.
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‘Always Be This Way’ is another track that takes you into new melodic territory. What’s the story behind that song?
I wrote that song with Hillary Lindsey and Brett James. We wanted to write something that was just fun … something you can play the ukelele on. It has that feel to it, that rhythm. We came up with a fun love story about two people who face the world who don’t think they’re going to make it, but they’re so strong, so they will. Always be this way … let’s not change or let the world change us.
Which song do you think best shows your growth as a songwriter?
‘Long Distance Lullaby’ was something different than I had ever written before. So much of it is drawn from what I feel when I’m away from my kids. It’s a huge part of me.
Being that this is your first album on a new label, did you approach the recording process any differently?
I approached this album actually quite a bit differently in a couple ways. The biggest way was the way I recorded it. I’ve always recorded in Nashville — for the past four or five albums, I’ve recorded at Blackbird Studios that I own with my husband. So this time, we got out of Nashville and went to Atlanta to record, which allowed me to focus on the music. I didn’t have any of the distractions and pulling on you from every different angle that you have when you’re in your home. I was able to just make music, which made a difference.
With the ‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It’ video, we’re familiar with the celebrity tie-ins, from Sheryl Crow‘s own battle with cancer to Katie Couric’s activism in the wake of her husband’s death from cancer, but tell us about the non-celebrities in the video. How did you get hooked up with them?
They are real cancer survivors and their support systems. That was really important to me — not to have actors, but real people telling their stories. They did such a beautiful job. They were able to bring the people with them who loved them through it. Seeing it visually was beautiful, but I love the fact they we get to hear their story and how they couldn’t have gotten through it without the support they had.
What I love about the video is you see cancer survivors who have been 27-year survivors or 17-year survivors … If I’m watching that at home, going through something like that, I’m going to think, “I can do this. There is life after this.”
In the ‘Teenage Daughters’ video, all three of your children are terrific actresses! Do you see Hollywood in any of their futures?
Emma wants to be an actress, my middle one. I was surprised at how natural they were. I don’t think we could have casted actors who could have done any better. It was a lot to put on them — we didn’t have a rehearsal. They kinda just got thrown into it. Delaney especially has a flair for comedic acting. It really surprised me in that I had never seen her do that before. I loved sharing the experience with them. We’ll always have that.
Where do you fall in between strict mom and best-friend mom?
That’s the hardest thing about being a mom. You want to be cool, and you want them to like you all the time, but you can’t always have that. You’re gonna have times where you have to say no, and you won’t be the most popular person in the house. It is a fine line between letting them know they can come to you with anything, but also being strict when you need to be strict … and giving them enough space and freedom, but also keeping them safe and giving them boundaries. My husband said they other day, “Parenting just got hard!” You think it’s hard when they’re little, and you have to stay up all night, but it just got hard … It’s hard to say no to your kid. It’s hard for them to stomp off and not be happy with you for an hour.
Your upcoming tour schedule never has you away from home for more than about two days at a time. Is that the rule, as far as touring when the girls are in school?
It’s not a hard-fast rule, but it’s our guideline. It’s hard to take them out of school now; it’s hard for them to miss classes. We do try to work around the school year. So far, so good.
You’re hitting 11 cities in just four days on an Amtrak train tour in support of ‘Eleven.’ How did this trip transpire?
I don’t really know who was responsible for it. It was brought to me, and I jumped on it. I thought it was so unique and different. It’s a cool way to get to so many fans. Usually during release week, we do television and a couple of in-store appearances, but you’re really bound, geographically. You can only get to so many places in a week. The idea of going to the West Coast, all across America to the East Coast in one week, and getting to stop and visit with the fans and play them some of the music just really excited me.
What’s the secret to longevity in this business?
I think it definitely comes down to the songs you record. They have to be songs that people connect with. For me, it comes down to the fans. You either have fans who stick with you, or they don’t. It comes down to making music that people connect with and great fans.