What Martina McBride intended her latest album to be was a simple gift, but what she wound up with is a timeless treasure. The multi-million selling vocalist gathered a group of enduring musical chestnuts and assembled a small band to record them live in the studio. The result, a collection titled Everlasting, is a stunning listening experience, with McBride finding fresh nuances in familiar lyrics and working within beautifully crafted new arrangements of cherished melodies. She breathes new life into ballads like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Do Right Woman” by digging into the deeper meaning of their messages. McBride is equally refreshing on such tempo tunes as “Wild Night” and “Suspicious Minds.” Motown gets some new twists in her versions of “Come See About Me” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” The 1967 Linda Ronstadt ballad “Little Bit of Rain” becomes a standout moment on McBride’s new record. So is the reworking of the 1966 Etta James/Sugar Pie DeSanto romp “In the Basement,” where McBride is joined by pop star Kelly Clarkson. Soulful Gavin DeGraw is her duet partner on the revival of the 1962 Sam Cooke classic “Bring It on Home to Me.” “I just meant this album to be like a gift,” says Martina McBride. “I wanted to do something different. What I love about this record is that you can just relax with it. I wanted to make an album that you could put on when you’re cooking or when you have friends over. It is like comfort food.” Everlasting is a departure for Martina McBride in several respects. The pop repertoire and her blue-eyed soul musical approach are certainly new for her. This is also the first collection on her own label. And it marks her first album collaboration with superstar producer Don Was, famed for his work with The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, The B-52s, Ringo Starr and more. “I had worked with him once before, a long time ago, on a duet with Bob Seger for the Hope Floats movie soundtrack [in 1998],” McBride recalls. “And I have run into him a few times since then. I’ve always wanted to work with him. I just instinctively knew he was the right choice for this record. He loves havin the band all together recording in one room, so that’s what we did. The musicians were very excited to work with him as well. “Don is very ‘in the moment’ and focused. When you have his attention, you have ALL of his attention. I loved working with him. He’s so laid back, so sweet and so funny. He has this vibe that just puts everybody at ease and his approach is very musical and organic. “I’d taken a lot of time and given a lot of thought about what kind of record I wanted to make and what direction I wanted to go in. Choosing the songs was like going on a big treasure hunt. It really just came down to what I felt most comfortable singing and the songs I was drawn to. “Then I thought, ‘How do I approach this?’ Don said, ‘Your voice is the common thread. You might be singing songs that are different from what you normally do, but people just want to hear you sing.’ Then I relaxed about it and realized, ‘I don’t have to try to be something else. I’m just going to be me.’ 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.” When Martina McBride made Timeless, her Platinum-selling, 2005 collection of revived country classics, she stuck close to the songs’ original arrangements. For Everlasting, the band instead settled into various blue-eyed soul grooves and provided her with new approaches to the oldies. “On each song, we wanted to pay tribute to the original, but also make it our own. 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. “Dan Penn co-wrote ‘Do Right Woman,’ and he was there the day we recorded it. He told me that the actual lyric he wrote was, ‘If you want a do-right, home-days woman, you gotta be a do-right, home-nights man.’ So I sang it that way. I think that’s sweeter. “’What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’ 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. I based my version of ‘Suspicious Minds’ more on the Dee Dee Warwick version of the song, rather than rely too much on Elvis, even though I love the Elvis record of it. It’s the one I grew up with and it was one of the first songs on my list of choices. I chose ‘In the Basement’ for me and Kelly because I think people would have expected some big ballad from us, and I like the fact that it’s just fun and a little unexpected. “I wanted to do a Van Morrison song, and I love ‘Into the Mystic’ and ‘Crazy Love.’ Don said, ‘What about “Wild Night?”’ And that turned out to be so much fun and one of my favorite cuts. It came together very quickly in the studio. “That’s how we worked. A four-piece band, working together and playing off each other. The musicians loved it, and Don loved working with them. We added horns and background vocals later. And that’s really it. It was so easy. “Putting Everlasting out on my own label also felt easy, to be honest. I’ve always had great relationships with the labels I’ve been on so making the change was not about that. It is a lot of responsibilty but exciting at the same time to jus be doing things a bit differently. We put together a great team. She looks at this new chapter in her life as one more adventure. Martina McBride grew up singing country music in rural Kansas, accompanied by her father’s band. She went off to the big city of Wichita, then married John McBride in 1988. The couple moved to Nashville in 1990. He became the city’s most successful and respected recording studio owner. She became a country star. She first made the country charts in 1992. Her hit records since then have included such enduring classics as “Wild Angels,” “Safe in the Arms of Love,” “Wrong Again,” “Blessed,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “Life #9,” “Love’s the Only House,” “Whatever You Say,” “Where Would You Be,” “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” “When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues” and “A Broken Wing.” She is known for singing lyrics of substance and songs that challenge listeners. Martina has 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 hits and six No. 1 smashes. As a result, Martina McBride is ranked as the most played woman vocalist on country radio between 1999 and 2010, She was honored with induction into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in 1995. Martina McBride has been awarded 14 Gold Records, nine Platinum honors, three Double Platinum Records and two Triple Platinum awards and been recognized for selling over 18 million units. The Country Music Association has named her its Female Vocalist of the Year four times. The Academy of Country Music has presented her with its Top Female honor three times. The Recording Academy has nominated her for 14 Grammy Awards. The release of Everlasting comes during a time of several other career highlights for her. During the first weeks of 2014, Martina performed at all-star salutes to Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame members Greg 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. She also has her first book, published by Harper Collins and titled Around The Table, due out this fall. It is a book about entertaining at home complete with recipes, decorating tips, and personal stories, and highlights her passion for food and celebrating life with friends and family.