Trisha Settles Into Her Career With Lucky Number Seven

Restlessness is known to come in intervals of seven. There’s the seven-year itch that some partners get after years of unyielding commitment, and there’s the seventh-inning stretch that baseball fans take after a long period of sitting still. But such things aren’t limited to just couples and sports spectators. Singers feel it, too.

An overwhelming surge of recognition and sales success has recently come for Trisha Yearwood after seven years of developing a solid, enduring career that has yielded more than 20 country singles. The 33-year-old singer says she is “not a person that likes change” and has “learned to settle” into her profession. At the same time, Yearwood feels she has entered a new and different phase in her career with the recent release of Where Your Road Leads. Her seventh album of all new material (featuring the current smash, “There Goes My Baby”) comes on the heels of a chapter-closing greatest hits collection and finds the vocalist working with producer Tony Brown for the first time.

She’s not doing anything drastically different. It’s just that it is the seventh inning and she wants to stretch.

Yearwood–CMT’s September Showcase Artist–is happy that her renewed surge in popularity and activity is coming seven years into the game, a time in her life when she knows how to handle it and how to enjoy it.

“My career took off so quickly with “She’s In Love With The Boy” in 1991 that I was caught by surprise,” says the small town Georgia native. “The album went platinum (selling over one million copies) in nine months and I received a lot of praise. I started to think, ’Wow, this is easy!’ Then I settled in and realized songs like “She’s In Love With The Boy” are career records that most artists are lucky to ever have once. I’ve had other big records, but nothing that really had the impact of that first one until “How Do I Live” came along. I’ve learned to settle into my career over the past several years. I know that every record is not going to go to No. 1, but enough will do well to sustain the albums I put out. I’m happy with that.”

Yearwood has had a lot to be happy about in the past year as she further establishes herself as a wise interpreter of well-crafted songs. Her 1997 Songbook: A Collection of Hits debuted at No. 1, yielding the chart-toppers “How Do I Live,” “In Another’s Eyes” and “Perfect Love.” Yearwood achieved country music’s “Triple Crown” by winning the 1997 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, the 1998 ACM Top Female Vocalist of the Year and the 1998 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance Female for “How Do I Live.” She picked up a second Grammy for her vocal collaboration with Garth Brooks on “In Another’s Eyes.” Icing on the cake, the stunning vocalist performed “How Do I Live” at the Academy Awards, where writer Dianne Warren was nominated for Song of the Year.

Part of settling into her career has been learning to savor such moments.

“I’ve learned that things will go by you very quickly if you don’t make yourself really be in the moment when things are happening,” Yearwood says. “The night I sang at the Oscars, for instance, I just made myself be in that moment because I knew I would probably never have a chance to do that again. The night I sang with Pavarotti, I remember the exact moment I looked over at him and thought to myself, ’You’re actually singing with Pavarotti!’ Those are the kind of moments I will remember forever.”

Another event she will cherish for the rest of her life is last fall’s CMA Awards, the night she finally captured her long overdue Female Vocalist of the Year trophy. When Yearwood accepted the award, the Grand Ole Opry House crowd rose in a standing ovation–the only one a current artist received all evening. Outburst of support from competing industry heavyweights underscored the respect Yearwood enjoys among her peers.

“I had been nominated for top female vocalist at the CMAs before and had never won,” notes the singer. “So, I didn’t expect to win, which made winning even sweeter. It was definitely the one award I wanted to win because I’ve watched that show on television my whole life. Everybody kept telling me it was going to be my year, and I kept saying, ’I don’t win these–winning awards has not turned out to be part of the picture for me.’ I had support from a lot of people who have been in my corner all these years, so I felt like I was winning it for them as well. That also made winning a lot sweeter.

“I felt like I had stepped up to the plate and was finally being considered on a level with some of the women I admire a lot. When you win the Female Vocalist category you’re put on a list with (past winners) like Reba McEntire and Loretta Lynn. I’m certainly not comparing myself to them, but at least I get to be in that company. I’ve accomplished something that these women who are heroes of mine have accomplished. It definitely puts you in a different category. Even if I never win another one, I’ve won it, so I get to be in the club.”

Yearwood gets the chance to defend her Female Vocalist crown at the 32nd Annual Country Music Association Awards, which will be telecast live on the CBS Television Network on September 23.

“It’s kind of like you’re Miss America and you have to give the crown over the next year,” Yearwood quips. “It is selfish to say I want to win the female vocalist award again, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t. Last year’s CMA Awards was one of the most amazing nights of my life. I’ll never forget winning that first female vocalist award. What a wonderful statement that will be if I win it again, but I don’t expect to. I’ve won and lost enough awards over the years that I’ve learned to just go to the show and enjoy myself rather than go in with certain expectations. Last year was an incredible year for me, and I can’t expect to have that kind of year every year.”

In addition to Yearwood’s female vocalist nod, the singer is also a contender in the Vocal Event of the Year field for her collaboration with Garth Brooks on “In Another’s Eyes.” Yearwood has close ties with Brooks, recording and touring with him frequently. Once sharing management, Trisha and Garth first became friends when scrapping by in Nashville before either owned a record contract.

Garth had just exploded into stardom when Trisha’s debut album arrived, and he gave her a hand by taking her out as an opening act. Having largely bypassed the nightclub circuit, her first extensive experience onstage was in front of tens of thousands of screaming Garth fans. The two are currently touring together (through October ’98), and Yearwood’s new single, the title cut from Where Your Road Leads, is a duet with Brooks.

“I was very lucky that the first tour I was on was with someone like Garth, who has been such a friend to me and really made my first touring experience a good one,” Yearwood notes. “It could have been a lot harder. He didn’t say, ’Oh, look at her–she doesn’t know what she’s doing.’ Instead, he helped me.”

While Yearwood is accustomed to playing enormous venues opening for Brooks, she has also developed a more intimate kind of performance in theatrical venues, where she can communicate in a more personal way with her audience and showcase her essence as a singer with range, power and the voice of an angel. Such a venue is Nashville’s historic 2,000-seater Ryman Auditorium, the place where she married Mavericks’ bassist Robert Reynolds in 1994.

“I wouldn’t trade what I’ve done this year on the Garth tour for anything,” she explains, “because the experience of singing in front of his audience has been incredible. You know every night when you come out on stage this crowd is going to be louder than the band. It’s just an amazing experience. But I love the intimate experiences, too. The Ryman is one of my favorite places in the world to play–the size of the room, the acoustics, the whole vibe is incredible. For my own show, that kind of venue is the perfect place to play.”

Yearwood will likely begin touring as a headliner again early next year, after taking some time off at the holidays to recuperate from the whirlwind of the past year or so. “Touring with Garth this year will make next year’s shows better,” Yearwood maintains. “I think I will be better at playing those smaller venues after trying to make intimate nights out of 20,000-seaters.”

Yearwood and Brooks hope to have a duets album out by the end of the century, though Yearwood admits getting their respective labels (MCA and Capitol) to agree on the terms has proven to be difficult. In the meantime, she’s focused on supporting her MCA album that has just come out.

“The album sounds crisp and fresh to me,” the singer says. “The greatest hits collection was a statement of what I’ve done so far, and putting it out gave me some breathing room between albums to think about what I wanted to do next. Working with a new producer breathed fresh air into the project. Tony Brown and I produced Where Your Road Leads, which was a first for me. So, everything about making this album was different than the past six I made with (producer) Garth Fundis. It was a scary adventure because I’m not a person that likes change, but I’m also a person that wants to grow.”