HOT DISH: Martina McBride’s Perfect Balancing Act

It's a Busy Life Being a Wife, Mother, Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Performer

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

A mother and housewife, Martina McBride is like the rest of us females. She cooks breakfast for her husband John and their three daughters, Delaney, Emma and Ava. Martina drives the girls to schools, picks them up, bakes cookies and serves as a room mother.

The difference is that Martina is a country music superstar who’s about to get very busy supporting her new album, Waking Up Laughing, due out April 3. Set to visit The Today Show and Late Night With Conan O’Brien on April 3, she’ll also appear April 4 on CNN’s Showbiz Tonight. On April 10, she’ll visit the girls on The View and tape an episode of Emeril Live. Later this year, she will perform and work with the contestants on American Idol. Martina is one of the artists lined up to be featured on CMT Diary, the new CMT series that provides an inside glimpse into lives of country stars. CMT Diary debuts in May.

When Martina is not at home in Nashville or working in the Blackbird Studios she owns with her husband, she is in her home on wheels — a Silver Eagle bus traveling down the highways from city to city, show to show. It’s a child-friendly environment with homework, toys, games, TV and comfort food.

With all the family stuff, she manages to remain consistent as a platinum album-seller, a chart-topping singles act and a successful concert performer. The Kansas native continues to tour only on weekends until school is out. She doesn’t set goals, and, like any other country girl with a spiritual belief, Martina feels what’s meant to be will happen.

Martina is humbly proud of the fact she’s exploring new avenues as a songwriter and record producer. She co-wrote three songs for the new album, including the single, “Anyway.” She also produced the CD.

Martina is one of my favorite singers, and the McBrides are one of my favorite couples. Good folks. Real good folks who happen to be in show biz.

Willie, Merle and Ray
You really didn’t expect Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price to sing songs from their new CD, Last of the Breed, when they appeared in Nashville, did you? With the Grand Ole Opry House filled with fans from the four corners of the world, these road dogs were going to sing what they liked and what their fans wanted to hear.

My brother, Henry Boone, drove 500 miles from North Carolina hoping to hear Willie sing “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and he wasn’t disappointed. I met a couple who flew from England to hear the threesome. My friend, Opry Dan Rogers, had friends who’d flown from Nova Scotia to see the Hag. A lady from Virginia recognized me and said she came to see Ray.

It was quite a night. Two and a-half hours of classic songs performed before a sold-out crowd. Nary a pop sound was heard. Willie singing “Superman” made me laugh out loud, Merle doing “That’s the Way Love Goes” killed me, and Ray singing “Crazy Arms” (with seven fiddles and steel guitar) was heavenly. As always, the harmonica playing by Willie’s longtime sideman, Mickey Raphael, was perfect.

Here’s something the Hag said — and you chew on it! Haggard told the New York Post that Last of the Breed is mostly dance music.

“Dance music?” you might ask.

“They’ve outlawed dancing,” Hag told the newspaper. “No more nightclubs. The government pretty much canceled out New Orleans, the only city left that aimed to entertain people and allowed people to dance.”

A Bluegrass Surprise Party
Allison McCoury, wife of mandolinist extraordinaire Ronnie McCoury, really pulled one over on her hubby on March 16 with a surprise party celebrating his 40th birthday. Arriving at the Bluegrass Country Club in Hendersonville, Tenn., Ronnie was greeted by the entire Del McCoury Band and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and his wife. Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Larry Stephenson and a bevy of musician and family friends also attended, including 10 men who were Ronnie’s classmates from the first grade through high school in Pennsylvania. Congrats were read from Vince Gill and Dierks Bentley (who were on the road in the U.S.) and Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas (who were working in Scotland).

Dukes New and Old
Ray Scott’s debut single on Warner Bros., “My Kind of Music,” is featured in the new movie, The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, now available on DVD.

Speaking of the The Dukes, country music’s first platinum mastertone — for sales of 1 million ringtones — is “Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys),” written and sung by the great Waylon Jennings. Lord, how time flies. It doesn’t seem that long ago when W.J. was in Glaser Sound Studios in Nashville to record the narration for the TV show — back when John Schneider and Tom Wopat were Bo and Luke Duke piloting the General Lee and straightening the curves the only way they knew how.

Brooks & Dunn Provide a Really Happy Birthday
Vacationing in Mexico: Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and their manager, the lovable Clarence Spalding.

By the way, Spalding told me that on the day he celebrated his 50th birthday earlier this year, Kix and Ronnie showed up early at his front door.

“What are ya’ll doing here?” he asked the award-winning duo.

“To wish you a happy birthday,” they replied before leading Clarence to the driveway where a big red bow was wrapped around a brand new, top-of-the-line black Mercedes parked in his circular driveway.

There’s no biz like show biz.

Lonestar Changes Underway
Lonestar members Dean Sams, Michael Britt and Keech Rainwater are looking for a replacement for lead singer Richie McDonald, who has announced his plans to leave the award-winning group later this year. The group, formerly with BNA Records, is also seeking a new label. I hear McDonald is talking with hotshot country/pop producer Dann Huff (Rascal Flatts) to produce his music.

Who besides me recalls that this is the second singer to depart Lonestar? The first, John Rich, is now far richer than his name.

In the News
Randy Travis is set to headline the Gstaad Music Festival in Switzerland in September. Also appearing are Julie Roberts, Rhonda Vincent and Riders in the Sky.

Will Tanya Tucker enter the second season of her TV reality show, Tuckerville, this fall? I’m hearing there’s a good possibility that she will.

Alison Krauss & Union Station will tour with fellow bluegrasser Tony Rice in April and May in support of her greatest hits project, A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection, on store shelves April 3. I want it!

Pat Green has been named celebrity spokesperson for the 34th annual Music City Tennis Invitational taking place April 21-22 in Nashville. The event benefits Vanderbilt Center for Child Development.

In four consecutive days at her Starstruck Studios on Music Row, Reba McEntire recorded with Trisha Yearwood, Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts and Justin Timberlake.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Butterscotch Pies.