From last week’s guest appearance on American Idol to an upcoming cover story in Ladies Home Journal, Martina McBride is one of country music’s most famous faces. However, it’s her powerful voice and memorable songs that keep her in the music spotlight.
McBride is back on the charts with the emotional ballad, “Anyway,” from her new CD, Waking Up Laughing. Here she answers questions from her fans about her latest music, feeling overwhelmed, forgetting to warm up before concerts and focusing on what’s important.
1. I love your new song, “Anyway.” Every time I hear it, I get goose bumps. Where did you get the inspiration to write such a great song?
“Anyway” was inspired by many things, among them a poem by Mother Teresa. It was also inspired by real life and the fact that we all face adversity in one way or another. It’s a song about hope, love, perseverance and, mostly, faith. Faith that it’s not always in your hands or things don’t always go the way you planned, but you have to have faith that there is a plan for you, and you must follow your heart and believe in yourself no matter what. The part about believing tomorrow will be better than today was especially meaningful to me to write because I have a tendency to hear the news or read some kind of article, whether it is about terrorism or global warming or whatever, and I get really scared and nervous about our future. So that line is especially helpful and meaningful to me. It helps me remember that we’re all part of a bigger plan and that we must have faith in the future and it isn’t all gloom and doom!
2. I found out recently that “Anyway” is the first song that you wrote and then recorded. Is there any reason that now seemed like the right time?
I have been fighting writing songs for a long time. People keep telling me I should write, and other writers have offered to write with me, and to be honest, it’s not something I’ve ever really had a passion for — plus I wasn’t sure I had the talent to do it! We were out on the Timeless tour and the Warren Brothers were opening for me. They are such talented writers and they write every day. They kept asking me to write with them, and I kept putting them off. One evening at supper, they came to me with the idea for this song. They had already written the chorus, and I loved it immediately. They said it wasn’t finished, and they wanted me to finish it with them. So I agreed, and we got together in the dressing room the very next day and finished it in about an hour. It came really easily, and I really surprised myself with how much I was able to contribute and how exciting it was. We decided what ideas we wanted to portray … build, dream, believe, love, sing … and then came up with ways to say it. After that, we wrote two other songs for the album. So I have to credit Brad and Brett for opening that door for me and pushing me through it. And having the friendship we have makes it so much easier and more comfortable for me to explore writing.
3. I read that you solo-produced your new album. Do you think you would like to produce other artists’ albums, and if so, do you have anyone in mind?
I love producing! It’s so much fun to start with a blank canvas and create the picture you want to create and see it all come together. The thing is, it’s really time-consuming, at least the way I do it, so I would have to make sure I had the time to focus on it. Also, I would worry about helping someone make an album and then it not be successful! I would feel just awful and so responsible! So I would have to get over that hurdle, and knowing me, I don’t know if that could ever happen!
4. What is your No. 1 rule of thumb before going onstage? How long before a show do you eat, what do you drink right before … stuff like that.
I don’t really have any kind of rigorous or definite routine before I go onstage. I like to eat at least an hour or two before I go on. If I can’t do that, I just wait until after. I try and drink lots of water before I go onstage.
5. It’s easy to see how vocally demanding your concerts are. Do you do any warm-ups to prepare you for a show, or do you go on cold?
Sometimes I warm up and sometimes I don’t. I really should, and I know that I start out the show better when I do, but sometimes I just forget! Sometimes I say a little prayer asking God to bless the show and to let the music do what it’s meant to do, whatever that may be. I always have lots of candles in my dressing room.
6. When you’re in the middle of a concert, do you ever feel like your voice isn’t going to make it and find yourself praying for it to hold out the rest of the show?
My voice actually gets stronger as the night goes on. That’s one reason I usually put “Where Would You Be” or “Broken Wing” or “Independence Day” toward the end of the set.
7. What is a typical day in the life of Martina McBride on the road like?
A typical day starts out with [daughter] Ava waking up. I usually stay in bed until she wakes up and, luckily, she’s not an early riser. We get up, and I make her some breakfast. I check e-mail and talk to her while she’s eating. Then when everyone else gets up, I usually shower and get ready for the day, and then it depends on where we are. Sometimes we get out our bikes and find a bike trail and go riding. Sometimes we hit the mall or some local shopping. Sometimes we’ll hit a museum or an aquarium or something like that. Sometimes we just hang out on the bus. Then we do soundcheck in the afternoon, and then we all eat dinner together. Then I get ready for the show!
8. To say you have stage presence would be an understatement. Is this something you cultivated, or did it occur naturally as you played more shows? When did you first become conscious of it?
Well, growing up performing for people really helped me be comfortable on stage. But I do think it gets better each time I go out on tour. And some nights are better than others! I tell you, the audience makes a huge difference in how comfortable a performer feels onstage. At least that’s the case for me. If I walk out onstage and I get a warm, excited response, it makes me feel so confident and happy, and then it’s so easy for me up there.
9. What is your favorite way to spend your wedding anniversaries?
With [husband] John, of course!
10. How do you keep your girls so grounded, and what do they think about their mom’s success?
I think it’s because they see that in me and John. What I do is definitely a part of our daily lives, but we balance it with a very normal life. The kids go to school, and we’re involved in their school lives and activities. We sit down to dinner together every night. We go to the grocery store and the movies. We help with homework. We have dentist checkups and doctor checkups and normal things like that. I really don’t think they think about what I do and my success much. It’s just normal for them.
11. How have you kept yourself and your family away from the tabloid press?
We really don’t have much interesting for the tabloids! As a matter of fact, it’s hard for me to get on some TV shows and in magazines because I don’t have anything controversial or juicy enough! I guess writing about someone who is happy and fulfilled and who works each day to try and do their best just isn’t exciting enough in today’s culture where we want to hear about everything celebrities are doing wrong and then criticize and judge and tear them apart!
12. Do you ever feel overwhelmed? If so, how do you stay focused?
I absolutely feel overwhelmed sometimes! The past couple of months have been particularly overwhelming with finishing the album and then all the press to promote it, rehearsals and launching the tour. I just try and take one thing at a time. Obviously, I have to be thinking about many things at once, and, luckily, I’m pretty good at that. But I try and focus on what needs the most focus. Like, right now, I have to stop this interview and change Ava’s very stinky diaper!
13. How much sleep do you get normally?
Not enough! I feel really good if I get eight hours, but most of the time I only get five or six a night.
14. Are you an Elvis fan, and, if so, what is your favorite song of his?
I am an Elvis fan. There are so many great songs of his. I like “Suspicious Minds.” I think that is a great record. Also, for sentimental reasons, “Blue Christmas.” My dad used to play that every year around Christmas, so it brings back good memories.
15. Did Linda Ronstadt have any influence on you when you were first starting out?
She definitely did. I would go home after school and put on her records and sing through every one of them. I thought of it as “practice.” I felt that it would help me learn how to sing like her! I memorized every nuance and tried to match her tone and hit all the notes. We really didn’t have the opportunity for voice lessons or anything like that, so I think that was a way for me to learn.
16. Have you ever had a song that you related to so much that you couldn’t sing it without crying at first?
“Loveland” really affected me, and it still does.
17. Is there any chance we might ever hear a duet between you and Faith Hill?
I would love to do a duet with Faith. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right song and then coordinating our recording schedules. She’s one of my very favorite singers.
18. Have you ever thought about starting a clothing line or jewelry line? Maybe even a perfume?
I have been approached to do that. My only concern is that I am such a perfectionist, I don’t know if I would ever be happy without being really involved on every level. And I just don’t see myself having the time to devote to that right now. Maybe some day in the future. I would like to do a line and donate the profits to help out children’s charities.
19. I am a huge Reba fan, and I know she has influenced you. We all know that she has gone from Nashville to Broadway to Hollywood. My question is, where do you see your career going from here?
I don’t have the energy and drive that Reba has! I’m just happy with what I have, and maybe someday I would like to get into some other aspect of this business, but Broadway and Hollywood would involve moving and giving up a huge chunk of time, and that’s not an option right now.
20. What is your biggest lesson in life that you can share with your fans?
I think the Golden Rule is a good one to live by. Also, I read a book called The Four Agreements that I thought had some great points, one of which is not to judge, which I think is really hard for everyone but worth aspiring to. I look at our culture and how we judge everyone at face value without knowing all the details or even knowing the person. Especially celebrities but really anyone in the news. Even people we see on the street. We judge everything from their appearance to why they act the way they do without knowing anything about them. I try not to do that, but it’s hard, especially in a culture where we use other’s misery or misfortune as entertainment sometimes. There is a song on my album called “For These Times” that addresses that. And it talks about having mercy and kindness. That’s the life lesson I’m working on.