Meanwhile, she’s touring with husband Garth Brooks during his world tour.
During a visit to CMT, she took a few moments to reflect on the path that brought her to Nashville.
CMT: What was it like for you growing up in Monticello, Georgia?
Yearwood: There was freedom, but there was controlled freedom in Monticello, Georgia, where I grew up. I grew up in a pretty strict home, and there were places in town that you couldn’t be caught dead. We had a town square. Well, that was not where the classiest people hung out. The bad boys definitely hung out up there in their muscle cars, and so I never, ever parked on the square. If my dad had caught me on the square, I don’t know what would have happened. He would have just killed me, or I would have wanted to die!
What was great about growing up in a small town was it was kind of an innocent time. It was football games on Friday nights and church on Sunday mornings, but there was accountability. You know, if I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do in a small community like that, my parents would have known about it before I got home that night. And so I always said I was pretty well-behaved, and I don’t know if it was because I was a good girl or because I just knew what would happen. You know, I was just afraid of my parents and the whole community!
But it gives you a sense of accountability and responsibility. And it doesn’t mean that I always do the right thing, but it means I know what the right thing is because of how I was raised.
Can you remember the first time you thought that this level of life and success just doesn’t happen to a farm girl from Jasper County? You’re seeing your dreams realized. Do you still think about that?
I do think about those moments … especially as a young girl wanting to do this so badly. It was almost torture not knowing how to go about it. I didn’t have a relative in the industry. I didn’t know anybody here. I came here with nothing and knowing not a soul. … I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t been able to do music because I think if it’s what makes me happy, then it’s what I feel like I have to do.
What’s the biggest lesson you brought from your childhood into being an adult and musician?
I think I definitely brought a sense of normalcy to a business that isn’t always normal, you know? It’s the highest compliment when somebody says, “You’re just normal.” I mean, I’m really not. I’m kinda weird, but most people don’t know that! I’m quirky and I’m goofy, but I’m grounded.
I definitely think that came from how I was raised and where I was raised. My sister and I — even when I had hit records and became known — if someone would ask my mom, “How’s that famous daughter?” she’d say, “Which one?” And when I went home for Christmas, it didn’t matter how many hit records I had. I still had to crack the ice trays — which was the worst job in the kitchen. … So there was no special treatment, and I think that you treat everybody the same. I think I learned that from my parents.
It’s been 23 years now that you’ve been in the business. What are some of the biggest changes that you’ve noticed through the years?
I’m still learning about some of the most recent changes in the last five or seven years with everything that’s happening with technology and how it’s such a single-driven business now and how there’s not really anything like artist development. You know, if you don’t have a hit on your first single, you’re kind of gone! …
Now with shows like American Idol and The Voice — which are great shows and we find great talent all over the country — the downside of that for me is that you’re famous before you ever release a record, so the pressure on these kids to be successful is so much greater than it was for me. If my first single had failed, no one would have noticed, but for these guys, everybody knows who they are before that first single comes out. So I think that’s an enormous pressure, and I think I give them all the props because they handle it really well, but that’s gotta be tough.
Did you ever feel like it was hard to stay true to who you were? Were there big industry pressures for you to be or look a certain way?
I was lucky in the beginning of my career. I didn’t have anybody telling me to be something that I wasn’t. … I don’t know what I would have done. I was lucky that nobody did that.
I think the biggest pressure I felt as a young artist was the same pressure I felt as a young woman — which is growing up Southern, you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and you want everybody to be happy. … I think that my true personality, I kept kind of in a little bit because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, or I didn’t want to offend anybody, or I wanted everybody to like me.
And the wonderful thing about getting older is that … you get to that place where you’re like, “This is who I am.” And it’s such a freeing feeling to feel like you can really be who you are. And I think a lot of that just comes with growing up.
Coming back into the industry now, were you specific about doing things on your own terms?
There does come the luxury of that. You get to a certain place where you say, “This is what’s important to me, and I’m not really willing to do it another way.” But again, I think I’ve just been lucky. I’ve surrounded myself with people that have always wanted to work with me — not against me or not tell me what to do. I’m not very good at that. (laughs) I don’t take direction very well. You can ask my husband!
Through all these years of music, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
I don’t know if I could pick one thing. What came to my head when you asked that question was, “I don’t have any regrets.” I don’t look back at my career and go, “I wish I would have cut that song.” And I mean, I’ve had songs on hold that became big hits for other people, and I joke about it, but I think every song goes where it’s supposed to go.
I don’t look back at my career and think, “I wish I would have done this differently,” and with 23 years under my belt, that’s a pretty good feeling. And again, going back to how you were raised, I really think my parents taught us that we could be anything that we wanted to be and that we should be ourselves and trust our gut. So, thanks Mom and Dad.