Martina McBride Talks New Music, CMT’s Next Women of Country Tour

And Why She Relates to Rayna on Nashville

It might get loud for Martina McBride in 2017. Her calendar is filled with music starting with the return of the Love Unleashed Tour, partnering with CMT for its third annual Next Women of Country Tour.

The tour resumes Feb. 2 in St. Louis, with Lauren Alaina, who is a new addition to the CMT Next Women of Country program. During our CMT.com interview, McBride revealed plans to record a new Christmas album, a project outside of mainstream country and another Timeless compilation.

“I want to do a bunch of different things,” she said. “I would love to do a more country record. I would love to do a gospel record. I would love to do a Timeless II. I’d love to do a big band record. I’d love to do maybe even an alternative sounding record.

“I feel like now I’m free to do a lot of different music,” she added. “I just want to go into the studio and make music that doesn’t necessarily follow a formula. I followed a record company formula for 25 years, so it’s nice to feel like I can cut five songs and release them online, whatever it might be. I see it more as a creative space that’s so much freer.”

McBride’s outfit for the day rocks. She is decked out in a blouse and stylish black cigarette pants with heels she wore for the album cover of 2009’s Shine. She said her 18-year-old daughter Emma wouldn’t let mom walk out the door that morning without wearing a killer pair of heels. Emma has plans to move to Los Angeles later this year to pursue a career as an actress.

CMT.com: How are you preparing Emma for a life in the entertainment business?

McBride: Well, we haven’t talked about it a whole lot. I think she obviously has an example seeing how I’ve handled things, and so hopefully it’s been a good example. But she’s just going to have to find her way. She’s going to know we’re always there for her. And she’ll have some people watching out for her. But at the end of the day, I moved to Nashville, and I didn’t know anybody. She’s going to have to make it on her own. And I feel like it’s going to be more special and important to her that she does it that way.

It’s all about finding your tribe and your guardian angels.

That’s great. Yeah!

Who have been your guardian angels in music?

Reba’s always been great to me. And Joe Galante, who was the head of my record label for so many years. He was always really good to me and looked out for me. Those are two people off the top of my head.

Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with on this new music you’re working on?

Not really. Not that I don’t want to collaborate with people, but I’ve done so many great duets. Anybody that comes out now, how do you top Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson, Keith Urban and Buddy Miller?

Will there be elements of previous tours on the extension of the Love Unleashed Tour?

I think we performed 16 Love Unleashed shows last fall, and it was really based on the concept of wanting to create a loving positive space for my fans to come and leave the world outside for a couple of hours because it’s crazy and just share a common love of music, be together and just spread some positivity. And so when we ended the tour, I was so disappointed because I felt like we were just really getting on a roll.

You know, you can have an idea in your head and think, “Is it going to play out? Are people really going to get it?” And they got it, and it was really fun. And then CMT came up and said, “Let’s just continue next spring as part of the Next Women of Country Tour.” And it was perfect because I’ve seen this tour from afar and I’ve always thought how great it would be to be involved in it because it’s right up my alley. It’s what I believe in — supporting women, mentoring and lifting each other up. So I think the two messages really coincide really well.

It’s exciting to see the results of that program play out in new tours and on award show ballots. Have often have you had the chance to work with Lauren Alaina?

I have briefly. She sang with me onstage at the CMA Music Festival one year and then we did a show in the summer that she opened up and I watched her show. She’s just really fun and such a great singer.

Her voice is amazing, and that’s going to be some serious power onstage. Will the new set be heavy on the Reckless album?

It’s going to have a lot of hits. We do maybe three songs from Reckless, a couple of fun covers, and we might do one or two album cuts that are fan favorites, which is something that we haven’t gotten to do in a long time. It’s a really good mixture. I feel like it’s really important because I’m a music fan, as well. So you want to go and hear the songs that made you a fan. I feel that’s important. I also want to balance that out with my fans who have been to a lot of shows. I want to give them something new and fresh. So we give them some stuff off the new record and then it’s fun for us onstage just to have a few surprises thrown in, too.

Will you be doing some new song premieres?

Probably not. I’m just getting ready to go into the studio in the next couple of months.

I did want to ask why there weren’t more originals on Reckless.

I don’t know. I just wasn’t in the head space to really write, and writing for me takes a lot of discipline for me to set the time aside to sit in a room and write. I’m not like a songwriter in the fact that I write songs every day. So, it was just in a time when I wasn’t really in a head space to create that and that discipline for myself to go in and write.

I honestly kind of wanted to do it old school and go back like on my first records when I just relied on these amazing songwriters in this community. There’s a difference between finding a song that someone else wrote and writing a song, definitely. And they can both be equally as exciting. There’s also something about it when you find a song that fits after you look through hundreds of songs and you think, “I’m never going to find a song.” And then you find one, it’s like a gift. It feels meant to be. That’s always a nice feeling.

Which of your hits feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself when you perform them?

“Independence Day,” “Broken Wing” and “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.” Those seem like the ones off the top of my head that feel like they were bigger than me, for sure. I always feel like I was the conduit or the vessel that those songs came through to do what they were supposed to do.

We’ve talked about the importance being part of a songwriter’s first major cut. What makes that so special?

It just feels like a beginning. It’s like helping make a dream come true. For Reckless, Hailey Whitters had her first cut with us, and we were also blessed with Hillary Lindsey’s first No. 1 song, “Blessed.” She’s gone on to have many, many more. For me, I just love being the catalyst for helping a dream come true and sort of being there at the beginning.

Going back to some of your earlier shows, how much confidence does a new artist have to have to play those empty rooms to the point where they get to fill up arenas?

I mean, I still play some private parties where everyone is talking. I just watched Nashville last week, and that happened to Rayna. I was like, “Oh, girl, I’ve been there.” I’ve played some private party somewhere where they don’t care about country music and they don’t know who you are. And you’re like, “All right, well, this was fun.”

But what you do in those situations — and especially when you’re starting out — you just look at it as experience. You look at it as character building. My whole thing was, “I’m going to get their attention.” Nine times out of 10, by the end of the night, if you did your job, you would have people paying attention to you who originally started out not caring. You make new fans along the way one at a time like that. Careers, the ones that last a long time, I feel like that’s how they’re built — fan by fan, individually, step by step.

Who do you think that’s making music now we’ll be listening to in 30 years? And what can our music community do to make sure that these careers are supported?

I think Keith Urban and Little Big Town we’ll still be listening to. I always draw a blank on who’s making music now. I think it’s tricky right now because I feel like we are in a transition between the class of Alan Jackson, George Strait, Reba, Faith Hill, you know all of these amazing artists — Garth Brooks — that had such an impact on country music for over a decade, and then now we’re sort of in between the new class and the class that I’m speaking of. I really don’t know the answer of who we’ll be listening to. I think only time is going to tell.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.