A few days before Martina McBride took the stage on Songland on Monday night (May 4) and decided to record the show’s “Girls Like Me,” we had a chance to talk about everything that goes into the crafting of a perfect country song. It can come naturally, but it can also be taxing and tedious and terrifying.
That may be why McBride isn’t always the one holding the pen when it comes to the long list of chart-toppers she’s had in the past 27 years. But McBride did co-write this new song with newcomer Halie Woolridge, along with Ester Dean, Shane McAnally, Ryan Tedder, Michael Tyler, Dan Swank, Lexi Lauren and Stephanie Chapman.
CMT.com: It’s obvious from your social media bio — Wife · Mother · Decorator · Cook · Party Thrower · Singer · Producer · Writer · Musician — that you are busier than ever. But it’s been a few years since you’ve released a single. Why now, and why this song?
McBride: I just think that this song is so good because it’s so relatable. And so empowering. It’s basically saying, “We all go through stuff, we all have insecurities, we all have to grow, we all have to make mistakes, and it’s going to be okay.” I’ve been there and I’m okay.
So it sounds like a pretty accurate and autobiographical song for you. But how did you find a way to truly own it?
Well, I’m not a person that writes songs every single day, so I had to find a way to turn it around. Because it sounded like a song for a young girl because it was a young girl writing it. And I love that, but I knew I had to figure out how to make it feel like I’m saying this from experience. Not that I’m going through this right now, but I’m saying that I’ve been there and it’s going to be okay. So I came up with: It used to be me, hiding insecurities with a cigarette and a bottle of whiskey.
That’s such a simple line, but it really does make all the difference. You haven’t always put your songwriter’s stamp on your music, though. It wasn’t until you were about a decade into your career when you co-wrote “Anyway” and “Beautiful Again.” What gave you the confidence to take that leap?
A couple things. First, I grew up listening to artists like Linda Ronstadt and Pat Benatar. So I never really felt like I needed to write a song to interpret it. Those artists are more interpreters of songs than songwriters. I think I wrote songs in high school, but then when I moved to Nashville, I was just as comfortable sifting through the thousands of songs by the greatest songwriters. I loved the thrill of discovering a great song. But then the Warren Brothers went out on tour with me, and they had the idea for the song “Anyway.” They were really bugging me to write with them. When they told me the song idea, I was like, “Oh, that’s great. I’d love to record that song. So finish it, bring it to me and I’ll cut it.” And they were like, “No, no, no. We want you to finish it with us.” So they kind of dragged me kicking and screaming through the songwriting door.
And once you were on the other side of that door, did the songs just start writing themselves?
Not really, because songwriting is interesting and to be honest, I find it incredibly difficult. It’s very taxing and so tedious. There’s the minutiae of sitting there for hours and hours and hours trying to craft a song. But then when you do stumble onto something, like this new song does, it’s really exciting. And when you hear something like that, it’s best to just let the song do all of the talking.