After taking some time off, Trisha Yearwood surprised the audience by premiering her first new song in three years, "Georgia Rain," at the 2005 CMT Music Awards in Nashville on Monday night (April 11).
Photo Credit: Ed Rode
"I was nervous like I was nominated or something, and nobody knew I was going to be here," she told reporters backstage. "I don't know what I had to be nervous about. But I think being out of the habit of doing it makes you feel a little rusty. Just like every time you release an album, you wonder, "How is it going to be received? Are people really going to notice I've been gone?'"
Yearwood's unexpected arrival in the pressroom turned a few heads, as the normally approachable singer was trailed by several fluttery assistants. However, it was the long, feathery black train of her evening gown that demanded the extra attention.
"My dress has an entourage!" she declared before reaching the microphone on the platform at the front of the room. "I do not have an entourage!"
Yearwood said she asked Sandy Spika, known for designing Reba McEntire's most famous stage costumes, to collaborate on the gown.
"We were thinking that if we've been gone for three years, we should do something different. This song is really a beautiful ballad. We wondered, 'What can we do that would be dramatic? What can we do that wouldn't be like everything else?'"
Naturally, a few inevitable questions arose during Yearwood's brief time in the pressroom. First of all, where has she been?
"I had toured non-stop for 12 years and it was time to take a little break," she said. "A year went by really fast. Even though you're doing nothing, it went by quickly. I started listening to songs, and went in the studio to record and recorded a lot of things. Then we regrouped and decided that we needed to back up a little bit. I had never done that. We just kind of said, 'I need to start over.' I've never made a record that took this long.
"But it was really good," she added. "I spent a lot of time in Georgia and Oklahoma, and got a chance to see the seasons change and see dance recitals and soccer games. Those are the kinds of things that I wanted the chance to do. It was all good. I've just been saying about the music: 'It takes as long as it takes, and when it's done, we're good.'"
Reporters were clearly interested in getting Yearwood to talk about her personal relationship with Garth Brooks. "Life is good," she said. "We're very happy. I'm very happy. I'll speak for me. Life is good. It's all good."
However, Yearwood seemed more at ease talking about her music. "Georgia Rain," which features Brooks on harmony vocals, shipped to radio shortly after her performance. She expects to release the new album on Sept. 13, likely to be followed by a 20- or 30-city tour.
Asked what the new album will sound like, Yearwood said, "I think 'Georgia Rain' is a really good indication. You know, everybody always says, 'Don't give them what they expect.' But as a fan, when I buy a Linda Ronstadt record, I want to hear what Ronstadt does. I don't want to hear something new and weird and strange. Although she does do weird and strange -- and I like her."
She added, "I think when you hear 'Georgia Rain,' you think, 'Oh, that's Trisha Yearwood.' I think this whole record is the best representation of what I do. It's country, but it's my country. I've never been a really, really traditional artist. I've never been a pop artist. I've always been somewhere in the middle. That's what this record is."
Yearwood also found renewed inspiration in her hometown of Monticello, Ga.
"I always wanted to find a song about Georgia because that's where I'm from," she said. "I'm from a really small town that has been incredibly supportive. I named the album Jasper County, which is the county where I am from and was born in. I asked the writers of the song if they could put Jasper County in the lyrics. My hometown doesn't know yet that I shot the album cover [there] and we're going to shoot the video there. They're going to get more than they bargained for. There are 2,500 people, and I know every one of them."
What will the video look like?
"The song is about young love, and there were certain things that I didn't want to show in the video," she said. "I don't think you literally need to show teenagers making out in a truck. The treatment that we decided to go with is really a performance, and we're shooting on the red dirt roads of Georgia." With a smile, she added, "I basically said, 'Make me look fabulous!'"
After three years away, Yearwood realizes that this is a comeback of sorts. She candidly faced the question of whether country radio will welcome her back, especially with so many new artists entering the fold since her last album.
"We still don't know, do we?" she asked, causing the reporters to laugh nervously. "I mean, they let me in the door, but we still have to see if radio's going to play it. This is year 15 for me, so there's always that. You go through being the flavor-of-the-month yourself, if you're lucky, and then there's always something new. I've never, ever taken a lot of time to worry about what I'm not, or do I need to be more like this or that? I just have to do what I do and hope for the best. And I don't know. We'll all have to find out together."