Martina McBride Extends Her Comfort Zone on ‘Everlasting’

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• January 16, 2014
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Pictured (L-R): Martina McBride and Robert Oermann

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Martina McBride gave media an early look at Everlasting, a collection of classic soul and R&B numbers, and McBride’s first release on her own Vinyl Records label through Kobalt Label Services. The intimate and slightly vintage clothing store/music venue Two Old Hippies was an apropos setting for showcasing a project filled with songs first made popular by artists Fred Neil, The Teddy Bears, Aretha Franklin and others.

Veteran music journalist Robert Oermann hosted a Q&A session with McBride about the project and the new label, interspersed with an early listen to cuts from Everlasting. The petite powerhouse covers a plethora of eclectic material, from Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” to Van Morrison’s “Wild Night” to The Supremes’ “Come See About Me.”

“Dan Penn, one of the song’s writers, was there when we recorded,” Martina says of “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” “He was in the session when Aretha sang on it, and he mentioned there was a lyric that had been changed during that original recording session, so I changed the lyric back to the original. He also said he wished they had kept the guitar fill he recorded on the original song (it was replaced by a piano lick), so we added that.”

McBride, known for her soaring, powerful Country voice, was quick to assure media (and fans) that though the material is left of center, listeners will still recognize the project as pure Martina. “If Elton [John] made a Country record, we wouldn’t want him to change who he is. I don’t have to be something different,” she said. The project was produced by Don Was at Blackbird Studios, the Nashville recording facility owned by McBride’s husband, John McBride.

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McBride listens to a track from Everlasting.

She covers Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” as well as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” “I love the song and gorgeous melody,” McBride said of the latter track. “I looked through all of the versions and I could not find a version of a woman singing this song. We recorded it and I later realized all the [male] versions I listened to seemed to be angry and kind of finger pointing. The way I interpreted it was sad rather than angry, so it’s a different take on it.”

Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” gets a luscious, stripped down treatment that lends added intimacy to McBride’s vocal. “We first cut the song, and there was this horn buildup that is so signature to the original, so we recorded it first with horns, then we cut it really stripped down,” she said. “They both worked, but this is so intimate. It’s like two people are sitting down on the bed and coming to terms with their relationship at this point. It’s very vulnerable.”

Two standout duets are featured on the project, including a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me,” which finds McBride trading lines with soulful vocalist Gavin DeGraw. McBride welcomes Kelly Clarkson on “In The Basement,” a festive, shindig-ready track originally recorded by Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto. “What kind of song would you expect from us?” McBride asked Oermann before playing the song. “A power ballad, of course. I wanted to do something unexpected, and this has a party going on in the background and it’s just fun.”

“You really remember how great the lyrics are in these songs,” she said of the recording process for Everlasting. Though McBride’s well-known voice could easily overpower these songs, the refined singer holds back when appropriate, allowing the song’s lyrics to take center stage.

Though McBride says there are no plans to release a single from the album, she hopes to support it with a full tour. “I imagine a show that is old-school, with a five-piece horn section and guys in suits,” said McBride. She will incorporate some of the material into her upcoming shows on George Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. During her own headlining concerts, she hopes to rearrange some of her hit material to fit the vibe of the new album. “We might do a gospel-y version of ‘Anyway,’ or rearrange ‘God Fearin’ Women’ or ‘Broken Wing.’” McBride says. “It will be something different for fans who have come to my shows for years.”

Everlasting will release April 8.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson is a staff writer with MusicRow Enterprises. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine, TasteofCountry.com and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at jnicholson@musicrow.com.

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