Martina McBride Reflects on 25 Years of Country Career
This year is shaping up to be a big one in the career of four-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Martina McBride. 2017 marks the silver anniversary of “The Time Has Come,” her first hit at country radio. The time has flown by, McBride tells Sounds Like Nashville, adding that it’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter of a century since its release.
“It’s amazing. It doesn’t feel like 25 years,” she says. “I’m still blessed to be making music and touring. It’s been more than I thought would happen.”
In fact, the Grand Ole Opry member admits that if you would have told her what was ahead for her in the spring of 1992, she wouldn’t have believed it. “I don’t think I could have comprehended it. Longevity is one of my goals – I think it is for everybody. We all want to do this as long as we can. I don’t think I thought in terms of 20 or 25 years. I don’t think I had the capacity to think that far ahead at that point in my life. This business is so volatile, and there’s so much of it that is out of your control. I always said if I didn’t have the fans, I wouldn’t be here 25 years later. So, I think there is a huge debt of gratitude to them.”
Of course, the landscape has changed greatly since that first RCA release. When asked about those differences, she states, “I think the most obvious one is the way that we get music. It’s so different now. I am so happy and grateful that I got to have that time period in the early 2000s when CD sales were so big, and everybody was buying music. It just felt so important. Of course, everything in the entire industry changed. That’s a huge difference. I think management companies have had to do a lot of what the record companies used to do. I think the record companies have changed – for me – the role of the record company is different from when I first signed with RCA. Touring hasn’t really changed too much, except there’s a lot more festivals, so that business has grown and been competitive.”
Another major aspect of change, says the singer, is the addition of social media.
“That’s a big difference. I think that has brought me closer to the fans. That’s been a plus for me. I’ve enjoyed being able to share parts of myself that might be more than you would get in a three or four minute interview – more personal things… All people would see is what they saw on an interview. I was super shy when I first started out. Then, I had all these serious songs that I would get asked about. So, all my interviews were serious and nobody got a sense of my personality. With social media, you can give so much more, and I’m really enjoying sharing that.”
Sharing her personal life has been a major highlight for McBride, but sharing her life with some of her idols is also something she thoroughly enjoys. “It feels surreal a bit, to be honest with you. It’s hard for me to fully realize it. Getting to know a Loretta Lynn or a Pat Benatar. I don’t know if you ever get over being starstruck. It’s the craziest feeling, but it’s amazing. It’s one of things you dream of happening. I had big dreams, so I dreamed of being on stage, traveling, making records, and having songs on the radio, but my mind wasn’t expanded enough to think I would get to meet these people and get to know them, and they would know who I was. One of the cast members of ‘This Is Us’ followed me on Twitter, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s such a privilege to get to know those people.”
Of course, for many of today’s biggest acts, McBride’s music stands as a huge inspiration. How does that feel for the singer? “It’s really flattering and really special. Because I’ve had that same experience. I understand how that feels and how important that is for them to be able to tell me that. I’ve had a few artists tell me that, and it’s something that is really special.”
Special is also the bond she has with the fans, who have told her repeatedly how many of her hit singles have helped get them through trying times. She points to that as one of the keys to her longevity. “I think that’s at the heart of why I have been able to be around as long as I have. I think it comes down to being able to find songs that resonate with people. Just finding ‘A’ song is a dream, but to be able to find a few songs that people take ownership of, that they think speaks to them, and is about their life. I’ve been so fortunate to have been able to have found a few of those songs. I think that’s one of the main reasons for my success. I think that without songs like ‘A Broken Wing’ and ‘Independence Day,’ I don’t know if I would have been able to have hung around this long. It’s a clichéd statement, but it all comes down to a song. That is so true.”
And, that success has not been limited to simply ballads. There are plenty of up-tempo cuts in her catalog, of which she has her favorites. “I still love ‘This One’s For The Girls.’ We still do that one in our show, obviously. It’s just a jolt of energy for the audience. I just love the fact that it’s an up-tempo song that says something important. I also love ‘I Love You,’ ‘Wild Angels,’ and ‘My Baby Loves Me.’ Those are still songs that speak to me.”
Are there any hits that escaped her? She says there is one, but she’s not so sure that had she recorded the song, it would have worked. “I did hear ‘Wild One’ before Faith cut it, but I think that songs do what they are supposed to. If I had done it, it would have been a different record and a different video. It might not have worked for me. I think that songs have a way of finding their home.”
After it’s all said and done, however, the singer admits that she feels she is in a great spot in her life and career, and looks forward to what the future brings. “No matter who you are, your career goes through transitions. It’s just going to. That’s just the way it is. So, going from not thinking while I’m making a record about whether radio will play it or not, I can just do whatever sets my soul on fire. And, that’s not to say that I didn’t love any of my records, I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that. But, it’s a different mindset now, and a bit more freedom now. It’s a great place to be.”