It’s a safe bet that the vocal stylings of Trisha Yearwood could conquer any project she took on. She demonstrates that musical vitality once again on Let’s Be Frank, a tribute record to Frank Sinatra. She tells Sounds Like Nashville that it’s an album she’s had on her list for quite some time.
“I think it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been talking about doing this record for about twenty years. I’ve always loved these songs. My mom loved old movies and she was born in 1937, so this was really her era. I think I got that love of those songs from her. I used to do a few of them in my live show, but it kind of came together when I did a birthday party,” she confesses. “The Grammy’s did a 100th birthday tribute to Frank Sinatra. Don Was was the musical director. I did, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ which is on the record. Don said, ‘Have you ever thought about doing a record of these songs?’ I said ‘Every day.’ I asked him if he would be interested in doing this together. He said yes.”
From that point, it was a matter of working out the schedules out.
“I was on tour with Garth, and Don was working on a Rolling Stones record, which I think he might still be working on. We just got our schedules and we recorded this over four days at the end of June at Capitol in Los Angeles. I’ve been chomping at the bit since June since this record was done to get it out there because I had so much fun singing it.”
Just what was Yearwood’s strategy for picking songs from the Sinatra songbook? “It was a combination of things that were absolutely frank, like ‘One for my Baby,’ ’One for the Road,’ and ‘Come Fly with Me.’ Along with figuring out how to do songs like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ that I’ve always done in my live show and I really wanted to do. I always very much associated obviously with Judy Garland, but Frank recorded it as well.”
Trimming the list turned out to be a challenge for Yearwood. “The hardest part was narrowing down the list. I had about one hundred songs that I really loved. Don was the one actually sat me down and said, ‘If you have a list of twelve right now, what would they be?’ It was an assignment. I wrote at least twelve down, I mean I wrote down, I actually ended up recording thirteen songs because the song that Garth and I wrote accidentally made it onto the record.”
That song, “For The Last Time,” is one that she herself is surprised to see on the record. “I actually didn’t intend to do that. I really didn’t. I want to be really clear that I never thought to myself, I want to show Rogers and Hammerstein how you do this. I would never assume that I would write something that could stand alongside their songs.”
The song was not written for Frank, but it just seemed to fit. “The melody sort of lent itself to writing it in a style that was kind of old school. We wrote it over the course of several weeks. Then we didn’t know what to do with it. It wasn’t a Country song – it didn’t really sound like it fit in the Country genre. Maybe it’s a Broadway show song. When the Sinatra record began, it had become a reality. Garth suggested that I play this song for Don Was. I was reluctant because I thought I don’t want anybody to think that I think this is in that caliber, but I did, I played it for Don. He played it for Vincent Mendoza, who is our arranger, who’s amazing. Vincent loved it, and they both basically just said, we’re doing it.”
Yearwood said Mendoza helped to bring the project to life. “We really relied on Vincent Mendoza who Don brought to the table to arrange songs that had been performed and recorded by so many different artists. You got to find somebody who can try to figure out how to breathe some new life into the song, and Vincent was a master at that. Then you bring in engineer Al Schmidt who has twenty-plus Grammys and has worked with Sinatra. You have this vibe in the room and then you really just bring in the musicians that again, some of who have played with Frank. You just let everybody do what they do. They allowed me to be able to go in there and just sing.”
While the album is available everywhere now, at first it was sold exclusively through Williams Sonoma, with whom Yearwood has a relationship through her cookware line. “We approached them. I know you guys typically haven’t sold music in your store, but people know that’s where you find Trisha’s stuff. It might be really cool if you guys are interested, to launch it with you before we take it everywhere, and they were in. It’s been something that they’ve never done, and we’ve never done anything like this before. They’re really happy with it, so I guess it turned out well.”
Being able to record a record such as Let’s Be Frank allows Yearwood a ton of freedom artistically, which she relishes. “Yeah you know, there’s a really cool trade off for the wrinkles. You get really comfortable in your own skin, and there’s a freedom that comes with simply being around this long.”
Yearwood fans will be happy to know that the Sinatra record is not the only new music she’s got planned for 2019. She has a new Country record, which she is very excited about. “Now that we’re almost done with it and I love it, there might be a song or two on here that we might send to radio, but I’m not worried about it. There’s a freedom that comes with age and time and that, if you’re going to call yourself an artist, truly an artist, then your job is to make music that means something to you. Then you have to just hope it means something to somebody else. I’m just happy, I’m enjoying my life, I’m enjoying my work and life is good.”