With every award nomination under the sun and multiple top female vocalist wins, what’s a country superstar to do?
Chart a new course.
Martina McBride flew in new directions with album number 11, aptly titled “Eleven,” released in 2011. She acquired new management, a new producer, a new recording site — Atlanta instead of Nashville — and for the first time, wrote most of the music.
“We get to play a nice, long show, so we mix in a lot things that we don’t normally get to play,” she says by phone from her home in Nashville. “We’ll do some album cuts, we’ll do some stuff from ‘Eleven,’ and of course we’ll do the hits. It’s a fun show for us to do.”
The Kansas native is looking forward to the summer tour, with stops at the Hollywood Bowl, a couple of California county fairs, an Army base in Georgia, country music festivals and several Midwest stages before heading to Switzerland in September.
She enjoys getting outdoors this time of year.
“It just feels like summer when you’re outside playing music, and there’s an audience and everybody’s having a good time. I can remember going to shows outside when I was a kid and it just feels like that. It feels like summer,” she says.
Now 45, she hit the scene in 1992 with her debut album, “The Time Has Come.” Her hits stretch from “Valentine” with Jim Brickman and “A Broken Wing” in the 1990s to “This One’s For the Girls and “In My Daughter’s Eyes.” After 20 years, the time has come to try new things with “Eleven.”
“It just felt like a good time — a time creatively to find a new sound,” she says. “I took the time and dedicated myself to writing for the first time, really. I made time to do it and gave myself the space to do it. I used a new producer, and that was really great, because it gave me a different perspective. I just felt like it was time to change things up a little bit. After making 10 studio records, it was just important to see what else I could do.”
As a writer, she turned to some of the topics she knows best, including the bouncy, wistful ”Teenage Daughters,” a natural choice since she and husband John McBride, a sound engineer, have three teenage daughters.
“It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek,” she says. “It’s more about the fun way to talk about the way your life changes and the way relationship changes. That song is more about my journey than the girls. It’s more about how you go from being everything, sort of the center of their universe to just more of a role of giving advice and guiding. They grow up and they’re more independent, making their own decisions, so that’s an adjustment for a parent. That song was really easy to write and a lot of fun.”
And the girls like the song, she says. They’ve grown up with the family business, when everyone piled on the bus to run out for weekend concerts. Even though the girls are musically inclined, McBride says they don’t aspire to the spotlight.
She, on the other hand, knew from age 8 or 9 that music was her life’s calling.
Her father, a farmer in Sharon, Kansas, “had a country band when I was growing up, as a hobby,” she says, ”so I grew up around music and performing.” The first time she sang in public was around age 5, when she sang “Away in a Manger” at church.
These days, she hopes her audiences have a good time and hear “something that moves them or makes them feel something, that they make a memory and walk away feeling like they know me a little bit better. Those are my goals — that we make a connection.”
When she’s offstage, she likes cooking, reading, going to movies and shopping — like everyone else. But now that she’s gotten a taste of songwriting, she also finds ideas spinning in her head and is turning her thoughts toward album number 12.
“I’ve written down several starters for songs,” she says, “but I haven’t finished them yet. I’ve become much more aware of thoughts and things around me and ideas for songs. It’s really exciting.”