Interview: Martina McBride Returns to Her Roots With ‘Reckless’
On Friday (April 29), Martina McBride will release her 13th studio album, Reckless. The 10-track record is the singer's first project since 2014's Everlasting -- a disc filled with soul and R&B covers -- and her first record of new material since 2011's Eleven. Don't think that McBride was spending those years aimlessly, though: She wanted to take her time with this new project, carefully selecting each song without being limited by a schedule or deadline.
"I think the time away from the business and just getting some perspective was good for me," McBride tells The Boot. "I really was so excited about getting back in and making another country record of originals. It was inspiring to step back and make another kind of record and come home with making this record."
With Reckless, McBride returns to the sounds of some of her earlier records, such as 1995's Wild Angels and 1997's Evolution. Although she says that it wasn't intentional, McBride does admit that this project was a bit of a full-circle moment for her.
"I realized it when we went in to record "That's the Thing About Love" and "Diamond" and some of those songs," she recalls. "It hit me in the studio, and I thought, ‘It still sounds fresh, but it sounds familiar at the same time.'
"I was thinking, ‘This sounds kind of like stuff I used to do and stuff we used to have out in the late ‘90s,'" McBride adds, "and that’s cool."
McBride is joined by Keith Urban on "Diamond," a guest spot that makes it one of her favorite songs on the album. Of getting Urban on the song, McBride says simply, "I took a chance."
"We found "Diamond," and we were sitting around thinking, ‘This would be a great song to have a guest vocalist on.’ It would lift it up even another step," she explains. "We thought of Keith Urban, and I texted him and asked if he could do it, and he made time in his crazy-busy schedule with American Idol and his own records.
"He really took it over the top," McBride continues. "I love it."
As for the other nine songs on Reckless, the powerful vocalist says that she has an affinity for each of them for different reasons.
"I love "Reckless;" I love the lyric on that song. I love "Just Around the Corner" because it’s so hopeful, and I think relatable for everybody," McBride notes. "I love "The Real Thing;" I think it’s a cool, modern, smart lyric over this really roots-y track. I love "Low All Afternoon." I could just see that story; I could see those two girls talking. I love those characters."
She continues, ""It Ain’t Pretty" is a great story song, and so heartfelt. "That’s the Thing About Love" just makes you smile; it’s infectious. I can see people two-stepping to it in the bar. I love that. "Diamond" is for myself, and it’s for my girls, and I think everybody out there. "Everybody Wants to Be Loved" is a very simple sentiment, and so true. I love that production."
McBride wrote songs for several of her previous records, but she "wanted to see what the songwriting community had for me" this time around; thus, the artist does not have any writing credits on Reckless.
"I listened to hundreds and hundreds of songs, waiting for the right ones to come in. I went old-school with this record," McBride says. "That’s how I always used to do it, and I feel like that process works, if you have the time, because you have a sense for what you’re about and what songs you gravitate towards and what you feel like is authentic for you."
There’s really nothing else to wish for. I’m so, so fortunate. And then the other thing is, I just love it.
Reckless will be McBride's first release on Nash Icon Records; she signed with the label at the end of 2014, and she says that they've been completely on board with her timeline -- or lack thereof.
"I was lucky that I didn’t have a hard deadline with the record company," McBride shares. "They were very 'all about the music.' They didn’t rush me; they didn’t push me to finish the record in any certain time, so I had a lot of time to really wait for the right songs and just be patient."
Nash Icon, part of the Big Machine Label Group, is the place that McBride needed to be to make an album like Reckless.
"It’s very music-centric," she boasts of Nash Icon and BMLG. "The whole team is very excited and has passion, which is what I loved about working with [label president and CEO] Scott [Borchetta] and his team. They had an incredible setup for this record planned. I feel very supported. It feels good."
In 2015, McBride was one of the vocal dissenters when radio consultant Keith Hill commented, "If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” citing country's leading men as the "lettuce" of a salad and female artists as the "tomatoes." A year later, McBride admits that she is "cautiously optimistic" about that situation.
"I was listening to the radio yesterday driving around, and flipped through two or three stations and heard females on all of them -- Maren [Morris] and Cam and Kelsea [Ballerini]," she reflects. "I do feel like it’s better than it was a year ago, a year and a half ago."
Following its release, Everlasting debuted at the top of the charts -- no small feat considering that it was released independently. In fact, all nine of McBride's last albums have landed in the Top 5, and she's remained one of the busiest touring acts in country music. But given the chance to rest on her laurels or boast about her accomplishments, the humble singer quickly deflects any praise.
"I think you have to attribute it to fans. I think I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing or where I am if they weren’t interested or didn’t care," she says. "I have a very loyal fan base that goes with me on whatever journey I take and show up at concerts and buy albums; it’s just awesome. There’s no way you can have what I have without that."
As McBride approaches her 25th anniversary in the music industry, she insists that she isn't about to be one of those people who is content to take a step back and maybe relax more and work less.
"I can’t imagine retiring or not doing it anymore. It’s just part of who I am," she says. "Making music and creating and touring is who I am. I love it. And I think that if you are hungry to do new things and make new music, I think that shows. If you don’t have the passion for it, then that shows. I think that’s what it is.
"I’ve done so many cool things. I look back, and I’m like, wow. It’s such an amazing life," McBride acknowledges. "I think I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and have people enjoy it and support it.
"There’s really nothing else to wish for. I’m so, so fortunate," she concludes. "And then the other thing is, I just love it."
McBride will be playing plenty of fairs and festivals throughout the summer. She will kick off a brand-new tour, with all-new production, in the fall. A list of all of her upcoming shows is available on her website.
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