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Martina McBride: Still at home with country

Martina McBride will perform Saturday night at Northern Quest. (Associated Press)
Martina McBride will perform Saturday night at Northern Quest. (Associated Press)

McBride keeps sound current while staying true to her roots

Martina McBride is one of the most recognizable voices in modern country music. During a career that spans two decades, she has sold more than 14 million albums and released a number of successful singles, including “Independence Day,” “Wild Angels,” “A Broken Wing” and “Blessed.” In a recent phone interview from her home in Nashville, Tenn., McBride discussed how her music has evolved over the years, the role of women in popular music and her current tour, which lands at Northern Quest Casino on Saturday night.

SR: So, you’re about to start on your tour?

McBride: Yes. Well, actually, I’m also getting ready to start an album.

SR: Can you tell me about your new material?

McBride: It’s a little early to talk about it right now, because we haven’t played one note of music. But I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be fun.

SR: How has touring been as you do it year after year?

McBride: I’m actually having more fun on the road than I’ve ever had. When the kids were little, they came with us, but they were dependent on me, so I was raising kids and performing. And now of course they’re older – I’ve got one who’s starting college this year and one that’s a sophomore in high school, and I have an 8-year-old. So they – the two older ones especially – are more self-sufficient, so I can concentrate more on performing. I’m more relaxed and really enjoy being on stage more than ever.

SR: Do they still come along with you on tour?

McBride: Yeah, sometimes they do. When they start school, it gets harder. And my college-aged daughter – she’s not going to be coming on the road with me much. But my 8-year-old still comes quite often.

SR: Do they travel with you internationally?

McBride: We’ve gone overseas before. They’ve gone with me to the U.K. a couple of times. Some of our best memories are over there.

SR: Is there a large country music following overseas?

McBride: It depends on where you go, but there are places you can go where there are major fans, People don’t tour over there very often, so they’re very excited to see someone come over and do a show. And they don’t have radio per se like we have here, so they get the album and listen to it as a whole, so they’re more familiar with some of the album cuts. It’s a really great experience to tour over there.

SR: How would you say your music has evolved since you started out?

McBride: I think you evolve as a person and as an artist; you see more stuff and live more life. I’ve always been influenced by all kinds of different music, everything from country – obviously, I grew up listening to very traditional country – and everybody from Aretha Franklin to Whitney Houston to Heart to Journey, all kinds of great singers. So I think it all kind of creeps in there at some point.

SR: In terms of the subjects you write about, have those changed at all?

McBride: Yeah, I wrote a song for the last album, “Eleven,” called “Teenage Daughters,” which is a tongue-in-cheek kind of story about how your relationship with your daughter changes as they get older. … They’re dependent on you for everything, and then they get to be teenagers and they’re a little more independent, and that affects how you feel, from being the center of their universe to being more of an advisor, that different role that you play. So I wrote about that, and it’s funny, and my daughters love it. And it’s definitively true to life.

SR: Do you like being able to cull from your real-life experiences?

McBride: Country music is more literal than other kinds of music; it’s similar to blues in that way. I enjoy hearing a story. I think that’s what country writers do best: They tell a story and make you feel something. You don’t always have to guess about what the writer is talking about or trying to express. It’s very heart on your sleeve.

SR: How would you say country music as a whole has changed in the last few decades?

McBride: It’s always changing, just like any other kind of music – rock ’n’ roll has changed, and pop music has changed. Music is kind of a living, breathing thing. It’s very much influenced by real people. You can hear so much music now, and you’re influenced by many, many more styles of music. Has it become more pop? I don’t know. But is it Hank Williams? Not so much.

SR: What are your feelings about the role of women in the music industry?

McBride: I’ve had an amazing career, but I do think it’s harder for women to break through. And when they do, it’s really powerful. But I think it depends on when you’re looking, because I remember a time in the ’90s when there were a lot of women on country radio. We had Trisha Yearwood, Wynona, Faith Hill, myself, Patty Loveless; it was really woman-heavy. It got a lot of attention, and I remember reading a lot of articles about it, and I thought that was weird – you know, we have to write about how strange it is that there are more women on the radio than men at any given time.

SR: There are a lot of currently successful country artists who have been producing hits for decades. Do you think country as a genre allows for artist longevity?

McBride: I’m not so sure that’s true, really. With any kind of music, when it comes to Top 40 radio, the biggest stars in the world aren’t on those charts anymore, like the Rolling Stones or U2. It’s a natural evolution. We might embrace these people in a historical sense – which I think is even more important, to be honest – but their new song probably isn’t going to be played on the radio with great reverence.

SR: Any new music you’ve really enjoyed lately?

McBride: I love Sara Bareilles, loved her new record. I think she’s an amazing artist. I like Bruno Mars. There’s such a variety of music in this house – the Beatles, ’60s soul music, whatever’s popular, like Mumford and Sons and Macklemore. When I grew up, it was basically all country, so I love that people now have access to all kinds of music. It’s good to see people passionate about music.

SR: Do you see that passion from your fans when you’re out on tour?

McBride: I definitely do. I realize what an investment a concert is, timewise and moneywise. When you think about the fact that people are still willing to do that and happy to be there, it’s pretty cool.