The A Plus Interview

Martina McBride Looks Back On Her Career, Talks Women In Country Music, And Discusses Hopes For Her Legacy

"I hope I leave behind a body of work ... that matters to someone."

With a career spanning more than two and a half decades, Martina McBride still reigns supreme as one of the biggest tickets in country music. And, at 50 years old, this Kansas-born singer-songwriter has given more than half her life to the stage, entertaining audiences for years with her vocal ability and down-to-earth lyrics.

McBride rose to prominence in the '90s thanks to a number of factors: by getting a jump start thanks to the legendary Garth Brooks naming her an opening act, by developing a country-pop crossover sound long before Taylor Swift was jumping genres, and by having a soprano singing range that has earned her the often-called title of "the Celine Dion of country music."

Now — after 14 Grammy nominations, 13 studio albums, three children, and numerous other bragging rights to her name — the country music superstar is opening up about how she got to where she is today and looking back on a career most could only dream about having.

Credit: Joseph Llanes
Credit: Joseph Llanes

"I do both, depending on what kind of decision it is," McBride responded when asked if she thinks with her head or feels with her heart when making important career decisions. "But usually what I try to do is listen to my instincts. I've found they rarely steer you wrong."

For the rest of our chat with McBride — including a discussion on the longevity and continued relatability of her music, women's role in country music in the '90s and today, as well as what she wants to leave behind as a legacy — keep on reading:

A PLUS: If you had to recommend one of your songs for everyone to listen to in this day and age — with all of the political and social unrest — which would it be and why?

MARTINA MCBRIDE: A couple of songs come to mind. "Anyway" actually has the lyric, "This world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Believe it anyway." Every night when I sing that in concert, it feels very relevant. I have a song called "For These Times" that also seems more relevant now than when I recorded it. It's me asking for grace and the ability to love in hard times. The chorus says, "Give me a heart full of tender mercy. And arms I will open wide. Give me words full of loving kindness and hands ready to hold up a light for these times in which we live." Leslie Satcher wrote those lyrics and they are so powerful. And, of course, the song "Love's the Only House."

Your hit “This One's For the Girls” — an inspirational anthem for women of all ages that assures them “you’re beautiful the way you are” — came out in 2003, but is still very relevant in 2017. Do you think we'll ever get to a point when women won’t need to be reminded that they are enough because they will inherently know that?

I think it's human nature to need a reminder now and then, no matter your age or gender. I also don't think you can generalize this answer. It depends on the circumstances and environment one grows up in, and the culture and beliefs one is taught. So much of our self-love, or lack of it, and self-perception comes from what we hear about ourselves or the way we are made to feel about ourselves as children. Everything from the way our parents were raised and the values they were taught to the media — and now especially social media — shapes our opinions of ourselves. So, I guess my answer is that I do feel like reminders are probably always going to be needed in some way.

What is the most meaningful interaction you’ve ever had with a fan? Was there something they said or did that made it a moment you’ll remember forever?

It's really hard to single one out. A few years ago a young woman wanted me to write my autograph on her leg so she could get it tattooed. She was covered with tattooed signatures. She said she had gone through a period where she was cutting herself and that when she saw the signatures it reminded her to believe in herself. I often wonder about that girl and how she is doing now.

How have you seen the role of women in country music change from when you started out to today? And how do you see it changing in the future?

I don't know that it has changed. I feel like it's always been hard to a certain degree for women in this business and it probably always will be. There is an inherent mindset that there can only be so many successful women at a time. If one or two female artists get a little bit of a breakthrough then it seems like it makes it harder for the next female. It's just expected and the norm that male artists will make up most of a radio playlist and they will be the majority.

There was a moment in the mid to late '90s where females were doing really well. We had me, Faith [Hill], Shania [Twain], Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans, and the Dixie Chicks — to name a few. In 1999 there were No. 1 records by seven different female artists. I had two that year. So for 16 weeks out of 52 there was a female or female group at the top of the chart. By contrast in 2016, only two females had No. 1 records and they had two each, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini. So the top of the chart only had female artists for four out of the 52 weeks.

You never hear women played back to back on country radio. However, on pop radio it happens all the time. And they have several huge female stars at the same time.

Credit: Joseph Llanes
Credit: Joseph Llanes

Many of your album titles are buzzwords that most anyone would love to associate with themselves. If you had to pick one of them as the one that most represents who you are at your core, which would it be and why?

I've never been asked this question! I'm going to break the rules and pick more than one. The Way That I Am because I'm pretty much what you see is what you get. Emotion because that's what it's all about. Reckless because I'm not as together as I may seem and my husband is a saint. Shine because I hope that's what I do and I also like to encourage all women to do that. And finally I would hope that I'm Everlasting and Timeless!

You and your husband will have been married for 30 years come 2018 — an outlier in regards to most relationships in the entertainment world. How has your relationship evolved over time?

John and I have been lucky in that we have experienced every step of this career together and our careers complement each other instead of competing with each other. He is a sound engineer. We travel together on the road and work in the studio together. We have a mutual respect for each other and he is my strongest supporter. We moved to Nashville after we got married with the dream of me getting a record deal and him growing his sound company. We didn't know a soul and we knew pretty much nothing about the music business. But we were determined and we believed it could happen. So to reap the rewards of that — travel, experiences, making music — with him has been such a great and fulfilling thing for our relationship.

We know you have the Team Music Is Love charity initiative. Why is giving back to the community something you put so much emphasis on and do you think celebrities have the responsibility to do so?

I'm not here to judge what people should or shouldn't do. I think if you feel comfortable giving back, then you should. I always felt like I have a platform, or forum, where I can say something and people will listen. Or I can promote a charity and people take it seriously. So, for me, to be able to use that to do some good is important. Team Music Is Love is very unique in that it's really fans that do the work and the volunteering. I would encourage anyone to learn more about us and join at TeamMusicIsLove.com.

And finally, what do you hope you leave behind as your legacy?

I hope I leave behind a body of work — and I'm talking about the album cuts, not just the singles — that matters to someone. And I would hope I stood for lifting people up and being a positive influence and leaving the world a better place than I found it. And, selfishly, I hope that I am respected as a singer.


The A Plus Interview reimagines the celebrity interview by inviting artists to answer a short series of brief, poignant questions that strive to be more meaningful than those asked by others. Visit on the last Thursday of each month for the latest installment.

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