Introducing....Martina McBride

Martina McBride's twelfth studio album Everlasting was released earlier this week on 8th April. Full of R&B and soul covers, the album is Martina's second album of cover tracks - the first being Timeless in 2005. Whilst certainly not a 'country' album, Everlasting holds an interesting combination of tracks that I am sure will draw many listeners in. As part of a digital pre-order package, Martina released If You Don't Know Me By NowSuspicious Minds and Wild Night as immediate downloads on 18th February.
If You Don't Know Me By Now is the first single from the album and was released digitally on 17th January after originally debuting on 12th December on Martina's website. Staying relatively authentic to the original Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes version, Martina delivers a soft, emotive vocal that travels smoothly through the track. Personally, whilst I feel this track is very strong, it doesn't stick out for me.

Martina's cover of The Supremes' hit Come See About Me is one of my favourites on the album. The production is kept true to the original recording and Martina's voice works really well against the Motown infused rendering of the track. Much more of a feature is made of the brass section in this version over the original recording which I feel is a good choice and makes for a completely different track than fans of Martina are used to her releasing.

Everlasting includes two duets, one on Bring It On Home To Me with Gavin DeGraw and one on In The Basement with Kelly Clarkson. Bring It On Home To Me is very strong in my opinion and Gavin DeGraw and Martina's voices blend well. Unfortunately, I feel the opposite is true of In The Basement. The duo's version of the track has the basic production of the original but seems more restrained than the original. There also doesn't seem to be much depth to the track and seems a little throwaway.

I've Been Loving You Too Long is regrettably one of my least favourite tracks on the album. It takes a very long time to build up (the brass section is introduced just over a minute before the end of the track) whereas Otis Redding's original works really well. There can be no doubt that Martina is a strong singer however I think this track needs the grittiness that a male voice would give it.

I originally found myself skipping over Wild Night but the more I've listened to the album, the more I have been drawn to the track. Slight production changes have been made from the original such as a more stripped back approach to the brass section but I feel it works well as a whole. With a similar upbeat feel to Come See About Me, you certainly can't help but tap your foot to it.

Whilst I really like Come See About Me and Wild Night, Martina's cover of To Know Him Is To Love Him is another stand out track and is completely different . Once again there are a few production changes from the original (the most noticeable being making more of a feature of the acoustic guitar and piano and the lack of male backing vocals) however the track as a whole is convincing and Martina delivers a emotive, heartfelt performance. 

Track listing....
1) Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Chips Moman, Dan Penn
2) If You Don't Know Me By Now - Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff
3) Suspicious Minds - Mark James
4) Little Bit Of Rain - Fred Neil
5) Bring It On Home To Me (feat. Gavin DeGraw) - Sam Cooke
6) Come See About Me - Holland-Dozier-Holland
7) What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, James Dean
8) I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding, Jerry Butler
9) Wild Night - Van Morrison
10) In The Basement (feat. Kelly Clarkson) - Billy Davis, Carl Williams Smith, Raynard Miner
11) My Babe - Willie Dixon
12) To Know Him Is To Love Him - Phil Spector

Recommended tracks....Come See About Me, Wild Night, To Know Him Is To Love Him, What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted 

Whilst some of the tracks aren't as striking as others, this is still a very professional release from Martina that includes some great songs. I am slightly disappointed that we aren't hearing an album of 'new' releases and am still looking forward to her next release however I would definitely recommend listening to this (particularly the aforementioned 'recommend tracks') as Martina is undeniably a professional, strong vocalist and has a strong group of musicians behind her. It is certainly interesting to see another side to a vocalist that I have followed for years!

Martina also recently played as part of C2C: Country To Country Festival in the UK and I hope we will get to see her back soon!

I was recently able to catch up with Martina and ask her some questions....

What made you decide to be a country music singer?
I've always loved to sing and started singing in public when I was 3 or 4. It has always just felt like what I was meant to do. I decided to pursue a career in country music because I grew up in a house filled with country music and I fell in love with the songs and the fact that they are relatable and tell stories. But I love to sing all kinds of different styles of music.
Have you ever passed on a song you have been offered and regretted it?
Not really. I believe songs find where they are meant to be and I always choose songs based on how they make me feel and if I feel like my fans will relate.
Your next album will be your twelfth studio album, what is your favourite song you have ever released?
It's so hard to pick favourites! I don't really have a favourite that I can single out because I really have to love a song to record it. And some of my favourites are album cuts that were never released as singles. There is a song on Emotion called From The Ashes that's always been special to me. 
Do you get nervous before a performance? How do you deal with those nerves?
The only time I really get nervous is before I sing on live tv. I just try to remember to breathe!
How do you feel when you are on stage performing?
I love performing on stage...once I get out there. I usually have a moment before I go onstage where I think, "what am I doing??!!! How am I supposed to entertain these people for 90 minutes!". But then I step onstage and feel the love coming from the audience and that all goes away. 
What is the hardest song to perform live?
Probably "Where Would You Be"
Everlasting is an album of R&B and soul covers, what made you decide to release that?
It's an album I've wanted to make for awhile. I love great songs and great singers no matter what genre. I chose country music as a career, but at the end of the day I'm really just a vocalist. I love singing great songs with beautiful melodies and soulful lyrics. Plus these songs just make you want to move!
What do you feel is the biggest thing you've achieved in your career?
When I started this career I decided to make decisions that were not based on wanting fame, but based on wanting integrity and longevity. I feel like I've achieved both of those and that make me feel really good.
What is your favourite part about being a musician?
Other than performing I would have to say creating the music. I love being in the studio and making records. It's like a blank canvas and you can paint any kind of picture you want. It's so satisfying to see it all come together. 
What is your least favourite part?
There's not really a downside!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to make it in the music business?
You have to believe in yourself and keep at it. Persistence usually pays off. Put up videos on youtube. Try to get your music heard any way possible. And keep practising!
What is the best advice you've ever received?
The best advice I could ever give or receive is to listen to your instincts.
It has been a long time since you played in the UK, are there any plans to return here for a full tour?
I really, really hope so! I love touring here and seeing all my fans.  Hopefully with the release of Everlasting it will be easier for us to do that.