Interview: Trisha Yearwood Keeps Helping Fellow Country Women With New Album ‘Every Girl’
Trisha Yearwood's first solo country album since 2007, Every Girl, allows the veteran performer to honor some of her favorite songwriters while inspiring current women artists often ignored by commercial radio. The 14-track record includes covers by women ranging from Karla Bonoff (“Home”) and Gretchen Peters (“The Matador”) to Ashley McBryde (“Bible and a .44”), a newer artist Yearwood discovered through her singer-songwriter stepdaughter, Allie Colleen.
For her McBryde cover, Yearwood called on Patty Loveless, whom she describes as “one of the first artists that was nice to me” after Yearwood signed to MCA, for guest vocals.
“When I heard "Bible and a .44," I just was like, ‘I want to sing that,’” Yearwood tells The Boot. “It’s about her dad, but it was so about my dad for me. We cut it, and then I just kept hearing Patty Loveless. She was kind enough to come sing on it.”
While Yearwood still lauds Loveless for her kindness, a different woman in Nashville became the Pasty Cline to Yearwood’s Loretta Lynn (which is to say, a supportive friend with an established career).
“Reba [McEntire] was the queen at MCA. Reba was the queen everywhere,” Yearwood recalls. “At my very first CMA [Awards] show, I was a new artist, and [my No. 1 debut single] "She’s in Love with the Boy" was out. I wasn’t even eligible to be nominated for anything because I was so new, but I got to perform on the show. There were some managers and artists who weren’t happy about that because it was kind of like, 'We’ve got artists who’ve been around longer.' But "She’s in Love with the Boy" was such a phenomenal moment, so I got to perform.
“When I got to the dressing room I was sharing with a lot of other girls, there was a bouquet of flowers in there,” she continues. “I thought, 'Well, my mom and dad probably sent me flowers.' It was from Reba, and it said, ‘Welcome to your first CMAs.’ It was kind of like Reba was like, ‘This girl is okay. I’m putting my arm around her and saying she’s good.’ She’s been a friend and mentor as a role model of how to be a female artist in the business since day one for me.”
It's McEntire's lead Yearwood is following when she selflessly embraces her peers, friends and fans in the name of country music. Now that Yearwood finds herself as the established name among younger performers, she cultivates working relationships and personal friendships with such women as recent Grand Ole Opry inductee Kelsea Ballerini and Canadian artist Jessica Mitchell, the writer of Every Girl's opening track, “Workin’ on Whiskey.”
“There’s a couple of girls I’ve kind of gotten to be friends with, like Kelsea, who are like, ‘Can I just pick your brain about the music industry?’” Yearwood explains. “It’s kind of cool to be in a position of going, ‘I don’t know if I can help you, but I can definitely tell you what I know and I can tell you what I’ve learned and who I learned from.’
"This next generation of girls has a real handle on it," she says, "and they have a real respect for what came before.”
Yearwood’s return to the solo spotlight also positions her to fearlessly and honestly tear down the sorts of assumptions that limit commercial airplay for women.
“I think the cool thing is that because we’re now having this conversation out loud about the lack of women on radio and what can be done about it, and [about] these myths about not playing women back to back on radio and all these things that don’t have any basis, no research, no fact, fake news … I think a lot of women … have banded together,” she muses. “Sometimes when things are tough like that, you become stronger as a group. It’s not like we’re competing against each other. We’re all in this together, and that’s a cool thing.”
“Workin’ on Whiskey” and “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” team Yearwood with another talented friend: Kelly Clarkson, a genuine pop star whom Yearwood describes as down to earth.
“I kept hearing Kelly for these parts that are in the stratosphere that I’m not going to do,” Yearwood says. “Like, 'I’m not doing that harmony. Who could do it? Okay, Kelly can do anything.'
"She just comes in and nails it. She’s amazing," she gushes. "What I love about her the most is obviously her talent, but I don’t think she understands how good she is so she doesn’t have an ego about it. She loves music, she loves to sing, and she’s very generous in coming and doing that for me.”
Yearwood worked with more than the talented women involved in the writing and recording of her new set of songs, however. She also helped pick out “What Gave Me Away,” a song that suits the individual career visions of Yearwood and her husband and duet partner Garth Brooks.
“It’s got to really fit whatever I think it should fit for me, and he’s the same way,” Yearwood says of selecting a song to sing with her country superstar husband. “Now we’re putting two people in a room who are very particular about what kind of songs they like, and you’ve got to find a song you both feel strongly about. If you make that cut, it’s got to be a pretty good song.”
To celebrate the release of Every Girl, Yearwood is retracing her old path to and from Nashville's Belmont University by riding a bus from an album release show in her tiny hometown of Monticello, Ga., on Friday (Aug. 30) to a Sunday (Sept. 1) appearance at the Country Music Hall of Fame, making several stops in between. While a personal appearance in a town with a population under 3,000 sounds like an easy enough gig, past cookbook signings have taught Yearwood that she’s in for a day as busy and eventful as her most hectic Fan Fair experiences from the ‘90s.
“I talked to friends and family and signed books for like nine hours,” she recounts of previous events. “You’re not going to say, ‘Here, let’s sign a book and take a picture.’ You’re going to visit. I suspect there’s going to be a lot of visiting happening this weekend.”
LOOK: Trisha Yearwood Through the Years