Singer Martina McBride finds her voice

Martina McBride performs during the Country Thunder music festival in July in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.

Story highlights

  • Martina McBride drops her 11th album today
  • The singer is taking the reins and writing more of her own material
  • She says her latest project is less pop than past albums
For a good part of her career, Martina McBride's success has largely been due to relying on Nashville songwriters and approaching arrangements in a pop-country fashion.
While hits like "Wild Angels," "A Broken Wing" and "Wrong Again" solidified her position as country radio royalty, McBride's shaking things up these days. She's ditched both of those early crutches and now is exploring writing on her own and injecting a more roots-oriented sound into her instrumentation.
Such is the case with "Eleven," McBride's 11th studio album, which drops today. These days, she's working with new management, has a new label in Republic Nashville and wrote six of the 11 songs that appear on her latest project
As the 45-year-old singer soldiers on, what about this moment inspired change, and how's her own songwriting coming along? CNN spoke with McBride recently as she was prepping for a concert in Minot, North Dakota.
CNN: "Eleven" comes with a lot of professional changes. Why is this?
Martina McBride: You know, sometimes it's just time to shake things up a little bit. When you've been at a certain place and management for 18 years, I just felt like I really need someone around me with some fresh ideas, some new passion and energy.
CNN: As female country musicians age these days, are there pressures to stay youthful? How does one age gracefully in Nashville?
McBride: Oh, I think the same way you age gracefully anywhere else. Females have always had more of a focus on the way they look. No matter what business your in, if you're in the public eye -- whether you're an actor or a rock musician or even head of a corporation, it's always been that way. You just try ... I don't know, I try not to focus on it. I'm still the same voice I had before, and I still have a lot to say.
CNN: "Eleven" was largely written by you -- something you've taken on recently. What's your writing process like?
McBride: It's different every time. Sometimes I'll have an idea or a title. ... I'm still growing as a writer.
One thing I think I bring to the table is having a certain type of lyric, in that I want the song to feel honest and real. I don't do it 365 days a year, so I'm fresh. I also don't know a lot of the rules, which is probably a good thing. For me, it's still about discovery. I'm still in the stage of writing that I'm discovering, getting confidence as a writer and that I do have some talent for it. It's a good discovery at this stage of the game.
CNN: And sometimes songwriters who start out at 20, by 30 they feel like they're all tapped out.
McBride: I grew up admiring Linda Ronstadt, Pat Benatar, Reba (McEntire). I didn't really grow up enamored only with singer-songwriters.
When I moved to Nashville, it wasn't a big deal for me just to find songs by great writers and make them my own. But what I really found with this record was that it's so nice to not have to wait for someone to write something. Obviously, I love every record I've made, but I feel like this record is more authentic to me. I don't know. It's different than just singing a song after it's already been written. I'm excited about that.
CNN: On "Eleven" the first single's called "Teenage Daughters," which is about the trouble they can cause. Did you give your parents any heart attacks growing up?
McBride: Oh, oh, yeah. So far, my daughter is much better than me. I grew up on a farm in really rural Kansas, where there was nothing to do. Out of boredom, the activities we found to do, weren't exactly the best for my parents to go through. But I think the song's about -- the teenage experience and wanting that independence and rebelling against the rule is so common, no matter where you are in the world.
CNN: It seems harder these days to be a teenager.
McBride: It's different. They have a lot of peer pressure. We all did, but they have a cavalier attitude about things. They don't have the same caution about certain things and are more like "whatever, it's not that big a deal."
CNN: You were associated with the pop-country movement of the '90s, but listening to "Eleven" and looking at your recent output, it doesn't seem like you're interested in that anymore.
McBride: It's interesting that you say that. I don't know if I ever stood out to make a particular type of record. Before, I was so dependent on the songs I found and the songs that came in. I was drawn to certain types of songs but I didn't have the luxury of waiting around for years and years. I had a vision of "Eleven" being more organic, more retro, like a '70s rock record. It is less pop.
CNN: On the Grammys, you performed a tribute to Aretha Franklin with Christina Aguilera, Florence Welch, Jennifer Hudson and Yolanda Adams. Are there aspects of pop and rock these days you find intriguing?
McBride: I love Train's new record. And I love One Republic's record. My daughter's really into the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, so I've been listening to them recently. That's a whole new type of thing; I don't know what you'd call that.