Martina McBride, who first wowed Nashville about two decades ago with her traditional country vocal style, has long since added a more contemporary edge to her music — and her career.
McBride, whose hits include “My Baby Loves Me,” “Wild Angels” and “I Love You,” is a regular on Twitter and also a partner with her sound-engineer husband John McBride in a recording studio used by everyone from Kenny Chesney to Taylor Swift to Bruce Springsteen.
But the Kansas native, who makes a tour stop 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, at Caesars Atlantic City, still likes to maintain a little mystery — she isn’t one to discuss her plans for her setlist, nor does she wish to share preliminary ideas for her next album, which is slated for a spring release.
Still, McBride has plenty to offer during a recent chat, discussing her views on Twitter, songwriting and the state of the music industry.
Q: How do you decide what to sing every night?
A: I try to make each show unique. I go to Twitter on the day of the show and take requests. I do a lot of the hits and put in album cuts and songs we haven’t been able to do for a while. We do some fun covers. I try to make it spontaneous.
Q: With 11 albums of material, how do you decide what to cut?
A: The first ones to go are always the ballads. I have to keep the pace of the show. I do “From My Daughter’s Eyes” once in a while. I’ll bring out “Wrong Again.” Sometimes you might hear “Valentine.” But we don’t do them all every night.
Q: It seems like you’ve taken to Twitter, where you have nearly 450,000 followers. Why do you like to tweet?
A: It’s a great way to stay connected and give it a little personal side. At first, it was a little weird, just the whole cultural shift of sharing everything and putting your thoughts out there and having people read them was kind of strange. Now it seems normal.
Q: For your last album, “Eleven,” you co-wrote almost all of the tracks. How did the creative experience compare to relying on outside writers?
A: It took discipline to make the time to write. I’m not the kind of writer who has a million ideas I have to get on paper. It’s about disciplining myself to focus on it. Once I did, I was surprised how much more personal the songs felt.
It really lends a personal feeling to it when you write the lyrics yourself, and to see the songs take shape from blank sheet of paper in a few hours.
Q: Did it change how you view the songwriting process?
A: I’ve always appreciated great songs and great songwriters. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have depended on them so heavily for my whole career. In Nashville, hundreds and hundreds of songs are written every day. It’s mind boggling to think of a journey of a song and how some songs really stand out.
Q: How do feel about the state of the music industry, with the public much less interested in buying music?
A: It’s the only thing you can get for free. I used to wait for an album to come out. I didn’t know what the cover looked like and what the songs sounded like. There was a mystery there. I’d listen to it over and over. Now it seems hard to get people’s attention, even for three minutes.
Q: You’ve worked with a range of duet partners in recent years from Kid Rock (on “Care” with T.I.) to Elvis Presley (for a virtual duet of “Blue Christmas”). How was it to collaborate with Kid Rock?
A: It was great –– we’ve known each for a while. He’s a huge country music fan and very professional in the studio ... a super hard-worker. I have nothing but good things to say about him.
Q: Unfortunately, the King couldn’t join you in the studio.
A: It was still a very cool thing to hear and be a part of. It was the closest I could get.
Country music is family business
For country singer Martina McBride, mixing work with her family life just feels natural.
She and her sound-engineer husband John McBride are partners in Nashville’s Blackbird Studio, a well-regarded facility that’s been used by a who’s-who of country stars (Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, etc.), as well as pop and rock acts including Bruce Springsteen, left, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson and Pearl Jam. The facility also recently launched a related school to train students in sound recording.
“If it comes up, we talk about it,” she says of her at-home interactions with her husband. “All the stuff we do is super-intertwined with our personal lives. It’s not like we go to the office and come home and shut if off.”
Their oldest daughter Delaney also is majoring in the music business at Belmont University in Nashville.
“The kids have grown up around shop talk. It’s an interesting thing to see (Delaney) connect those dots. It’s really just our life –– there’s no separation, which I think is pretty healthy.”