When George Strait arrives at BOK Center this Thursday night, his reputation casts a long shadow. Over a 30 year career he has released 89 singles, 44 of which have reached No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. At the same time, he has won 22 CMAs (Country Music Association awards), including consecutive Entertainer of the Year honors in 1989 and 1990, and holds the record for most CMA nominations. He also holds the record for most awards and nominations in the corresponding Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards.
Over the years, Strait has become the powerhouse performer that sets the standard for traditional country music, an artist that can tour arenas or stadiums and still play to sold out crowds across the country. For all the clout and star power that he carries, however, he's never been shy about taking other huge talents out on the road with him. In the past, he has shared the stage with Oklahoma's own Reba McEntire, but this time out he has chosen another of country music's most powerful female voices to accompany him with Martina McBride sharing the bill on the current tour.
McBride has had quite a career of her own, landing four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year trophies, three ACM Female Vocalist awards and a Grammy over the course of a nearly 20 year career. Even so, when McBride's contract with RCA records expired, instead of playing it safe and following the status quo, she signed with a relatively young label, Republic Nashville, with an eye on continuing to reach new heights with her career.
As the tour prepared to roll through Tulsa, I got the chance to catch up with McBride to chat about her current album and the tour with Strait. When asked how the current pairing came about, she explained that quite simply "I got the invite and was thrilled to do it. There are a lot of artists that would kill for this opportunity, so I'm grateful for the chance."
Even so, McBride acknowledges that while her sound isn't as traditional as Strait's, it complements his style in many ways.
"I'm kind of in a weird spot between traditional and pop country," she said. "But I think we fit in a spot that makes sense and works well with what George is doing."
With the release of her eleventh studio album, titled Eleven, McBride is currently riding on her latest big crossover hit, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," a song that hits home for many as it addresses a loved one fighting through cancer. This isn't the first time McBride has addressed social issues in her music, but this song rings especially true.
When asked how she got attached to the song, McBride explained that "I heard it in a meeting where the publishers play songs for you that they hope you'll record. I remember that when I heard it, it stood out and stopped the whole room."
"I had the same reaction to it as I did with 'Independence Day.' I knew that this was a song that would affect people. I'm just drawn to songs like that."
Song selection has always been a strength on McBride's records, which explains her staying power. When asked how she selects such strong material, she shared that "I really just pick songs by gut instinct and go with the ones that hit me when I first hear them.
"I hear lots and lots and lots of songs, and the great ones -- which is totally subjective -- just stand out.
There's no debate for me, it's just a strong feeling I get.
"It's the same thing for the songs I write," she continued. "I hold my songs to the same standards, so even though I may have had a hand in writing something, I don't feel like I necessarily have to record it unless it gives me the same kind of reaction."
Once the current tour with Strait wraps up, fans will get to see McBride in a more personal light as she heads out on a headlining tour of theaters beginning in April. When asked about her future plans, McBride shared that "Everyone dreams of growing up and playing arenas. I've been very fortunate and gotten to do that, but I'm ready to do something different."
"I got the chance to play some theaters in the fall and I loved it. I went back to my management and said 'I want to do that next,'" she explained. "You get to talk to people and slow things down and take your time. When you're playing arenas it's all about keeping the tempo up and keeping people engaged, so it's a nice change and I'm looking forward to it."
Currently planned as an evening of songs and storytelling without an opening act, McBride confided that she hadn't really thought the tour out in full as she's the type of person to take one thing at a time and is currently focusing on the arena tour.
When looking forward in conversation, however, she did share that "You have a chance to make a memory with people when you and 3,500 share a moment together. Of course, we all perceive it differently, but we're all sharing a moment and a memory, so I plan on taking my time to talk with the audience and make it personal, like having a conversation."
Before the theater tour gets under way, however, McBride is back on the big stage for another two months of shows with one of the biggest country stars of the past 30 years as she supports George Strait.
When asked about sharing the stage with McBride and how he picks opening acts, Strait shared that he's just looking to put together a good package and has said "I like to work with female artists because I think it gives you a good contrast. We were looking for somebody who will help make it a special night. I think Martina will definitely do that."
Based on the track record that he has, Strait has long been referred to as The King of Country, but he remains incredibly humble and down to earth. When asked how he keeps things in perspective after an incredibly successful 30-plus year career as the "The King," he recently reflected: "Well, I certainly don't think of myself as a king. That's quite a compliment to be called a king. I don't think of myself like that at all.
"Certainly my family keeps me grounded. It's just the way I am. I'm no better than anybody else. I've been fortunate to go out and sing. Like I said, I've been very blessed to be able to do that. Not a lot of people get to experience that. I don't take it for granted. I thank God for the talent he gave to me."
That humility is a big part of why Strait remains one of the biggest stars in country music, even though he hasn't bent to the trends of contemporary and pop country. His current tour with Martina McBride arrives at BOK Center this Thursday night, Feb. 16, and a limited number of tickets are still available. If you haven't seen the King yet, this is great opportunity to see him -- and catch one of country music's strongest female voices in Martina McBride at the same time.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Music to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share this article: