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Martina McBride lets her soul side shine on ‘Everlasting’ tour

When she performs at the Midland theater on Saturday night, Martina McBride will offer some of her best-known country hits, like “A Broken Wing,” “This One’s for the Girls” or “Independence Day.” But she won’t be backed by a typical country band.

Instead of a fiddle, mandolin or a pedal steel guitars, McBride, a native of Sharon, Kan., will be accompanied by a four-piece horn section, three background singers and a four-piece band.

She is touring on her most recent album, “Everlasting,” released this spring. It’s a collection of pop, R&B and soul classics, songs like “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”

The album was recorded in 2013 with producer Don Was, but McBride had been toying with the concept for a few years.

“I’d been considering a couple of ideas,” she said. “I thought about an American songbook kind of record, then I thought about doing a singer-songwriter album, covering James Taylor and different people like that.

“But then I gave myself time to really let the thought process happen and not rush it and I decided I really wanted something with horns and maybe a more Ray Charles kind of thing.

“Then we got Don Was on board and we talked about things and we landed on what became ‘Everlasting.’”

Some of the songs she chose were personal favorites; others emerged in the studio.

“I’ve always wanted to record ‘Suspicious Minds,’” McBride said. “It’s a brilliant song with lots of drama and energy, and the lyrics are very emotional. I knew that one was on the list. Also, ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him.’ It’s such a beautiful song and melody.

“‘Come See About Me’ came out in the studio. We were listening to Supremes songs and that one came on and I thought it was great. So that was kind of spontaneous. So was ‘Wild Night.’”

McBride had worked with Was briefly in 1999 when she recorded a duet with Bob Seger for the “Hope Floats” soundtrack.

“I came in one day and sang and that was about it,” she said. “Getting to do an entire album with him was amazing. I felt instinctively he was right for this record. I’m glad I listened to my instincts. He’s a very rounded musician and he’s done music in so many styles. The musicians were excited to work with him, too. He hasn’t worked in Nashville much.

“He is very organic. He knows exactly what he’s looking for. It’s about the performances, not perfection. Does it have emotion? Does it have energy? Is it a great performance? He’s a great musician as well so he really knows what he’s doing in the studio.”

The bulk of the album was cut with a four-piece band, McBride said. Horns, background vocals and some percussion was added later.

“It’s pretty stripped-down,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of layers and it’s not lined up on the grid. It’s not perfect. It’s musicians playing together, all in the same room so everyone could see everybody and play off each other. It sounds really musical.”

She revives that vibe on stage. McBride said this tour as been different from any other.

“When I was making the record I was thinking about the live show,” she said. “I wanted to create an atmosphere that was visually entertaining as well as musically. So we put together a great band, and we worked really hard and rehearsed a lot. We came up with horn arrangements for songs that didn’t have horns on them on the record.

“Everybody is in coordinated outfits. The horns do classic horn moves. The girls do background moves and sing their asses off as well. It’s fun to watch. We’re having so much fun on stage. It’s kind of contagious.”

Her country hits get a makeover, but nothing too profound.

“They’re all very recognizable,” she said. “It’s not like we transform them. For instance, on ‘A Broken Wing,’ instead of a steel guitar, the horns play the intro. It all comes together. There are no jarring moments. So it’s not like anyone feels like they aren’t hearing songs they want to hear. And all the ‘Everlasting’ songs are familiar, so no one’s going, ‘Oh, my god, what is this? I don’t know this song.’”

“Everlasting” is McBride’s 12th studio album. It was also her first to top the country charts in five years. She said her intent wasn’t to cross over into any other genre. Instead, she compared it to her “Timeless” album, a collection of classic country songs.

“My intent wasn’t to find a new audience,” she said. “I try not to think about things like that too much. Or, ‘Is country radio going to play this?’ That can change your way of thinking when you start looking for songs and recording. It’s like when I did ‘Timeless.’ It feels good to do something every few years that isn’t tailor-made for radio. I just wanted to make it, get it out and have fun with it. Whatever happens, happens.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter: @kcstarrockville.

SATURDAY

Martina McBride performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Midland theater, 1228 Main St. Tickets are $49.50 to $99.50 and are available at the theater’s box office or at AXS.com.

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