Martina McBride Shines

3.15.2009

By Chris Azzopardi

Until now, Martina McBride has never spoken this publicly about gay issues. But tackling tough and taboo subjects is something the mega country star known for hits like 'This One's for the Girls' and 'I Love You' has been doing since she came on the scene 17 years ago. McBride's latest contempo-country LP, Shine (out March 24), is a new, fresh-sounding chapter -- number 10, to be exact -- in her luminous career and tracks like the first single, "Ride," which is already galloping up the charts, offer karaoke zealots new chances to fail miserably at mimicking her stratosphere-reaching vocals. In her first major gay press interview the singer chatted with Out about tolerance (and why she's taking a stand now), the possibility of an out country star (she wishes!), and how a down-home drag queen can look a little more Martina.

Out: This is your first gay press interview. How do you feel? Nervous? Excited? Like Dolly Parton in the making?
Martina McBride: I wish. No, I love it. It's great!

Your core audience is mostly made up of conservative, straight, Middle Americans. Would you tell them to be more tolerant of gay people? Or do you feel like you might get a [The Dixie Chicks'] Natalie Maines-type backlash?
Honestly, I just have to do what's right for me, and what I would tell people is what I believe, which is that I feel like tolerance is very important. I have three daughters and that's what I teach them. I think we should all be tolerant of each other and embrace each other's strengths and differences and uniqueness and beauty.

One of your hit songs, 'In My Daughter's Eyes,' includes a line about everyone being equal. So you've always felt that way then?
Absolutely! I grew up in Kansas on a farm in a very small town of about 180 people. So, needless to say [laughs], I didn't know any gay people when I was growing up -- and it just sort of wasn't an issue. But I've always believed my parents had -- luckily -- a kind of care for our fellow human beings. No matter what.

How did you first get introduced to the gay community?
One of the first gay people that I spent a lot of time around was my hairdresser, who still does my hair, and we've worked together for -- oh my gosh -- probably 15 years now. And so through him I got introduced to other gay people and the culture and everything, and that was my first introduction. That was the first time I moved to Nashville. I went from, really, that little tiny town [in Kansas], to a little bit bigger town, to just a little bit bigger town. And then I moved to [Nashville].

To a really big town!
Yeah, my world broadened immensely when I moved here. [Laughs]

We just elected our first black president and you performed for him recently. How ready do you think that we are for a gay mainstream country star?
For a country star? Honestly, that's a tough one. [Sighs] Our core audience, like you said, is very conservative, is very Middle America, very Bible belt. I don't know. That might be a hard sell. I mean, I would be fine with it. But that's -- I don't know if we're ready for that. I would hope so. I would love it!

I love that several country artists -- including Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, and yourself -- have all embraced the gay community wholeheartedly, but why are you just deciding to publicly do so now?
It's not that I've really just decided to do it right now. It's not a conscious decision. I have a friend who works at the record company who kind of brought it up. She was like, 'What about talking to some gay magazines?' -- we're actually doing a mix of the single 'Ride' for some clubs -- and I was like, 'Well, yeah!' But I don't know; it was just never really brought up to me before, and it's my own fault that I didn't pursue it. She sent it to me in an e-mail, 'What do you think about this?' And I said, 'Absolutely!' -- with exclamation points.

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