TRISHA YEARWOOD

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Miss Yearwood met Mr Brooks when a friend had booked them to demo a duet together, back before he had a record deal. They met up again when she sang backups on his No Fences.

Trisha was a demo and back-up singer for a number of years, tour guide at the Hall of Fame, and ‘wo-manned’ most other internships in pursuit of  ‘paying her dues,’ while also studying at Belmont university. I ask her were there any massive songs she demoed?

“I Guess ‘You Had to Be There’ for Lorrie Morgan is the first one that comes to mind, but oh, yes, a bunch of songs that got cut by other people. The biggest song I passed on for myself later, was ‘Strawberry Wine,’ and Deana Carter went on to sell 4 million records with it!

Despite this mishap, Trisha Yearwood would become the first female artist to sell a million records and her debut single, ‘She’s In Love With The Boy,’ went straight to No1.

Initially, I was slated to speak to Ms Yearwood on the eve of Thanksgiving and had tailored my interview towards her extra-curricular culinary career as celebrity cook-show host (now in fifth season) and author of numerous cookbooks.

I tell her that, and she laughs uproariously and explains it is not how one might imagine.

“Its wierd! Because of the cooking show people expect everything to be super-perfect like a five star restaurant, and it’s anything but! And I always apologise and say ‘Don’t judge me okay? That is not what it’s about!’ And there’s no hair and makeup and I’m most likely to be cooking in my pyjamas! And I go the whole nine yards with more than we can possibly eat, and way over the top, and after we eat and drink and give thanks and sing and celebrate, Garth usually passes out on the couch in a food-induced coma in between watching football!”

“This year, we stayed in Nashville and we had only the youngest daughter home, but there was still a crowd of folks and a bunch of misfit friends who didn’t have somewhere else to go. It was different this time though, as my sister and I always figure out a way to get together for Thanksgiving. Our Mum died three years ago, and that changes everything. The first year you don’t want to do the same things, because it hurts to see that empty place, and so we began a tradition of introducing new traditions. This year to not be together was really different again.”

I reminded Trisha of her visit to Australia in 1994 and most particularly to the Gympie Muster, as I had personally witnessed her dismay on arrival.

I just remember how thrown you were: you were gobsmacked at the location and scope of the setting- I think you thought you’d been led up the proverbial garden path –

“I will NEVER forget that! It was astonishing, and I was sure I was never going to see my family ever again! And when we finally emerged from that rough bush track, we came out into that ocean of camps, then to the amphitheatre and the crowd from stage looked like a seea of cowboy hats, and the magnificent trees lit up all around. It was just stunning!”

Well we’d love you to come do it again.

“I would adore to come back! And you need to talk to my husband and get him on the project! I’ve been urging, believe me, but he’s taking so long! I promise you we both have a genuine love affair with Australia, as it was a wonderful experience and everyone we met was so friendly and easy going. We both really want to experience Australia together as we’ve not done that. Last time was separately, and it would be such a fantastic thing to do together now.”

The timing for a possible tour here has us a tad perplexed, as Garth has said …” until end of 2018 all this side of the planet; Americas and Canada” but then he referenced ‘great festivals Down Under that they didn’t used to have’ on the red carpet at CMA Awards show talking to Mark and Jay O’Shea?

“Yes, that is so, for the foreseeable future in the next three years it is just cities in America, but there may be a window to do something and I’m not ruling anything in or out and rest assured we’re working on it.”

Well I can understand how it isn’t a priority, given the spectacular success the tour is currently garnering and all within easy striking distance of home –thirteen shows in one city and three shows in one day, is the record to date yes?

“The current tour schedule of a city at a time with gaps in between, allows us to do unusual things; like in Minnesota they have this great western wear place, and after the show they opened it up for us and we took all the crew and band and all, and shopped and went and had dinner and it’s terrific being able to do things like that which are unique to a region.

“Also, having the time in the schedule also helps with Garth’s charity for kids and it might be football, hockey or baseball and he’ll do a day, often bringing in a legend of sport or superstar and gather a bunch of underprivileged kids together and just hang out and kick a ball and talk, to encourage them to go for it and show them their dreams are closer than they may think.”

Asked how she balances the logistics of being on the road with a superstar like Garth, being a superstar like Trisha, and life at home in between, she was quick to quip, “Well, I do get up in the morning and turn on the fog machine, and I announce him as he comes into the kitchen… No, we have known each other a long time, we have 25years of friendship and I was 41 when I married Garth and I knew I would put music on the backburner to help raise our daughters and be a soccer mom and do all that. I knew what I wanted in life, and being home is a luxury for us. We just decompress and enjoy the ordinariness of it. Especially during this time with both of us having new records, touring, me working on the cooking show – it is full on. And yesterday we just had the day for us, and we rode around the farm in the jeep and took the dogs out and we know it is important to still make time to just be us and not let the crazy stuff dominate us.”

Asked if she keeps those golden tonsils gym-fit with regular vocal exercises, Trisha exclaimed, “No! Never! I never took vocal lessons so I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, and so far it’s working for me. I take the notion that the voice is a muscle same as the rest of the body so if you eat well, drink lots of water, get lots of sleep and exercise, you know all the usual stuff – very un-rock ‘n roll I know!”

And you’ve moved back to Nashville I believe?

“Yes, a few months ago, before the tour started. The girls have all graduated from school and are in college and we’re out on the road or we’re home – The youngest daughter, August, is at college in Nashville and lives on campus but she still brings her laundry home!  The other two are still in Oklahoma.”

“We are still on a farm in Nashville and it’s smaller than the ranch, but it’s still nice and homely and not city living. Oklahoma was great to bring up the kids through those years, and I made the best friends of my lifetime there but I’ve always loved Nashville. There’s a revival thing happening in town, lots of development, and there’s a cool energy to being in Nashville right now – a lot of great new places to eat, and I’m loving being back.”

“We did our job and were there for our girls, and now they’re ready to fly and do their own thing, and we are both so very grateful to be able to go out and have a second chance at music, at doing what we love and we are really ready to get after the music again.

We love being Darby and Joan… take the dogs out for a run…or do nothing – we just treasure the simplicity of being home together.

Speaking of Darby and Joan, you have some interesting nicknames for your husband, yet he only ever calls you Miss Yearwood? I particularly like the ‘GOAT’-Greatest Of All Time’ tag!

(Laughs) “I think someone else hung that one on him, but ‘Gartha Stewart’ is mine and I have a lot more I had best not share publicly!

“The ‘Gartha Stewar’t thing is because he cooks; and he’s so overtly proud of everything he creates and then he takes pictures of everything; and I am always like ‘What? It’s a sandwich!’ Maybe it’s a competition thing and he is trying to get his own cooking show, I don’t know what it’s about!’

Now, a really random question, but I am curious. I saw a photo of you and Garth with a dog which looks very much like a red Australian Cattle dog? I know George Strait has them, and I am fishing to see if there’s a story there?

“Well she is a stray, a rescue dog found on the side of the road in Oklahoma but she may be – she looks part Pointer and she’s got web feet so I figure she’s part Lab, but one of George Strait’s blue heelers may have got out …you just never know! What goes on the road stays on the road ‘n all, you know! (laughing) We’ve always got a couple of rescue dogs. We don’t go buy dogs because there’re always ones needing a home.”

We are supposed to be talking about your new album Prizefighter and we’re nearly out of time!

“The title song ‘PrizeFighter’ describes for me the fight we all fight, whatever it is. It’s the courage to get up every day and give it your best shot, no matter the odds. For me, I learned that strength from my mama, Gwen. She went toe to toe with breast cancer, and though she lost her battle, she fought every step of the way with grace, dignity, humour, and love. She’s my prizefighter.”

The album art shows Trisha Yearwood looking stunning in a white gown, wearing boxing gloves – but not just any gloves! The mitts were given to her by Rocky himself! A gift to the country star from Sylvester Stallone, the gloves were worn during the filming of Rocky V.

“Whatever your battle, whoever your prizefighter is, my hope is that you draw strength from this important message. The album’s called PrizeFighter: Hit After Hit because in life, you’re going to throw some punches and you’re going to take some, but it’s the entire fight that defines who you are,” explained Yearwood.

As a tribute to her mother, Yearwood says, ‘PrizeFighter’ couldn’t be more perfect. “My mother was the most graceful sick person you’ve ever, ever been around,” Yearwood smiles. “She’s my hero, and I think, man, she is listening and just loving that song.” The song, which features Kelly Clarkson, is a fist-pumping rally of spirit. “We put the lyrics to ‘Prizefighter’ up on the big screen [during the tour] and people are really singing it,” she says. “It hits all their emotions. It hits all that for me, too. The other night, I don’t know what it was, but I felt my mother’s presence so much as we all sang together. I thought I was gonna burst into tears.

The lyrics are significant in another way, too: Her return comes at an interesting time for women in country music. Even for an icon like herself, it’s a status quo she quickly realized could pose a challenge, “I’m a woman who just turned 50… the odds are against me,” she says. But, even so, “I’m owning it. I’m saying, ‘I’m a woman. I’m not a 20 year old, I’m not a size 6, and I’m okay with it. Maybe somebody can be inspired by that.”

PrizeFighter: Hit After Hit, like Ms Yearwood herself, is the complete package. There are ten career-defining hits along with six new songs sung so deftly, they call to mind floating butterflies and stinging bees. Namecheck the quirky titles, ‘Met Him in a Motel Room’, ‘Your Husband’s Cheatin’ On Us’ and ‘You Can’t Trust the Weatherman’ just for starters. In fact, the bob-and-weave between classics and new material on PrizeFighter mirrors her footwork each night on stage alongside Garth Brooks, as part of their history-making tour.