Born Martina Mariea Schiff on July 29, 1966, in Sharon, Kansas, Martina grew up on a dairy farm alongside two brothers and a sister. Martina became interested in country music through her father’s local band, The Schiffters. Martina eventually joined the band, playing keyboard and singing with other members of her family at local gigs around town. After graduating from high school in a class of nine students, Martina headed to a local college before realizing that she was more interested in a career in music. In 1987, Schiff met local sound engineer John McBride, and the couple became engaged shortly after meeting. They moved to Nashville in 1990 to pursue careers in music.
John found work as a member of Garth Brooks’ sound crew, and Martina performed odd jobs for a while, including selling T-shirts at Garth Brooks’ concerts. She finally caught the attention of Brooks in 1990, and he offered her a chance to be his opening act if she could land a recording contract. With a demo recorded by her husband, she finally signed with RCA and began touring. Her 1992 debut album, The Time Has Come, was followed by her 1993 hit album The Way That I Am. The album’s her first hit single, “My Baby Loves Me”, jumped to Number Two on the music charts, followed by “Life #9”, which also made it into the Top Ten. Her song “Independence Day”, about domestic abuse won her Video of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1994.
The next year, McBride released Wild Angels, and the title single became her first Number One single. That same year, she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Her next album, Evolution (1997), became a Top Ten hit and a double-platinum record. It also brought McBride a string of hits, including “Valentine”, “Happy Girl”, “A Broken Wing” and “Wrong Again”. The project finally pushed McBride into the spotlight, and earned her critical acclaim; she earned her first CMA award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1999, and was selected to perform for President Bill Clinton.
She snagged her second CMA award for Best Female Vocalist in 2002, after releasing her Greatest Hits (2001) album, which included four new singles. A studio album, Martina, followed in 2003. The record’s appeal resonated with audiences in both the country and pop music genres, and landed McBride two Top Ten singles on the Adult Contemporary chart: “The One’s for the Girls” and “In My Daughter’s Eyes”. The success of the singles also caught the attention of the Academy of Country Music, who awarded her the 2003 Top Female Vocalist trophy, as well as the Country Music Association, who presented her with the Female Vocalist of the Year title. In 2005, McBride returned to a more traditional country sound with her album Timeless, which contained country cover songs. The album was a critical success, and gave McBride her highest first-week sales, ever.
Seventeen years ago, she was just one of many. A girl with the ability to sing a song like nobody’s business and the dream that people would let her do just that. As it turned out, people loved the young lady from Kansas so much that today, not only is she still doing that, she’s doing it for more people than ever before.
“What’s exciting for me is I still feel like my career is growing,” says an enthusiastic Martina. “It’s crazy, but I know from the Internet and things like that there are still people discovering my music and hearing me for the first time. It might be a new song that gets their interest. I might be singing at a football game that makes them aware of who I am or they might hear an old song on the radio. Whatever it may be, people are still discovering my music. We’re still making new fans that are coming out to see our shows that have never seen us before.” That growth is well represented on Shine (2009), Martina’s tenth studio album (all on RCA Records Nashville). Titled not only as a nod to the lyrics in three of the songs encompassed within, but because of what the word ‘shine’ suggests - Powerful. Positive. Strong.
It’s also what she plans to do as she takes that aforementioned growth and runs with it in a variety of directions. In addition to the guitar-laden sound, Shine found Martina expanding her circle of co-producers by enlisting veteran Dann Huff to co-produce with her for the very first time. This decision brought a new perspective and, while it freed her from the minutia of production, it also afforded her the opportunity to be primarily an artist and a singer. “I felt that I wanted to move forward, production-wise, which isn’t always easy. I think it was time to find somebody with a different, fresh take on my music. I felt like I needed someone to help me do things a bit differently, and I instinctively felt Dann was right for the job.”
After two decades in the music business, Martina McBride is starting over. Now signed to Republic Nashville, with new management (Clint Higham of Morris Artists Management), a new co-producer (Byron Gallimore), newly-spotlighted songwriting skills (she penned over half the songs on Eleven (2011), her new CD), and a brand new spirit of accomplishment, Martina is swinging into high gear. And she couldn’t be more thrilled. “It really feels like starting over for me - but with a track record and with the success and experience I’ve had over the years,” she explains. “I feel more mature and more confident, which comes with knowing yourself better. And there are a lot of opportunities now that I haven’t had in a long time.”
When her longtime contract with RCA Records expired in 2010, Martina revved up for new challenges ahead. “There comes a time when you have to step back and say, I need something different,” she says. “It was a risk, but you have to do what feels right.” After weighing her options, Martina decided to join two year-old Republic Nashville, part of the Big Machine Records family of labels. “We had a couple of offers that were really great,” she notes, “but what really drew me in the end was Scott Borchetta and his reputation. When I met with him and his staff, their enthusiasm and passion for music were so evident - not only for the business but for the music. I really got the feeling that they get up every day and say, 'Wow! We get to be in the music business!” They have an innovative approach and such positive energy. It’s contagious and something I wanted to be a part of.”
It was Big Machine’s CEO Borchetta who planted the seeds for another Martina first: recording outside Nashville. “When I’m at home, I wear a lot of hats,” she says. “I get to be a musician part time, but I’m a mom first, and I only get to focus on music a few hours every day. I thought Scott showed a lot of insight when he suggested I go somewhere else to record the new CD. It was a respectful way to say, 'You need to focus on the music if this album is really important to you.”
With co-producer Byron Gallimore and a seasoned group of Nashville musicians in tow, Martina headed down to Atlanta’s Southern Tracks studio in January of 2011 to begin work on Eleven. The start of the sessions coincided with an ice storm that shut the city down. “There was nothing to do there but make music,” she laughs. “We couldn’t go shopping, we couldn’t go out to eat. Every day we’d slide across the parking lot from the hotel and work in the studio making music all day.” The singer made sure to break the studio time up with trips back to Nashville to see her daughters, but being away from home for several days at a clip let her totally focus on the recording.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Eleven is the fact that Martin herself co-wrote six of the eleven tracks on the album, something she’s especially proud of.
“I love songwriters, and I’m not an artist who thinks I have to write everything I record. But people were encouraging me to write and songwriters seemed to want to write with me, so I just decided to really focus and see what came of it. And because of that, this record shows a lot of different sides of my personality. I think it peels back a layer and let’s people see more of my personality, especially the playful and fun side.”
As for the superstar herself, she’s frankly exhilarated by the chance to experience what she calls first-time opportunities the second time around. In a career that’s already taken her to breathtaking heights (four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year trophies, three ACM Female Vocalist awards, a Grammy win, numerous national magazine covers and features, and appearances on such shows as VH1’s “Divas,” “TODAY Show,” “20/20,” “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars”), Martina is ready to take it up a notch with the help of her new label.