Born July 29, 1966, in Medicine Lodge, KS; daughter of Darryl Schiff (a farmer and cabinetmaker); married John McBride (concert production manager for country singer Garth Brooks), 1988; two children. Addresses: Record company--RCA Nashville, One Music Circle N., Nashville, TN 37203-4310.

When she moved to Nashville in 1989, budding country singer Martina McBride had but one goal: to make the perfect traditional country album. Raised on the sounds of classic country music, McBride strove for the authenticity of time-honored country style and substance. She achieved her goal with the 1992 release of The Time Has Come. Since then, McBride has expanded on the traditional roots of that first album with business savvy and intuition, and has joined the top strata of talented "New Country" performers lighting country music's path into a new century. After winning back-to-back female artist of the year honors from the Country Music Association in 2002-03, McBride was named top female vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 2004.

McBride was born Martina Schiff in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, and grew up in nearby Sharon, a small town boasting a population that peaked at 200. Her father, a farmer who also owned a local cabinetry shop, was a musician at heart, and young Martina was exposed to the classics of country music at an early age. Her love of country tunes grew, along with her love of singing. She would spend hours after school singing along with the records of female vocalists like Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt.

At the age of eight, McBride began performing onstage with the Shiffters, a country band her father had formed; she would perform with them almost every weekend until she graduated from high school. Always a good student, McBride was offered a scholarship at a nearby college after graduation, but she attended for only one semester. A career in music was where her future would lie, McBride decided, and she began working with local bands and performing throughout the Wichita area.

Armed with a new last name--courtesy of a new husband, sound technician John McBride--and a demo tape, McBride made the move to Music City in 1989. When she wasn't busy waiting tables in restaurants around Nashville, she knocked on doors up and down Music Row, hoping to attract the notice of a major record label. Her husband was fortunate enough to join the sound crew for country megasuperstar Garth Brooks, a career move that proved to be fortunate for both him and his wife. John went on to become Brooks's concert production manager, and, taking time off from waitressing, McBride accompanied her husband on the road with the stage crew during national tours and helped with concert souvenir T-shirt sales.

McBride's enthusiastic, upbeat spirit caught Brooks's eye; he offered the aspiring singer an opening-act slot during his 1992 concert tour if she could obtain a recording contract. Brooks kept his word: McBride soon signed on with RCA, and during her first year under contract she opened for Brooks as well as several other top country acts. In keeping with his support of new country talent, Brooks provided vocal harmony on "Cheap Whiskey," a single from McBride's first album.

McBride's album, The Time Has Come, released by RCA in 1992, was praised by reviewers as the debut of a strong country vocalist, but the LP didn't get a lot of airplay, perhaps because its songs focused on thoughtful subjects. "The first time out, I was really concerned with being taken seriously as an artist," McBride commented in an RCA Records press release on her first effort. "I looked for songs that had a lot to say. I'm not sure that I didn't go over the line with the first album. Maybe it was too serious." Her 1993 follow-up, The Way That I Am, broke this trend for the young singer; it showed a lighter side. As she told Edward Morris of Billboard, "Somewhere along the line I realized that music has to be entertaining."

From the upbeat "Heart Trouble" to the strong up-tempo rhythms that propelled "My Baby Loves Me" to Number Two on the Billboard charts, The Way That I Am reflects a more balanced choice of material. The album has a serious side as well, and "Independence Day," a proclamation of justice for the victims of domestic violence by Nashville songsmith Gretchen Peters is given soaring voice by McBride. Released by RCA as the album's third single, "Independence Day" received some resistance from radio stations that considered its storyline--a woman driven to arson by a violent and abusive spouse-- too sobering for an entertainment-seeking radio audience.

By the time RCA released McBride's next album in 1995, her second issue had sold over one million copies. The 1995 album, Wild Angels, was a coproduction by McBride, Paul Worley, and Ed Seay, of which she confided to Deborah Evans in Billboard, "This album [Wild Angels] is the most reflective ... thing I've ever done." Her fourth album, Evolution, appeared in 1997, and had sold in double platinum numbers by the end of 1998. Additionally, McBride won nominations for assorted music awards and appeared in a performance for President Clinton. She issued a Christmas album that year, followed by a fifth (non-Christmas) album, called Emotion, in 1999. Also in 1999, she issued a new Christmas album. A self-titled album, Martina, appeared in 2003. Later that year McBride's single release, "This One's for the Girls" from the soundtrack of the feature film Runaway Bride, peaked at number 3 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks. In July 2004 the song made a comeback, topping the adult contemporary chart. Also in 2004 "In My Daughter's Eyes" hit number 3 on the adult contemporary chart and number 4 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks.

McBride is careful about the music she chooses to perform and record, and about the way her songs portray women. There are no unfortunate victims in her vocals, only strong, self-assertive women looking ahead to a future that is better than present circumstances. On The Time Has Come the single "A Woman Knows" portrays the strength of feminine intuition. Songs like "Independence Day," "That Wasn't Me," and Pam Tillis's "Goin' to Work," all from The Way That I Am, depict women dealing with emotional issues in ways that are personally strengthening. In fact, "My Baby Loves Me" was adopted as an anthem by female country music fans because of its upbeat portrayal of a healthy relationship in which respect for the individual holds sway over surface appearance. And McBride, herself a woman of the 1990s, has demonstrated her ability to grow, to learn, and to constantly expand as an artist. She appeared on the Country Music Association Awards in October of 2000, and with conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra in a two-hour special, "Holiday at Pops! 2000."

McBride's vocal talent pairs well with her drive to be successful and her definite sense of where her career is going. "There's a perception that you just show up, put on your makeup, don't worry your pretty little head about the business, and sing," McBride told Neil Pond in Country America. "But that's changing, I think. People like Reba [McEntire], Barbra Streisand, and Madonna, who are in control of their own careers and their destinies, have been big influences on me."

Since her first touring experience with Garth Brooks, McBride has gone on the road with many other acts, including Sammy Kershaw, Kenny Rogers, Ricky Van Shelton, and Marty Stuart. In the fall of 1994, McBride took her first trip to Europe to promote her brand of American country music. For McBride, the most important aspect of a performance is connecting with the audience. "I always make sure the spotlights aren't right in my eyes [so] that I can see people's faces," she told an interviewer in Country Song Roundup. "I love it when people interact with me during a show, when they yell out stuff or when they sing along."

In 1999, 2002, and again in 2003 McBride won the award for female vocalist of the year at the Country Music Association Awards. Her Greatest Hits album was listed at number 15 on the Billboard top albums of 2003, and Martina ranked at number 28. The following year she won two Academy of Country Music Awards, including top female vocalist and the humanitarian award. In 2005, with more than 13 million albums sold and 20 top ten hits, Hallmark named McBride to be the featured artist on My Heart, a limited album, sold only at Hallmark stores for three weeks prior to Valentine's Day.

by Pamela L. Shelton

Martina McBride's Career

Sang with the Schiffters, c. 1975-86; vocalist with local bands, Wichita, KS; moved to Nashville, TN, 1989; signed with RCA Records, 1991; released debut LP, The Time Has Come, 1992; toured with Brooks, 1992-93; made acting debut in episode of television series Baywatch; appeared on General Hospital, 1994; toured Europe, 1994; released six albums, 1995-2003.

Martina McBride's Awards

Grammy Award nomination for country vocal, female, 1995, for "Independence Day;" Female Artist of the Year, Country Music Awards, 1999, 2002, 2003; Top Female Vocalist, and Humanitarian Awards, Academy of Country Music, 2004.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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