Born Patricia Lynn Yearwood, September 19, 1964, in Monticello, GA; daughter of Jack (a banker) and Gwen (a teacher) Yearwood; married Chris Latham (a musician and songwriter), 1987 (divorced, 1991); married Robert Reynolds (a musician), May 21, 1994 (divorced, 1999), engaged to Garth Brooks (a musician), 2005. Education: Junior college, associate's degree in business Addresses: Home-Hendersonville, TN. Office-c/o MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608-1011. TN.; Agent-Vector Management, 1607 17th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212.
Country singer Trisha Yearwood had long harbored a desire to be a professional singer, but she kept it in check long enough to please her parents. "Even before I sang in front of anybody, I knew I wanted to do this," Yearwood expressed to Kate Meyers in Entertainment Weekly. "But I'm from a pretty conservative family and, you know, to say, 'Oh, I'd like to be a country-music star in Nashville' was kind of crazy." So she headed for Nashville, ostensibly to attend college, but in reality to get to the center of country music. "I never had a back-up plan," Yearwood commented to Gaye Delaplane of the Gannett News Service. "I always knew I'd go to Nashville and give it a shot. But I didn't tell anybody that." Now, she has the best of both worlds:Yearwood is known in the music world as not only one of the top female stars with a bevy of awards to her name, but also as a business-degree holder who makes all of her own career decisions.
Yearwood's powerful vocal style is sometimes compared to Linda Ronstadt, but she also incorporates pop, folk, and rock nuances into her repertoire. Though she started off her career wearing the typical country outfits and belting straightforward Nashville tunes, she adopted a sleeker, more business-like look and updated musical style in order to broaden the appeal of her genre. Yearwood's professional image is also useful in her off-stage career running her own corporation, Trisha Yearwood, Inc. "The bottom line with me," as she noted to Suzanna Andrews in Working Woman, "is that I want to see everything: every contract that goes through, anything to do with my career, my financial statements, personal and company." She is obviously doing well for herself, because the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association both declared her the top female vocalist of 1997 and 1998, and her albums have sold millions.
Patricia Lynn Yearwood was born on September 19, 1964, to Jack (a banker until his retirement) and Gwen Yearwood, who is retired from teaching the third grade. She grew up on a farm in the small town of Monticello, Georgia, about an hour south of Atlanta. As a youngster, she liked listening to classic country artists like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Kitty Wells. Yearwood and her older sister, Beth, were all-A students in junior high and high school, and Yearwood figured that her talent for numbers suited her for a career in accounting. However, she was growing more passionate about music as she listened to Southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers and the Eagles as well as singers such as Elvis Presley, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, and her favorite, Linda Ronstadt. "She had a power and an emotion in her voice that made you believe every word she sang," Yearwood recounted to Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times. "My favorite song was probably 'Love Has No Pride,' but I listened to everything over and over. I knew the albums so well I knew which song it was from the first note."
Yearwood was named outstanding senior girl of the class of 1982 at Piedmont Academy. Though she started performing in church events, school musicals, and talent shows while in school, she pursued a two-year business degree at a junior college after graduation rather than go immediately into show business. However, after one semester at the University of Georgia, she knew she was unhappy with the large campus and yearned to be closer to the heart of country music. In 1986, Yearwood transferred to Nashville's Belmont University, one of the few colleges to offer a major in music business. After promising her parents she would finish college if they sent her to Nashville, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1987, which later was invaluable in helping her to run her own career. While in college, Yearwood interned at MTM Records, the now-defunct studio started by Mary Tyler Moore, and after graduation, became a receptionist there. Aspiring to make her mark, she recorded a demo tape and used it to land jobs working as a backup singer for other hopefuls putting together demo tapes.
Yearwood's reputation spread by word-of-mouth, and she was soon making a living in the studio as a backup singer, as well as performing in a local club. She even worked on a demo in 1989 with up-and-comer Garth Brooks, and their friendship came in handy later when he shot to stardom. Brooks told her he would like to help her out if he succeeded in the music industry, and he introduced her to his producer, Allen Reynolds, who then took Yearwood to producer Garth Fundis. The two began working together, and Fundis helped Yearwood create a slick demo tape. In 1990, Yearwood sang backup on Brooks's No Fences album and performed live at a "label showcase," a short concert to show off her skills in front of record labels. She caught the attention of Nashville producer Tony Brown, who signed her to MCA Nashville. Yearwood then appeared as the opening act for Brooks's 1991 tour. "I had done some singing with a few bands, but I never had to carry the show or talk to the audience," Yearwood remarked to Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times. "So, I was terrified talking to an audience."
However, the tour stirred up a fan base for her debut album, Trisha Yearwood, released on MCA in 1991, shortly before the tour began. The song "She's in Love with the Boy" immediately hit number one on the country charts, the first country female vocal single ever to debut in the top spot. Later, "The Woman Before Me" went to number one as well, and the album hit number two on the country charts. The release had added appeal because Brooks had contributed to two of the tracks. Two million copies were sold, and in 1991 Yearwood was named top new female vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. The next year, she was chosen as best new country artist by the American Music Awards. Though she seemed right on track for future success at that point, Yearwood was unhappy with her management firm of Doyle-Lewis, who was also handling Brooks. She wanted someone to provide more attention to her, so she hired Ken Kragen of Los Angeles, who also managed Kenny Rogers and Travis Tritt. Though many around Nashville muttered that she was ungrateful and overly ambitious, Yearwood's move led to a much higher profile in the industry. She went on to become the spokesperson for the Wild Heart fragrance for Revlon and made millions doing appearances for the Discover credit card. Talk show hosts like Jay Leno and David Letterman invited her on their shows, and a full-length biography, Get Hot or Go Home, came out about her life. Later, she acted in the Peter Bogdanovich film The Thing Called Love in 1993, which also showcased her singing talent.
In 1992 Yearwood released Hearts in Armor and began working on her image. She shed the down-home look of curly hair, denim shirts, and jeans in lieu of straight hair and designer clothes by Norma Kamali, DKNY, and Anne Klein. "I didn't want the sequins and big hair," Yearwood related to Kate Meyers in Entertainment Weekly. "I wanted a classy image because I feel that the music is classy." She added, "If you saw me on the street you wouldn't say, 'I bet she's a country singer.' You might think I was a business executive." Hearts of Armor reflected a slight shift in her musical style as well, displaying a more mature sound. Her next album, The Song Remembers When, released in 1993, was another hit, boasting an array of tunes tinged with styles from folk ("Hard Promises to Keep") to rock ("If I Ain't Got You") to pop ("Lying to the Moon"). She then released an album of Christmas music, The Sweetest Gift, in 1994. After that, 1995's Thinkin' About You brought her two number one hits in one year, which is somewhat unusual for a female country artist, and the subsequent Everybody Knows, out in 1996, also yielded a number one hit with "Believe Me, Baby (I Lied)."
To wrap up the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Yearwood sang "The Flame" live to a broadcast of roughly 3.5 billion people after recording it for the One Voice Olympic album. She remarked to Chet Flippo in Billboard, "I'm not easily moved by things, but that was pretty amazing.... What was so overwhelming was the feeling that this is the only time that the whole world comes together, and you really feel it there." Also that year, she shed 30 pounds off of her five-foot, eight-inch frame, reportedly to get fit after finding out that her father was diagnosed with diabetes. Yearwood believes the fact that she is not perfect endears her to fans. "I think I'm kind of a real role model," she explained to Jennifer Mendelsohn in USA Weekend, "rather than something impossible." Her down-to-earth attitude is also appealing, as Mendelsohn noted: "Unassumingly pretty and soft-spoken, she's more like someone you'd chat with over produce at a suburban supermarket than a global superstar."
In spite of having a rash of popular successes, Yearwood was experiencing a dry spell in the arena of honors. She had won a Grammy Award with Aaron Neville in 1994 for best country collaboration for a remake of the Patsy Cline song "I Fall to Pieces," but was not even nominated for a Country Music Association award in 1995. Yearwood hit her stride in 1997 and 1998 with a string of hits and awards. In 1997, she released Songbook: A Collection of Hits, containing seven songs that previously reached number one, as well as three new tracks. One of the previously unreleased tunes was "How Do I Live," which was used on the soundtrack for the film Con Air. Fellow country star Lee Ann Rimes released a version of the same tune around the same time, fueling a small rivalry, and some radio stations even mixed the two together to create a "duet" effect. Yearwood won a Grammy in 1998 for best female vocal performance for her interpretation of "How Do I Live," as well as another Grammy that year with Garth Brooks for best country collaboration, for "In Another's Eyes."
In addition, Yearwood was also named top female vocalist in 1997 and 1998 by the Academy of Country Music and won the female vocalist of the year award from the Country Music Association both years as well. She also sang with Luciano Pavarotti in the summer of 1998 at his benefit for Liberian children. Though Yearwood has not written any of her own material, she is precise about choosing songs. "I always select music based on emotion, how it makes me feel, even before I made records," Yearwood told Rex Rutkoski of the Gannett News Service. She added, "My producer, Garth Fundis, and I have to catch ourselves if we begin to think about recording a song we don't believe in just because we think it might be a hit. We have to ask ourselves: 'Why should we consider it if not for the right reasons?'" The singer has indicated that she does pen tunes, but just has not recorded any of them yet. Her time is curbed severely by her frenetic touring schedule, and she also finds it important to balance her time with her family members and husband.
Yearwood was married in about 1987 to Chris Latham; they divorced in 1991 amid rumors that Yearwood was involved with Brooks (she vehemently denied the claims). She remarried on May 21, 1994, to Robert "Bobby" Reynolds, a bass player for the group The Mavericks, and divorced a second time in 1999. In 2000, along with the release of an album, Real Live Woman Yearwood took the time to contribute her voice to an animated video production for children, called "Tangerine Bear," from Artisan Home Entertainment. In conjunction with that project, she joined with the Children's Foundation in donating a mobile electronic fun center to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. Her Inside Out album appeared in 2001.
In 2005, Yearwood released Jasper County, described by Ralph Novak in People as "engaged," and "playful." Also in 2005, Yearwood became engaged in another sense, when longtime love Garth Brooks proposed. Yearwood told Tom Gilatto in People, "All I can say is that I am so happy. What I'm feeling right now I would wish on anyone."
Yearwood encourages people to follow their dreams and not fall prey to letting opportunities slip by. "I came from a very small town, I didn't know anybody in Nashville or the business" she explained to Rutkoski. "I had no connections.... People ask me when I decided to be a singer. I tell them I didn't. I really feel like music chose me."
Trisha Yearwood's Career
Worked as an MTM Records, Nashville, TN, receptionist, 1987; demo singer and background vocalist, late 1980s; signed with MCA Records, 1990; released debut album, Trisha Yearwood, 1991; released Hearts in Armor, 1992; released The Song Remembers When, 1993; released The Sweetest Gift, 1994; released Thinkin' About You, 1995; released Everybody Knows, 1996; released Songbook: A Collection of Hits, 1997; released Where Your Road Leads, 1998; released Real Live Woman, 2000; released Inside Out, 2001; released Jasper County, 2005; Head of Trisha Yearwood, Inc.; celebrity product sponsor for Wild Heart fragrance and Discover card. Film appearances include The Thing Called Love, Paramount, 1993.
Trisha Yearwood's Awards
Academy of Country Music, top new female vocalist, 1991, top female vocalist, 1997, 1998; American Music Awards, best new country artist, 1992; Country Music Association female vocalist of the year, 1997, 1998; Grammy Award for best country collaboration (with Aaron Neville), for "I Fall to Pieces," 1994, for best country collaboration (with Garth Brooks), for "In Another's Eyes," 1998, and for best female vocal performance, for "How Do I Live," 1998.
- Selected discography,
- Trisha Yearwood , MCA, 1991.
- Hearts in Armor , MCA, 1992.
- The Song Remembers When , MCA, 1993.
- The Sweetest Gift , MCA, 1994.
- Thinkin' About You , MCA, 1995.
- Everybody Knows , MCA, 1996.
- Songbook: A Collection of Hits , MCA, 1997.
- Where Your Road Leads MCA, 1998.
- Real Live Woman MCA, 2000.
- Inside Out MCA Nashville, 2001.
- Jasper County MCA Nashville, 2005.
- Contemporary Musicians , volume 10, Gale Research, 1994.
- Billboard , July 27, 1991, p. 30; August 17, 1996, p. 25; June 13, 1998, p. 1; December 2, 2000, p. 116.
- Country Music , January/February 1996, p. 30.
- Entertainment Weekly , April 16, 1993, p. 24; August 8, 1997, p. 78.
- Gannett News Service , October 28, 1994; July 14, 1995; December 6, 1996.
- Los Angeles Times , February 8, 1992, p. F4; October 25, 1992, Calendar, p. 8; February 10, 1998, p. F6.
- People, November 16, 1992, p. 105; November 15, 1993, p. 23; October 7, 1996, p. 61; June 13, 2005, p. 56; September 12, 2005, p. 79; September 19, 2005, p. 54.
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), October 6, 1998, p. 1E.
- TV Guide , September 19, 1998, p. 28.
- USA Weekend , September 20, 1998, p. 8.
- Working Woman , August 1995, p. 37.
- "CMA Awards and Nominations-Trisha Yearwood," Country Music Association web site, http://www.countrymusic.org (November 5, 1998).