With the release of Inside Out Trisha Yearwood celebrates her 10th anniversary in the music business. The decade has been marked by wide acclaim, huge sales accomplishments and many awards, but the singer says that her greatest satisfaction has come from within.
“The things that I bring to the table are, hopefully, songs that I believe have integrity,” comments the woman who has immortalized “The Song Remembers When,” “Wrong Side of Memphis,” “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” and “How Do I Live,” among others. “I’m more comfortable with my voice than I’ve ever been. I think I am a more ‘relaxed’ singer than I used to be. And that comes out in the ‘energy’ I hear on this record. Then there’s the group of people that I like to have around me on an album, people like Don Henley, Kim Richey, Andrew Gold and Matraca Berg. That’s my crowd, people that make me feel like this is a ‘Trisha Yearwood’ record.”
With a stellar cast that also includes Vince Gill, Buddy Miller and Rosanne Cash, Inside Out is a collection that brims with assurance and personality. “For a While” is perhaps the most intimate and conversational vocal that Trisha has ever recorded. On “Love Alone” she turns on an emotional torrent while Andrew Gold provides a chanting, layered backdrop. With Vince Gill and Liana Manis on harmonies, Trisha amps up her powerful soprano to create chill bumps during the finale of “I Don’t Paint Myself Into Corners.” For the ballad “Harmless Heart” the singer becomes contemplative, while on “Second Chance” she soars in an inspirational melodic flight.
The imaginative percussive groove in the verses of “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” eases into an open-throated chorus that is yet another of Trisha’s vocal highlights here. “Love Let Go” is an equally fascinating arrangement - Trisha’s bluesy shadings are contrasted with haunting, eerie vocals by Buddy Miller, Vicki Hampton, Bob Bailey and Kim Fleming. Trisha aches in mourning on “Melancholy Blue” and shines brightly on the no-regrets ballad “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.”
The sunny, rhythmic “Inside Out” is a reunion with Don Henley, who harmonized so memorably with Trisha on “Walkaway Joe.” For her remake of “Seven Year Ache,” the singer recruited Rosanne Cash, the song’s composer and originator. The collection concludes with the stark, sad beauty of “When We Were Still in Love,” which Trisha recorded live in the studio with just string quintet and piano accompaniment.
There aren’t many vocalists left with the talent to pull something like that off. In an era of studio tricks, pitch adjustments and assembled-through-editing “performances,” Trisha Yearwood is that rare singer who can truly “stand and deliver.” She has been hailed as “one of the finest interpretive singers ever” by Entertainment Weekly. She has been saluted as “among the best vocalists working in any genre” by The Tennessean, and her career heralded by publications ranging from USA Today and People to Interview and the New York Times. CD Review calls her simply, “Nashville’s uber-vocalist.”
But what Trisha Yearwood possesses goes far beyond pitch and technique. Hers is an instrument of uncommon emotional resonance, a voice that makes lyrics glow with believability, that gives them a beating heart.
Listeners responded to that lustrous voice from the moment they first heard it 10 years ago. The native of Monticello, Georgia served her apprenticeship in Nashville as a student at Belmont University, a receptionist at MTM Records and as a “demo” singer for dozens of aspiring songwriters. Following her signing by MCA Nashville, Trisha burst on the radio airwaves with the rollicking “She’s In Love With the Boy” in the spring of 1991. The single roared to No. 1, beginning a string of chart successes that has included “That’s What I Like About You,” “The Woman Before Me,” “XXX’s and OOO’s,” “Thinkin’ About You” and “A Perfect Love.”
Trisha’s nine MCA Nashville albums to date include three Gold Record winners, four Platinum awardees, a Double Platinum seller and a Triple Platinum blockbuster. She won back-to-back CMA Awards as country’s Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997 and 1998. During her decade in the spotlight she has been honored with three Grammy Awards and dozens of other trophies. She has sung at the Academy Awards, the Olympics and the Library of Congress.
“For the most part, I still think of myself as The Kid,” she says. “I know it’s been 10 years, but it really seems like yesterday that ‘She’s in Love With the Boy’ came out. I think that’s good, because the role of ‘sage female artist’ just doesn’t fit me. Maybe it will in 20 years, but right now I don’t feel it. What I do feel is energy and excitement every time I make a record. That makes me still feel like a new artist. And I don’t want to lose that feeling. I want to hold onto it. I think if you don’t, then you might as well not make records.
“My last album, Real Live Woman, was an extremely emotional record for me. It was like therapy. I put my heart and soul into that record, and the experience kind of exhausted me. I really felt, ‘I don’t care if I never make another record, because I’ll never top this personally.’ The feedback from the fans was amazing. I probably got more mail from the song ‘Real Live Woman’ than I’ve gotten from any other song I’ve done.”
The collection earned Trisha two Grammy Award nominations. But when it came time to record its 10th-anniversary successor, she decided to make it a change of pace.
“When I started thinking about what to do next, I knew that I had to get as far away from that as I could. I wanted to experiment. I wanted to do something a little bit lighter. I wanted to have fun. So in December of last year I went into the studio with a couple of different producers just to see what would happen.
“Now, Mark Wright is the last person in the world that I thought I’d ever be in a studio with. We even joke about it. Anybody who knows us can tell you that we’re about as far apart personality-wise as two people can be. I thought we’d be oil and water and that it would never work.
“But what I found out was that Mark’s intensity and strong personality are what make him a good producer. I told him, ‘Your tendency at excess is what makes us not at all alike, but it is also what makes you so great in the studio.’ I love the fact that if he’s going to put strings on a record, he’ll have them turned up and in your face. There’s no restraint there. He lets you hear the energy in the music. I think he brought something to what I do that really complimented it.
“As for me, I think I have a maturity in my voice that wasn’t there when I began. I don’t have that sense anymore that every note has to be perfect. Every time I make a new record it’s a little more enjoyable, because I’m not so concerned with the polish. What I loved about Tammy Wynette’s records and Linda Ronstadt’s records was that you could hear the ‘cracks’ in their voices and you could hear them breathing. I like that human element to be in there. That ‘realness’ is what I went after on Inside Out.”
The album appears in the wake of a string of career highlights of recent months. In 1999 Trisha Yearwood was inducted into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. Last year she starred in the cable television special “A&E Live by Request,” narrated and sang on the soundtrack of the animated children’s film The Tangerine Bear and became a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. This year she was chosen to sing in Washington D.C. by the National Endowment for the Arts at its “Songs of the Century” celebration, was honored by her hometown with the naming of “Trisha Yearwood Parkway” and was called to reprise her recurring role on the CBS-TV series “JAG.”
“This is my fourth season with that show. I play Lt. Commander Teresa Coulter, who is a forensic pathologist. I told the producers this last time, ‘You guys only call me when somebody dies. This is depressing!’ But it’s kind of cool, because I portray a character who is not a singer. She’s totally military and wears a lot of white polyester. When you put the uniform on and get the hair back in a bun, it really kind of puts you in character. The minute you get in the clothes you feel, ‘OK, I have to behave myself now.’
“All my friends from high school are kidding me about ‘Trisha Yearwood Parkway.’ I don’t know if I have to pick up trash on that stretch of highway or what. My best friend has already taunted me with ‘I guess the next thing they’re going to do is put bronze markers up on all your old make-out spots.’ Seriously, though, I was proud that Monticello wanted to do that for me. The town has been nothing but supportive since Day One. And my parents still live there.”
The journey back home was preceded by a trip to Spain to film the video for “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.” Both the single and the clip have already emerged as fan favorites from Inside Out.
“I’ve shot so many videos, but that experience was really beautiful. The people in that Spanish town were incredible. There were so many things about making this new music that I loved. Singing with Don Henley again was such a joy. Vince Gill was amazing, as usual. I could work with Kim Richey every day of my life and be happy about it. And singing with Rosanne Cash was a thrill. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a nicer person. We hit it off so well that I’m going to go sing on her next project.
“Having this career has led to so many great experiences,” says Trisha Yearwood of her 10-year odyssey. “I’ve been lucky.”