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Multi-platinum RCA artist Martina McBride charmed a wall-to-wall audience at the Billboard Country Music Summit today in an intimate Q&A session with Billboard’s Nashville senior chart director Wade Jessen. In the one-hour session, McBride discussed her career development and the history and reaction to some of her biggest hits.

Dressed in jeans with stiletto lace-up boots and a white jacket, McBride discussed the busy week she has planned for CMA Music Fest week in Nashville, beginning with today’s Q&A at the first-ever Summit. In addition to her headlining stint at Nashville’s LP Field stadium, McBride will also play at her fan club party, and at a YWCA benefit affair on Sunday.

McBride came to Nashville in 1989 with husband John McBride, a successful sound engineer. Her first band “never got out of the rehearsal room,” and Martina ended up selling merch on the road with Garth Brooks, where her husband was working the sound. She says it was “very obvious” where Brooks was headed. “Anybody that saw him live was blown away,” she says.

Her first demo was “shot down by everyone,” but a second demo and subsequent showcase led to McBride being signed to RCA, her only label. She found her early radio promo tours exciting, she says. “I grew up wanting to have a song on the radio, so meeting the people who could make that happen was a big deal.”

Jessen asked McBride about the “meaty subject” of her 1993 hit “Independence Day,” which initially met resistance from radio programmers because of its theme of domestic violence. “I was naïve; I knew that song was different, but I never really thought it was that big a risk,” she says. She recalls personally calling radio programmers and asking them, “what about this song freaks you out?” While never a massive radio hit, “Independence Day” has become one of her most beloved songs; she adds that songs such as “Independence Day” and “Broken Wing” connected with live audiences before they were ever on the radio. “When you believe in a song and you connect with it, it translates and other people connect, too.”

After her first No. 1 Billboard hit “Wild Angels” in 1996, McBride says she felt like she was “walking on air. We had all been working so hard, and to have that payoff for everyone around me was a thrill.” Likewise, being asked to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1995, Loretta Lynn handed McBride a plaque and told her, “welcome to the Opry, this is what you get.”

McBride told the audience about recently recording a song, “Care,” with Kid Rock for the latter’s new record. “It seems like an odd pairing, but I love that he sees the redneck in me,” McBride says of the song, which also features rapper T.I. Rock and McBride each sing a verse, then T.I. Raps the third verse. “It makes sense, trust me. If I was rapping the third verse, it wouldn’t.”