Trisha Yearwood Takes on Sinatra With Tribute Album 'Let's Be Frank'

Russ Harrington
Trisha Yearwood

Yearwood is prepping a new country album for the fall

With the Feb. 15 release of Let’s Be Frank, Trisha Yearwood fulfills a long held creative goal. Out on the three-time Grammy winner’s own Gwendolyn Records, the collection pays homage to the legendary Frank Sinatra and the classic songs that permeated Yearwood’s Georgia childhood.      

To create the project, Yearwood retraced Sinatra’s footsteps. “I went to Capitol every morning and said hello to 55 musicians and we recorded it live. It was amazing,” Yearwood tells Billboard of recording in Hollywood’s Capitol Records studios in Hollywood where Sinatra himself crafted his catalog.      

“You would think that all of the stuff that Sinatra touched at Capitol would be behind glass and you could never touch it, but it’s all used,” says Yearwood, who recorded with Sinatra’s microphone. “I knew that I wanted to record there because it’s so iconic for so many reasons. That’s the place where he made 99% of those records. They always put a chair in the vocal booth for you. It’s this tall stool from the ‘50s and there's pictures of him sitting on it. And the podium that the conductor stands behind, the same one that they used in those days, it has a nostalgia about it. When you walk in you just feel it.”

 

Yearwood admits she had been wanting to record such an album for more than 20 years, but the dream starting to become a reality when she worked with producer Don Was a couple of years ago on a Frank Sinatra 100th birthday tribute. “We decided to find the time, and make the record together,” she says of the project, which was recorded during the summer of 2018. “I couldn't be more proud of the music we made with Vincent Mendoza's masterful arrangements and legendary Al Schmitt engineering. He’s worked with Sinatra. He’s worked with Tony Bennett with Streisand and Sammy Davis Jr. and Ray Charles. He’s 88-years-old and does Pilates three days a week. He’s amazing.” 

Let’s Be Frank was available exclusively at Williams Sonoma during the Christmas holidays, but goes on sale everywhere Friday.  The collection features Sinatra classics such as “Come Fly with Me” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” as well as an original song Yearwood penned with husband Garth Brooks titled “For the Last Time.”  “I’m the last person who will call myself a songwriter, although I have written a few things,” says Yearwood, who came home one day and shared the title with Brooks. “He just started singing this melody immediately and it was this melody from some other time. We [wrote it] over the course of a couple of weeks. The way he writes is he keeps singing stuff and throwing stuff out and I would throw in [saying] ‘What if you did this?’ and would throw in a line here and there.”

Yearwood says it wasn’t written with the Sinatra project in mind. She didn’t want anyone to think they considered their new song to be in the company of the standards she was recording, but Brooks suggested she send it to Was to get his input.  “He loved it and unbeknownst to me, Don sent it to Vincent Mendoza who loved it and had written an arrangement for it. It’s been really cool because most of my friends that have listened to the record keep coming back to that song. That makes me proud because it is us. It’s a song about finding that person and realizing that nothing ever fell into place before. It just makes sense.”

Let’s Be Frank is Yearwood’s first full-length solo record since 2007’s Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love, but there’s more new Yearwood music on the horizon. She’s been in the studio with longtime producer Garth Fundis. “It’s been really interesting because going back and forth from Sinatra to regular Trisha country music, you really have to get into a different mindset,”  says Yearwood, who is looking at a fall release for the next project. “I’ve found so many songs that I love. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun in the studio.”

Yearwood admits she’s enjoying this stage of her career. “It is the freedom that comes with just being comfortable in your own skin,” she says. “I have no idea if people are going to like it. I don’t know if radio will play it. I don’t care about any of that. I just want to have fun. It’s been such a great year for me of enjoying the process.”

Yearwood’s laid- back approach to the creative process doesn’t mean she’s not concerned about sales and exposure. “Once we officially get Frank out in February, I’ll start focusing on how do we want to get this [country] one out and what do we want to do to lead into that. I said I don’t care about what happens to it, but of course I do. I’m 54-years-old so I’m not naive about at my chances at radio, but I’m very competitive so it doesn’t mean I’m not going to get out there and try to make sure as many people who want to hear it get to hear it.”