“Mike’s been married for 40-some years,” Yearwood notes. “He said, ‘When I walked into this restaurant and saw her, there was something that struck me that I knew this was it. This is the one.’ The song basically says, ‘Whatever happens, whether you love me or hate me, I’m just in.’ The opening line is this poem: ‘You are the light that wounds the eye.’ There’s something very old school poetic about it and it’s just beautiful to me.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Henley and Yearwood have collaborated. He famously contributed vocals to her 1992 hit “Walkaway Joe” and joined her to perform the song on the CMA Awards. “When he came in the first time and sang on ‘Walkaway Joe,’ it was so special,” says Yearwood. He also sang harmonies on “Hearts in Armor” on the same project, and she has sung on some of his albums, including 2015’s Cass County.
Their busy schedules kept them from being in the studio together to record “Love You Anyway.” “I wish we’d done it together because there’s something about being in the room with somebody when they do it,” Yearwood says, “but I didn’t want to not have him on the record just because we weren’t on the same coast at the same time. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity.”
With the exception of Christmas Together, a holiday record with husband, Garth Brooks, Every Girl is Yearwood’s first album of new country material since 2007’s Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love. That’s not to say Yearwood has been idle. Earlier this year, she released Let’s Be Frank, an homage to Frank Sinatra and some of her favorite songs from the Great American Songbook. She’s also been busy with her Emmy-winning Food Network show Trisha’s Southern Kitchen and she accompanied Brooks on a three-year world tour.
“I didn’t really intend for that much time to pass, but I was busy,” she says. “I did put out a greatest hits record in 2014, and it had a couple new things, but I looked up and it had been a lot of time [between original albums]. I had so much fun making this record that I’m definitely not going to wait that much time again.”
Yearwood worked with longtime producer Garth Fundis to craft Every Girl. Aided by hourly plays on participating iHeartMedia radio stations, first single, “Every Girl in This Town” debuted at No. 21 on the Country Airplay chart, marking her highest debut on that list. “I was just so overwhelmed. I really didn’t have that much expectation at radio because I’m a woman and 54-years-old. I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she says. “I love this record and I had the best time making it, but I wasn’t thinking radio would necessarily be a part of the equation.”
The strong debut was gratifying yet unsettling. “In a way it kind of freaked me out to make a record that there was nothing tapping on [my] shoulder saying, ‘You should think about a radio song.’ There was such freedom that it allowed me to make a record that I’m really, really happy with,” she says. “So when ‘Every Girl In This Town’ was chosen to go to radio---which my team had to convince me to even go to radio---I was blown away. And then someone told me that first week was my highest debuting single and I’m like, ‘No! That can’t be right! Really?’ So I just really enjoyed it and it made it sweeter because I didn’t feel that pressure. It’s been such a really nice pat on the back for something I’m really happy with.”
In addition to Henley’s appearance on “Love You Anyway,” Brooks joins Yearwood on the playful “What Gave Me Away” and Kelly Clarkson sings on the poignant ballad “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.”
To promote the new album, the triple Grammy winner will embark on a three-day “Every Girl Road Trip” beginning in her hometown, Monticello, Georgia, on Aug. 30 and making stops throughout Georgia and Tennessee before finishing up Sept. 1 at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville where she once worked as a tour guide.
“I’m excited about going home,” she says. “I know everybody there. When you go home [you can’t] just be there for a couple of hours, so my plan is for however long it takes. When Garth and I went there for the last cookbook signing, we were there for nine hours signing books. I’m going to have conversations and [take] pictures and all that. I’m looking forward to it.”
This fall Yearwood will embark on her first solo tour in five years. The 22-city trek kicks off Oct. 3 in Nashville with a three-night engagement with the Nashville Symphony at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
“The biggest message really is I’m still here. Nothing is really different,” Yearwood says. “I’ve always chosen songs that really mean something to me and I’ve always put my heart and soul into making an album. Even though I’m in a high-profile marriage to a really famous guy and I have a cooking show and do all these other things, I hope people will hear this album and say, ‘Okay this is what she does.’ This is what I can’t imagine not doing. The people who have listened to my music all along will hopefully hear this record and go, ‘Okay this makes sense to us. This feels like the next chapter.’”