Terry McBride admits that he is amazed to know that many in the industry still have fond memories of his days as lead singer of McBride & the Ride. “We had a good run. I run into so many people who remind me of those songs,” he tells Billboard. In fact, the amount of attention that his fellow writers give to the music that he made with Ray Herndon and Billy Thomas from 1990 to 1994. “I’m just starting to learn them again after all these years. I write with all of these young guys and they know the songs better than I do, so I’ve had to work at it.”
The trio released three albums together for MCA Nashville, with 1992’s Sacred Ground being certified gold. Eight of their singles hit the Top 40 on the charts, though McBride admits that if it seemed that they were somewhat overshadowed at their label, there was a very good reason. Or two. Or more.
“MCA had such mega-stars: George Strait, Reba McEntire, Wynonna, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood. We were lucky. I remember that one time, we were celebrating a gold record, and the label said ‘Come on, guys. We’ve got to step it up with the next one.’ We were about to lose our deal, because we were only selling gold. The label was on fire back then,” he admits.
After the band disbanded, McBride tried his hand at a solo career, eventually reuniting with his former partners for the 2002 Dualtone release Amarillo Sky. Since then, though his voice hasn’t been in the spotlight, he’s been far from idle. His songwriting career began to take flight after the release of “I Am That Man” from Brooks & Dunn. After that, a close writing relationship with Ronnie Dunn resulted in over 20 of his songs being cut by the duo.
“Ronnie comes to me, and says ‘I got my own bus, and I’m headed to California. Come on and let’s go,’” says McBride. “We ended up writing 10 songs in 15 days, including ‘He’s Got You.’ That just led into 13 years of my life. Ronnie was very adamant about ‘If the bus rolls, be on it,’ and we had a lot of fun.” During that period, McBride also produced a record on Jedd Hughes, 2004’s Transcontinental.
Finally, after a 15 year absence from the microphone, McBride returns with a new EP, Hotels & Highways. What led him to make the decision to return to making music as a recording artist — an old friend, and not just any friend.
“I went on a little trip to Mexico with Delbert McClinton. He’s just one of those guys that I respect so much as an artist. He was on me about wanting me to do something musically,” he says, though a decision didn’t come quickly. “I didn’t really do anything about it. It took me about ten years. It sort of stuck in my head. Then, I came over to this company, MV2. Tony Harrell and Clay Myers were adamant about helping me and encouraging me to do something. I loved that they were so excited and interested. I just didn’t have the song. Suddenly, one showed up. I sang a scratch vocal one day for ‘Hotels and Highways.’ That’s what kicked things off.”
That title track really seemed to speak to McBride. “If you’ve been fortunate enough to go and tour — and I have since I was young — I’ve lived on the road off and on my whole life,” he explains. “For me, it’s a lonely look at it. The playing and the being in front of people is a lot of fun, but when you’re back all alone, there’s a lot of isolation when it’s just you and the road. It’s all walls and late night phone calls. I love that about the chorus. It just spoke to me.”
Another cut that is quite moving is the heartbreaking “In The Night Time,” which he said reminded him of many songs he grew up hearing. “I love those sad and lonely type songs. I always did — whether it was George Jones or whoever was singing them. Even if I couldn’t relate to it, I was drawn to songs like that. I wanted one for the record, and that one filled the slot.”
On the other end of the spectrum is the nostalgic vibe of “Way Back,” where the singer turned back the hands of time. “That’s one of those songs where I tried to pull things that meant a little something to me. Even on the line ‘That first little taste of shine,’ I’ll never forget when I came up here with Delbert, I had never experienced that before,” he says with a laugh. Moonshine wasn’t a hot commodity in the Lone Star state: “In Texas, that wasn’t a big deal. There were bootleggers and whatever, but people didn’t make moonshine like they did up here. I’ll never forget that.”
His years with McClinton were very crucial to his musical development, bringing back some of his fondest memories. “I met him, auditioned in his living room, rehearsed in the studio, and the next night we were opening for John Fogerty in Miami. Then, we toured with Huey Lewis when he was huge. We’d go out and do parties in LA with Dan Aykroyd, because The Blues Brothers were huge Delbert McClinton fans, and they had recorded some of his songs. He was always doing something cool like that. “
To promote Hotels & Highways, McBride said he’s going at it very much in current fashion. “We have a cool team of people over here working for us. We have a young social media girl named Rebekah Haynes that had worked out on the West Coast with Universal… I jumped into those waters the past few months with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. So, we’re using that to get the word out. We’re also trying to work some press angles, and maybe Sirius and Spotify, whoever will give us a shot or a try. I’m gearing up to do a few dates this year.”
Needless to say, the art of promoting the new music is quite different than it was when his former band released their 1990 debut single “Felicia” — he’s had to learn the viral game, which has been a little bit different. “It has been quite a bit of an education,” he relates. “If we’re going to reach some people, we’ve got to establish a presence online, so that’s what we’re doing. I just reached out beginning with one person a few months ago, and we’re up to about five thousand on Instagram and Facebook. It’s growing pretty quick.”