10 Questions with ... Trisha Yearwood
July 5, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Trisha Yearwood was born and raised in the tiny town of Monticello in Jasper County, Georgia. She rose to fame with a #1 debut single, "She's In Love With The Boy" and followed with a string of hits including "Walkaway Joe," "Wrong Side Of Memphis," "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," "Thinkin' About You," "I Would've Loved You Anyway," "How Do I Live," a collaboration with now-husband Garth Brooks entitled "In Another's Eyes," and "The Song Remembers When" - which is also the name of her current exhibit at the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum. Yearwood is a graduate of Belmont University in Nashville and previously held a summer job as a tour guide at the Hall Of Fame during her time as a Belmont student. Her work with MCA Nashville, Big Machine, and now RCA Nashville have earned her multiple awards including CMAs, ACMs, AMAs, and a Grammy. She is a best-selling author of a line of cookbooks based upon family recipes and Southern food, and she is the Emmy Award winning host of "Trisha's Southern Kitchen" on the Food Network. Yearwood, along with husband Garth Brooks, is currently on a record-breaking World Tour drawing thousands in each city they visit. We sat down with "Ms. Yearwood," as her husband calls her, during the VIP opening of the "Trisha Yearwood: The Song Remembers When" exhibition to ask her about her upbringing, career, and the exhibit.
1. Trisha, we are all so excited about the opening of "Trisha Yearwood: The Song Remembers When" at the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum. How are you feeling being here tonight?
First of all, I'm never at a loss for words, and I'm pretty much freaking out right now.
2. Have you seen the exhibit yet? Do you know what pieces are in the exhibit and where they came from?
I have not seen it yet. [Editor's note: Trisha was allowed some private time with her family to view the exhibit following this interview.] Yes, I know what is in it. My mother was the President of my Fan Club for the first five years of my career - and then, of course, she was my mom up until then! So, she saved everything from childhood on. I'm excited about the thing that are career-worthy that you will see and go, "Oh that was a cool part of being inducted in to the Grand Ole Opry" and those kind of moments. But there are also pictures from before. You know, when they do your high school yearbook photo, then they do a casual shot, and I'm playing my first guitar - which is in there. It's my Yamaha guitar that my Dad bought me when I was 14. And even before that, the Silvertone guitar that they had when I was born, that I ended up tearing the strings on when I was a little kid. All of that. For me, it's amazing. And then all the way up through - because my wedding to Garth was a private affair and there aren't very many photos - the dresses are in there. It's really just a little bit of everything, so I'm thrilled. I'm excited to get to see it. In our relationship, I'm definitely not the cried in the couple, but I have to say that I feel like I'm just going to cry at any moment. So, I think I'm going to be doing that, and if that's how I'm feeling, good luck when y'all see him. Because he's probably going to be in a puddle.
3. So the Museum comes to you and says, "Hey, we want to do an exhibit with you!" But you're on a World Tour, you've got an album you're putting together, a cookbook coming out, and a television show to film - and this exhibit happens all in the middle of this. How did you find the time to go through and find everything?
Well, again, back to my mother, my mom has been gone now for four years. The house that my sister, Beth, and I grew up in had forty years of memories in it. And my mom was a school teacher, so all of those memories were very organized. We sold that house a couple of years ago, and when we did, Beth and I went in to the basement and took everything that we thought might be something we would want to have. It's all sitting in a garage right now at my house in Goodlettsville, TN. So, when this happened, it was sort of like, well at least all of the stuff - there's so much career stuff that was preserved - was easy to go through. I have to thank my team -Michelle Owens, particularly, from Vector Management - for just going out there and just go through and really pull out what they thought and say, "Well, what do you think about this?" So I was able to go through and say "Yes, this," or "No to that," and then go through myself and say, "This is cool. You might not know what this is about." So, in that way, it was easy for me, because my mom had kind of done all of the leg work. It made it easier. When I would come in off of tour, I would go down to the garage and look through everything and find stuff.
4. Your mom was a teacher, and there's something in the exhibit I'm sure she would have been very proud of - it's a 100 on a test from Belmont, and it was for business management and account. Is that something you still excel in?
Well, I was proud of the fact that I was an A student as an undergraduate, although no one ever asked me when I got a record deal to see my diploma - no one cared. But, that was interesting, because as a Belmont student, I knew I wanted to sing. I felt like I knew how to sing, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about the business that I wanted to be in, so Belmont was a great school in that regard. And that class was taught by David Skepner, I don't know if any of you guys remember him. He's gone now, but he managed Riders in the Sky, Loretta Lynn, and he managed Skip Ewing - who was a new artist at that time, which also dates me and tells how old I am. We studied Skip Ewing's contract, and it was an MCA [Nashville] contract - I wish I had have paid a lot more attention in class, because it maybe would have helped me. I was the girl who came to class every day in sweats and a ponytail and no makeup. I was just trying to get through school, ya know? But he [Skepner] seemed to notice the kids in class who really came in in their business suit and their tie. And I was like, really? I'm just trying to get to class! But for the final, I got dressed up. I think I had somewhere to be, I had somewhere to go after. So I was dressed and had actually showered and had on makeup. And he noticed me when I came in the room, and he said something like, "That's how a professional should dress." And I took the test, and it was all essay, I think. And I made a 100 on it. He offered me a job after, and I was an intern for him. Basically, my job was to wrap Christmas presents - it was over Christmas - and get coffee for Skip Ewing. But that job as an intern - I met people there - that job led to a job as a receptionist at the front desk at MTM Records, Mary Tyler Moore's tax write-off. So, in that building is where things really...that was the catalyst. So just thank God I took a shower that day! He noticed me, and I made a 100 on the test. So that test is a really important part of my history as far as getting where I got, because it really did start the ball rolling, even though I didn't know it was going to.
5. You are so uniquely qualified for this exhibit. There are other exhibits going on here with other artists, but few have had the kind of relationship that you've had with the Hall Of Fame. Can you share your background with this institution and talk about your thoughts about having an exhibit here?
It's pretty surreal. I had wanted to sing since I was five years old, so when I moved to Nashville, and I knew I wanted to stay here through the summer while I was a student at Belmont, I needed to get a job. And, I probably would have taken any job - I would have done whatever I needed to do - but I really wanted to work at the Hall Of Fame. I thought, "What a great job! I can be a tour guide, I can make some money," minimum wage, but still a job. I could be in this building with all of this stuff, and it was a dream job, really. So, I was the tour guide, and I would take tour groups through, and we also had Studio B. So, you could go across to RCA Studio B, and I loved working over there, because Elvis recorded there - and Chet Atkins and Dolly Parton - and there were all these great stories. And when I was at the regular building, the great Patsy Cline movies and the Elvis movies, and just all the artifacts - I was amazed. And I remember occasionally I would go down to the basement for whatever I needed to go down there for, and Ronnie Pugh would be down there - who knows everything about everything that ever happened in the history of Country music - and he'd tell me, "Yeah, there's just so much stuff we've got stored that we can't even display, because we don't have room." So, I was so happy when this building was built, because it's so fitting, really, for what it holds. So, for me, going from a tour guide to - before this happened, I was on the Board for a couple of years. It was so weird to have a key to the parking lot after being a tour guide here. And there's a girl here named Leann, and I was asking what her job title is now - she's Director of Operations - and she and I were minimum wage tour guides together. So it's kind of cool, every time I'm here, I see her, and I just love that she's still here and has worked her way up. And they said they can't open the doors without her, and I love that. It would be special to me anyway - and it is so, so special - but, the fact that I have that history with the Hall makes it even more special.
6. Were you able to title the exhibit yourself, and is there a general message you want fans to take away after walking through the exhibit?
Well, "The Song Remembers When" sort of just stood out as the title. That song - Hugh Prestwood wrote it, who is going to be here tonight - when I'm asked what my favorite song is that I've recorded, it's really hard for me to pick a favorite. But that song always comes in to my head, because it's a story song about the power of music. So, for me, it makes all kinds of sense that that would be here as the title. My hope for when fans come and see the exhibit is that they get to see all the things that they know about, but also that they will see these little things - these real-life things - that give them a little more insight into me as a person. Because for me, as a fan, I love the music, I love the awards shows, I love the videos, but I want to know something about that artist that makes them a real person to me. So, I'm hoping that fans who don't know me will feel like they know me a little bit better after seeing the exhibit.
7. In the exhibit, there is a handwritten receipt for an early recording session from September 1983 in Monticello, Georgia. What were the circumstances behind that session?
The very first one! That was in a trailer in Monticello. I grew up in a small town of about 2,000 people in Monticello. No one - if you sang, you taught music or lead the church choir - but there was no relative in the music business, I had no idea how to get here, how to get played on the radio, how to make a record. I didn't know if that would ever - it was so foreign to all of us. But there was a gentleman in town in Monticello named Franklin Lynch. He had some connection in Nashville. You know, it's like one of those things if you're from a small town where it's like, "Well, I know a friend of a friend who's got a cousin who works in a studio in Nashville." It's that whole Music Row lyric. But he had a studio in a trailer, and he had a microphone set up and he had twin mattresses set up for baffling. And he offered to record my voice. We went over there, and I played piano and guitar, so I did everything I know on piano - a bunch of Linda Ronstadt - and everything I knew on guitar - which was also a bunch of Linda Ronstadt. I think we did some Oak Ridge Boys. I'm pretty sure we did "Leaving Louisiana In Broad Daylight." But, that was my first time that I could hear myself on a recording. He brought it to Nashville - I'm not sure who he met with - but it was the thing where they came home and said - I was fifteen - they came home and said, "We think she's really good. If you would just give us like $5,000 we will make a real professional demonstration tape for her, and then we'll get it sent around to all the record labels." I was in, man! I was 15, the car was packed, and I was ready to go! My mom and dad were like, "Yeah, that's not gonna happen. You're going to finish school, and you're going to go to college." But that was a good experience for me, and really just confirmation all along the way that this was what I was supposed to do.
8. There's a letter in the exhibit from Johnny Cash to you. What do you remember about that letter, what you said to prompt it, and the day you received it?
I was living on Vailwood Drive in Green Hills in a little white house I was renting for $800 a month. And I remember driving home - I remember everything about that moment. I remember driving home and going to the mailbox and seeing House Of Cash as a return address on this envelope, and I just thought - I mean, I don't know what went through my head. I certainly didn't think, "This is a personal letter from Johnny Cash." I had been scheduled to play Branson [Missouri], and I was doing an interview. And the interview guy was very nice, but he asked me basically, "With all these legends that play down the street in Branson, where you can go see people like Johnny Cash every night of the week, what's unique about your show that's going to make people want to come see you?" And I really didn't have a clue. I didn't really know why - you got me there! And I just said, "I would probably go see Johnny Cash myself!" That was my answer, and Johnny saw the article, so I got this handwritten letter in the mail. You can read it [in the exhibit], but it basically says, "I read what you said, and really appreciate the comments." And then he went on to comment about liking "Wrong Side Of Memphis." And for me, that was probably the second year - 1992 is when that second album came out - so, it was one of those thing like, "Johnny Cash knows my name and thinks I'm cool!" So, that was just one of those things that I will never ever forget.
9. Were there any forgotten treasures or mementos that you came across that took your breath away?
I think, nothing that I didn't know existed. But in your mind, I think we all embellish things in our head and we remember them differently than they actually happened. So there were all these things that happened - like the Johnny Cash letter - that in my head, that's exactly how I remember it. But I wasn't exactly sure where the letter was, I just knew it was in one of those boxes. But I wasn't sure exactly what it said, and I was hoping that it said what I thought it did. So it was awesome to find it, and for it to say exactly what I remembered, and exactly what I thought it had said, not just "Hey, I think I got some of your mail by mistake." But, I am one of those people who - because I have wanted to do this for so long, and because I have really only wanted to be a singer my whole life - anything that is in there, unless I surprise myself when I go and look, since I haven't seen it all out yet - I know what all they have, but I don't know if they used every single thing we sent or not - I remembered it. It was something I had wanted my whole life, so I pretty much remember every moment. And the outfits were cool for me, because most of the first things I wore either my mother made, or I had one or two things that I wore over and over again. So, those things - there's an outfit in there that I wasn't sure where it was, but I had actually loaned it to the Chamber of Commerce in Monticello, Georgia, and they had it - that was a suede skirt and coat with fringe on it that I wore when I was on "You Could Be Star" that Jim Ed Brown hosted, and my momma made it. And I remember that, because she had never sewn on suede, and she was like, "This is like $10 a yard, and I'm gonna sew on this thing!" But she did it, and I wore it. I think I was most blown away by things that my mother had saved. I'm trying to think of something specific that I came across that I didn't know was there - there are a lot of things that you won't see in this exhibit. There's some really bad artwork from my childhood that didn't make it. My Barbie collection didn't make it - I played really hard with my Barbies, and they're really trashed. The one thing that I was looking for forever that I couldn't find was that Silvertone guitar. There's a picture of me holding that guitar, and I think Beth is in picture, too, sitting in this chair in our house. We knew we had that guitar, and that was the one thing that I was like, "I know we have it somewhere. We've got to find that guitar, because there's all this photographic evidence of this little Silvertone Sunburst guitar." And, I mean, everybody looked for it. It had moved up to Goodlettsville with all the other stuff from my mom's, but it didn't have a case. So someone, being kind, had put it in one of Garth's guitar cases, so nobody ever opened that case, because they just thought it was one of his guitars. We found it in there. That was really special, because this could have gone on without that guitar, but I just wanted it to be in there.
10. One of the sweetest things in the exhibit is a notebook your mother brought with her on a trip to Nashville in 1955 and kept notes of a visit to the Grand Ole Opry. Can you tell us a little bit about that item?
My mom kept a diary. She was born in 1937, so they would listen to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio every Saturday night, but they didn't know what anybody looked like. Grand Ole Opry wasn't on television, so they would just imagine what Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Hank Snow, and Jumpin' Bill Carlisle looked like. And she came to Nashville for high school graduation in 1955, they came up on a school trip, and they went to the Ryman. They saw an Opry performance, and she saw Hank Snow and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and she wrote about it in her diary, and she kept that diary for her whole life. And when I went in to the Grand Ole Opry as a member in 1999, she brought that diary, and Bill Carlisle was there and Hank Snow was there, and she got them to sign it. So I think it's just really full-circle. It was awesome to see them - my mom and dad - get to enjoy not only their daughter's success, but to really get to meet some of their heroes, too. It was a really cool moment for me to see them in the room telling jokes to Bill Anderson and talking to Jimmy C. Newman, and just getting to be a part of the family just like I was. That was a wonderful memory.
1. How important was it to you to talk about the other aspects of your career like the cookbooks and television show?
I think this whole second career thing with cookbooks and the TV show and all of that is such a - it really all ties together. Especially here, when my history is so related to the way I grew up and my family. The cooking show is completely - and the books - have completely come out of the recipes that my mom made and that her mom made. My dad was a great cook, and so was my Uncle Wilson, who has now passed. Most of these people who I got all these recipes from are not here anymore, and Beth and I talk a lot about how the show is so much fun and wonderful, and is a way for us to really keep their memories alive. So, it's so a part of the fabric of all of the rest of this. It's not just, "Hey, I know you don't cook, but we'll put a book together and put your face on it." It's so much a part of my life, that it makes so much sense to me that it's the next chapter in there. It's also why - I think food and music are so intertwined. When we get together, we all listen to music, and when we get together, we always talk about food. Everybody does that. When we do the show, we try to incorporate music where it makes sense. I didn't want every episode to be, "And now we sing!" I want it to be there when it makes sense organically. But they are so intertwined for me that it felt like an important part of this exhibit. And I also have to say that I was asked to put together a list of family and friends for this night. I did that, and I'm sure there are some people that I left out. But I invited some people that I knew couldn't come. I wanted them to know about it, and I wanted them to know that I loved them and that they were special to me. I wanted them to know this was happening; people I've known my whole life, from my hometown and some family that I knew probably couldn't make the trip. And they're all coming. And that's probably why I'm going to cry. But I'm so thrilled that they're here, because they're as much a part of this as my parents, and especially some of the folks from my hometown that are coming are really representative of them, because they knew them and loved them. And they're going to get to be here, and they're almost like proud parents themselves, so I'm thrilled that they said yes and they're coming.
2. You mentioned your Barbie Doll collection, and it's pretty impressive that you now have your own Barbie! It is also featured in the exhibit. Can you tell us how that came about and what that means to you? Do you have a collection of yourself?
Why, yes I do! Haha! No, I was just a part of an event called "Sheroes" in New York, and they honored some women. Barbie was a big part of that - honoring women who are trying to make strides in business, basically. It was a really cool event. And they gave these awards to people like Glen Close, who was there and got an award, but they honored four or five of us and made a Barbie for us in our likeness! And they asked me what I wanted my Barbie to be wearing, and I was like, "Well, first of all, I want my Barbie to be skinny." Duh, of course she is. And I put the dress on her - only, they did it in black, and it was actually more of an eggplant color in real life - the dress that I wore when I won Female Vocalist of the Year for the first time. And that sounds like, "oh, for the first time," but I was basically Susan Lucci for years, and then I finally won it, and that was the year! So, that was a special night, and that's the dress. And what's really funny is - and my husband is going to kill me, but he's not here - there's a company that is trying to do a Garth Brooks action figure. He says it's not a doll, it's an action figure. And so, they brought a prototype for us - for him - to see, and I don't think Garth's going to do it, but the prototype really looks like Garth, and I think it's awesome. So they're totally going to date when I get the Barbie out of the exhibit! So far, I've just been posing him in really inappropriate photos. Maybe in his exhibit...