Trisha Yearwood is enjoying her biggest hit in years with the lead single and title track from her new album, Every Girl, recently debuting at Number 21 on the country airplay chart. But there’s another song on the album, out Friday, that proves Yearwood’s creative instincts are still just as keen as her ability to deliver a hit song.
Written by Gretchen Peters (“Independence Day”), “The Matador” paints a picture of a woman forced to share her love for a bullfighter with the adoring crowd and the pull of the arena. Though she took some artistic license interpreting the lyrics, Yearwood says “The Matador” serves as a metaphor for her own relationship as the spouse of one of country music’s greatest showmen, Garth Brooks.
Every Girl is Yearwood’s first proper country studio album since 2007’s Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love. Featured among the 14 tracks is a collaboration with Brooks, as well as guest vocal appearances from Kelly Clarkson, Don Henley, and Patty Loveless on a cover of Ashley McBryde’s “Bible and a .44.”
In this conversation, Yearwood opens up about the role “The Matador” plays in realizing her creative vision, reveals Brooks’ reaction to the song, and vows to never again let 12 years pass between album releases.
“The Matador” creates such an intriguing, cinematic picture. What is it about this song that haunted you and made you want to record it?
Everybody has their own interpretation, but for me, the whole metaphor of “The Matador” is about music. And I kept thinking of Garth and myself with lines in the song — “He’s only alive when he’s in the ring.” You take your own life, and you always dramatize it for music, you know? And for me, it was like, “Man, I could make the story fit. I can make this work in a very dramatic fashion.” But I love the mysterious melody and the weirdness of some of the lyrics where you’re like, “I don’t even understand what that means. I don’t know what ‘snakes and snails and alcohol’ refers to, but it makes me scared and I like it.”
I was drawn to the line, “He’s beautiful when he’s in the ring/The devil howls, the angel sings/Sparks fly from his fingertips and words like birds fly from his lips.” To me, that captures the electricity of a Garth Brooks show.
Amen. It’s like that line, “He’s not alive without the thrill, without the dance, without the kill.” I mean, there are all kinds of ways I could go there. This woman in the song is saying, “I love him. He’s complicated. And it’s this dance we do.” That line, ”I knew it when I threw the rose,” is like, ”I knew what I was getting into.” I just think that’s so powerful.
Did Garth see himself in the lyrics?
No. [Laughs] I’m like, “The song’s about you.” He’s like, “No, it is not.” But I don’t know if he’s listened to it in a way that I have, and that’s what music is. It’s all open to its own interpretation.
“The Matador” introduces a different soundscape to the record. I understand you were very specific with how you wanted the horns to sound?
I wanted that traditional mariachi sound, and I kept hearing a mariachi band in the distance. So, you really do have to think restaurant mariachi versus something that you’re going to make up in your head. I wanted what everyone expects to hear, and then it’s just ghosted way back in the distance so it sounds like the band is playing a street over from the bull ring, you know? It was a little bit of a process to get to that, but I think those horns just make the song. It makes you feel like you can almost taste the dust on the street.
Did you specifically want to dip into Latin sounds on this album?
I think the song just lent itself to it. I guess I know what my vocal strengths are. I feel like if you’re a singer, you have the license to dabble in whatever your voice will work in, and that’s why I’ve done other kinds of musical projects. I don’t think this is some kind of wild departure. Thank God vinyl’s coming back. People are listening to full albums, which is awesome because a single, or two singles, are awesome, but they only tell part of the story. And an album gives you the chance to tell the whole story. It gives you the chance to have a song like “The Matador” included as a special element.
And you couldn’t say the word “whore” in a radio single.
I will say that I never thought I would say the word “whore” in a song, but if I would have thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have thought that I would use it in this way. But when you’re talking about “the mother and the whore,” it’s all very Oedipal and very biblical, so it’s OK. [Laughs]
As for the rest of Every Girl, you really tapped into material from some of Nashville’s new crop of female singer-songwriters, including Ashley McBryde, Caitlyn Smith (“Every Girl in This Town”), and Lucie Silvas (“What Gave Me Away”).
I just went down the Lucie Silvas rabbit hole and found every song of hers I could find on YouTube once I discovered her music. There’s so many of her songs that I didn’t record that I want to. It was really cool for me to get a chance to hear what’s out there and realize that there’s a lot of really amazing female talent in this town.
This album was a long time coming. Where are you in planning your next project?
I’ve already got a couple of songs on the list for the next album. I’m done stopping.
“I’m done stopping” sounds like a pledge.
You’ve got it in writing. You can quote me on that.