Trisha Yearwood is universally admired for her soulful, thoughtful, and playful country music—and for her intelligence and keen business acumen. Though she has been enthusiastically aided and encouraged by producers and other country singers, including Garth Brooks and Emmylou Harris, Yearwood herself is clearly the ultimate generator of her own success; the story of her career is one of an artist who carefully planned for the future, training herself both as a singer and a businesswoman.
As John Leland noted in Newsweek, “Yearwood stands on country roots but looks beyond them as well,” a characterization consistent with what has been perceived as Yearwood’s special contributions to the genre—her commitment to self-reliance and breaking barriers for women in the field. He quoted the singer as stating, “My lyrics are geared to the independent woman. I made a record that was me.” Leland concluded of the singer’s brand of feminism, “[Yearwood] has succeeded as a contemporary woman, without bowing to domestic country stereotypes.”
Trisha Yearwood was born in Monticello, Georgia, where she was voted outstanding senior girl of the Piedmont Academy class of 1982. The town loves her, as their many signs reading “Welcome to Monticello—Home of Trisha Yearwood” attest, and she loves her hometown. “I’m getting excited,” she told People, as she and the journalists drove into Monticello. “Look over there, don’t you love that church?”
Yearwood grew up listening to Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, and pop singer Linda Rondstadt and appeared in church musicals and talent shows while she earned straight A’s. Though she did not sing professionally until after college, her parents were supportive of her aspirations early on. She told Michael Bane of Country Music that despite her parents’ ignorance of the field of country music and the “astronomical” odds against making it, “They just believed it, and they said if that was what I wanted, to go for it. They always taught us that whatever we wanted, we should go for. They’re probably the biggest reason I’m here, because they always encouraged that.”
Trisha Yearwood gave her parents plenty of cause to believe in her. When Bane asked her if she’d had an alternate career plan, she answered, “I never planned not to do this.... You really have to believe in yourself, and I really felt like I could do it.” Aided by the “banker’s genes” she inherited from her father, Yearwood supplemented
For the Record…
Born in 1964 in Monticello, GA; daughter of Jack (a banker) and Gwen (a schoolteacher) Yearwood; married Chris Latham, 1987 (divorced, 1991). Education: Degree from Belmont College.
Interned during senior year of college at MTM Records; background vocalist and demo singer; recorded duet demo with Garth Brooks, 1989; opened for Brooks, 1991; signed with MCA Records and released debut album, Trisha Yearwood, 1991. Appeared in film The Thing Called Loue, Paramount, 1993.
Awards: Platinum records for Trisha Yearwood, 1991, and Hearts in Armor, 1993; named best new artist by Academy of Country Music and American Music Awards.
her talent and desire with a no-nonsense understanding of her responsibility for her career.
Yearwood began that career by singing on the demo recordings of aspiring songwriters. She described the experience to Country Music’s Bane as “exercise for the voice,” perfect training. “It’s a great learning ground. I learned what kinds of songs I wanted to do, and I met a lot of songwriters. . . . You get used to being quick. You get used to going in, doing your part, creating a harmony you can snap on real quick.” And, in fact, on Trisha Yearwood, her debut album, “several of the vocals we used were the ones we first laid down!”
By the time she sang harmony for Garth Brooks, who would soon become a superstar, she had already formulated the philosophy that virtually guaranteed her success. “I didn’t expect to walk into Nashville and be ’discovered’ on some street corner somewhere. I felt like music was a business like anything else, and there could be a plan,” she told Bane.
But her friendship and work with Brooks was indeed helpful. In 1989, Kate Meyers of Entertainment Weekly reported, Yearwood “recorded a duet with an unknown crooner named Garth Brooks in the attic studio of songwriter Kent Blazy’s house. The harmony was instant, and Brooks promised that if he ever made it big, he’d take her with him. Two years later, Yearwood’s phone rang, and it was the world’s hottest hat act on the line, inviting her to open his tour.” Despite this good fortune, Yearwood continued to make carefully calculated career choices. For instance, though some in Nashville suggested that Yearwood had committed “careericide” when she severed her ties with the management firm of Doyle-Lewis, which was managing Brooks, Yearwood knew she needed someone who could focus more fully on her career. She contracted with Ken Kragen, legendary manager of Kenny Rogers, a move that considerably boosted her profile in the industry. In 1991 she signed a recording contract with MCA Records and released her self-titled debut album had; buoyed by the Number One single “She’s in Love With the Boy” and the singer’s work on the road with Brooks, Trisha Yearwood was an unqualified success.
With her second album, Hearts in Armor, both Yearwood and her producers began to focus on her image. She was—to the eye at least—actively made over, no longer “the countrified ingenue, curly-haired and denim shirted,” as depicted by Kate Meyers in Entertainment Weekly, but now a “Cinderella-with-a-business-plan,” who performs “in a long black velvet dress, her straight hair positioned perfectly, her skin flawless.”
But fans did not need to fear that Yearwood’s physical metamorphosis—she also overhauled her diet, lost weight, and trimmed inches—had changed the woman. To the contrary, it was only reasonable that this woman who majored in music business at Belmont College and prepared for her career with an internship at MTM Records would be similarly attentive to her image. In fact, Yearwood has likened her position to that of “a business executive”; when she agreed to be the spokesperson for Revlon’s Wild Heart cologne, she told Entertainment Weekly’s Meyers, she did so in order “to expand my audience to the millions of women who buy Revlon and watch TV but still don’t know what country music’s about.” And firmly grasping her unique marketing potential, she told Revlon, “If you’re looking for a model, you’ve already got Cindy Crawford. But if you’re looking for a real person, I could be that person.”
For his part, Rolling Stone’s David McGee is untroubled by Yearwood’s evolving image. “The country girl is now a dazzling beauty,” he wrote, but he was also “happy to report [that] this make-over in pursuit of mass appeal applies only to Trisha Yearwood’s appearance; not only has her music retained its edge, but it has grown.” Hearts in Armor, McGee asserted, “goes deeper into the acoustic-based country and folk styles” than her debut album had. “On a disc that offers much to admire—Garth Fundis’s sparkling production, sensitive instrumental support, first-rate songs,” he added, “Yearwood’s singing is the most compelling element. She has added both sass and depth to her seductive tone. Hearts is hard country, starkly rendered and personal to an often startling degree.”
More praise for Hearts in Armor came from News-week’s Leland, who called Yearwood “hearty and lustrous, muscular in her phrasing” and opined, “She gives the most powerful performance Nashville has seen from a woman in years.” In Entertainment Weekly, Alanna Nash classified Yearwood as one of those country “soul singers . . . performers who strip the protective hide off the heart to expose the devastation of loss, the humiliation of romantic deception, the anguish of being unable to love, and the yearning for spiritual fulfillment.”
Critics have often been quick to laud individual Yearwood songs, not only “She’s in Love With the Boy,” but also, particularly, her achievements on Hearts in Armor. Country Music contributor Rich Kienzle cited “the grittiness of... ’Wrong Side of Memphis,’ accentuated by a smoky, foreboding Yearwood vocal,. . . [the] smoldering ’You Say You Will,’. . . [the] darker, if more sensitive, exploration [of] ’Walkaway Joe,’ . .. [and] her zesty versions of ’Oh Lonesome You’ and the late Keith Whitley’s gospel tune ’You Don’t Have to Move That Mountain,’ [which reveals] her throaty strength on uptempo tunes.” Rolling Stone’s Mark Coleman especially liked the duets on Hearts, noting how Yearwood “stands up to each” of her big-name partners. “She emotes note for note with Garth Brooks on ’Nearest Distant Shore,’” he testified, “croons longingly beside Don Henley on ’Walkaway Joe,’ and soars with Emmylou Harris on ’Woman Walk the Line.’”
1993 found Yearwood hotter than ever. Both of her albums had sold more than one million units; a home video was planned for release by MCA to overseas markets; she had appeared in director Peter Bogdanovich’s film The Thing Called Love\ and a one-hour special for Disney to coincide with the release of her third album was in the works. Among her other accomplishments was a duet with Dolly Parton on the latter’s Slow Dancing with the Moon. And a book, Get Hot or Go Home: Making It in Nashville, “a case study of her lightning rise,” according to Entertainment Weekly’s Meyers, was planned for publication in the fall of 1993.
Despite this breakneck pace, it is hardly a surprise that Yearwood has yet to become jaded; she told Country Music’s Bane, “You get up every single morning and do something new. You get to meet people you’ve dreamed of meeting your entire life, and you even get to sing with some of them... . You get to be Cinderella every day.” Few would doubt the continued success of a woman who announced to Newsweek, “I don’t want to be trying to make a hit record in 20 years. I want to have made good investments.”
Trisha Yearwood, MCA, 1991.
Hearts in Armor, MCA, 1992.
“(You’re the) Devil in Disguise,” Honeymoon in Vegas (soundtrack), Epic, 1992.
The Song Remembers When, MCA, 1993.
Billboard, July 31, 1993.
Country Music, July/August 1992; November/December 1992.
Entertainment Weekly, September 18, 1992; April 16, 1993.
Journal of Country Music, Vol. 15, No. 1.
Newsweek, September 21, 1992.
People, October 5, 1992; November 2, 1992; November 16, 1992; December 7, 1992.
Pulse!, March 1993.
Rolling Stone, October 1, 1992; December 10, 1992.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from MCA Records press materials, 1992.
Country singer Trisha Yearwood had long harbored a desire to be a professional singer, but she kept it in check long enough to please her parents. “Even before I sang in front of anybody, I knew I wanted to do this,” Yearwood expressed to Kate Meyers in Entertainment Weekly. “But I’m from a pretty conservative family and, you know, to say, ‘Oh, I’d like to be a country-music star in Nashville’ was kind of crazy.” So she headed for Nashville, ostensibly to attend college, but in reality to get to the center of country music. “I never had a backup plan,” Yearwood commented to Gaye Delaplane of the Gannett News Service. “I always knew I’d go to Nashville and give it a shot. But I didn’t tell anybody that.” Now, she has the best of both worlds—Yearwood is known in the music world as not only one of the top female stars with a bevy of awards to her name, but also as a business-degree holder who makes all of her own career decisions.
Yearwood’s powerful vocal style is sometimes compared to Linda Ronstadt, but she also incorporates pop, folk, and rock nuances into her repertoire. Though she started off her career wearing the typical country outfits and belting straightforward Nashville tunes, she adopted a sleeker, more business-like look and updated musical style in order to broaden the appeal of her genre. Yearwood’s professional image is also useful in her off-stage career running her own corporation, Trisha Yearwood, Inc. “The bottom line with me,” as she noted to Suzanna Andrews in Working Woman, “is that I want to see everything: every contract that goes through, anything to do with my career, my financial statements, personal and company.” She is obviously doing well for herself, because the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association both declared her the top female vocalist of 1997 and 1998, and her albums have sold millions.
Patricia Lynn Yearwood was born on September 19, 1964, to Jack (a banker until his retirement) and Gwen Yearwood, who is retired from teaching the third grade. She grew up on a farm in the small town of Monticello, Georgia, about an hour south of Atlanta. As ayoungster, she liked listening to classic country artists like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Kitty Wells. Yearwood and her older sister, Beth, were all-A students in junior high and high school, and Yearwood figured that her talent for numbers suited her for a career in accounting. However, she was growing more passionate about music as she listened to Southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers and the Eagles as well as singers such as Elvis Presley, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, and her favorite, Linda Ronstadt. “She had a power and an emotion in her voice that made you believe every word she sang,” Yearwood recounted to Robert Hilburn of the
Born Patricia Lynn Yearwood, September 19, 1964, in Monticello, GA; daughter of Jack (a banker) and Gwen (a teacher) Yearwood; married Chris Latham (a musician and songwriter), 1987 (divorced, 1991); married Robert Reynolds (a musician), May 21, 1994. Education: Junior college, associate’s degree in business; attended University of Georgia; Belmont University, Nashville, TN, B.B.A., 1987.
Worked as an MTM Records, Nashville, TN, receptionist, 1987; demo singer and background vocalist, late 1980s; signed with MCA Records, 1990; released debut album, Trisha Yearwood, 1991. Head of Trisha Yearwood, Inc.; celebrity product sponsor for Wild Heart fragrance and Discover card. Film appearances include The Thing Called Love, Paramount, 1993.
Awards: Academy of Country Music, top new female vocalist, 1991, top female vocalist, 1997, 1998; American Music Awards, best new country artist, 1992; Country Music Association female vocalist of the year, 1997, 1998; Grammy Award for best country collaboration (with Aaron Neville), for “I Fall to Pieces,” 1994, for best country collaboration (with Garth Brooks), for “In Another’s Eyes,” 1998, and for best female vocal performance, for “How Do I Live,” 1998.
Addresses: Home —Hendersonville, TN. Office —c/o MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608-1011. TN. Agent —William Morris Agency, 151S. El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2775.
Los Angeles Times. “My favorite song was probably ‘Love Has No Pride,’ but I listened to everything over and over. I knew the albums so well I knew which song it was from the first note.”
Yearwood was named outstanding senior girl of the class of 1982 at Piedmont Academy. Though she started performing in church events, school musicals, and talent shows while in school, she pursued a two-year business degree at a junior college after graduation rather than go immediately into show business. However, after one semester at the University of Georgia, she knew she was unhappy with the large campus and yearned to be closer to the heart of countrymusic. In 1986, Yearwood transferred to Nashville’s Belmont University, one of the few colleges to offer a major in music business. After promising her parents she would finish college if they sent her to Nashville, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1987, which later was invaluable in helping her to run her own career. While in college, Yearwood interned at MTM Records, the now-defunct studio started by Mary Tyler Moore, and after graduation, became a receptionist there. Aspiring to make her mark, she recorded a demo tape and used it to land jobs working as a backup singer for other hopefuls putting together demo tapes.
Yearwood’s reputation spread by word-of-mouth, and she was soon making a living in the studio as a backup singer, as well as performing in a local club. She even worked on a demo in 1989 with up-and-comer Garth Brooks, and their friendship came in handy later when he shot to stardom. Brooks told her he would like to help her out if he succeeded in the music industry, and he introduced her to his producer, Allen Reynolds, who then took Yearwood to producer Garth Fundis. The two began working together, and Fundis helped Yearwood create a slick demo tape. In 1990, Yearwood sang backup on Brooks’s No Fences album and performed live at a “label showcase,” a short concert to show off her skills in front of record labels. She caught the attention of Nashville producer Tony Brown, who signed her to MCA Nashville. Yearwood then appeared as the opening act for Brooks’s 1991 tour. “I had done some singing with a few bands, but I never had to carry the show or talk to the audience,” Yearwood remarked to Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times. “So, I was terrified talking to an audience.”
However, the tour stirred up a fan base for her debut album, Trisha Yearwood, released on MCA in 1991, shortly before the tour began. The song “She’s in Love with the Boy” immediately hit number one on the country charts, the first country female vocal single ever to debut in the top spot. Later, “The Woman Before Me” went to number one as well, and the album hit number two on the country charts. The release had added appeal because Brooks had contributed to two of the tracks. Two million copies were sold, and in 1991 Yearwood was named top new female vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. The next year, she was chosen as best new country artist by the American Music Awards. Though she seemed right on track for future success at that point, Yearwood was unhappy with her management firm of Doyle-Lewis, who was also handling Brooks. She wanted someone to provide more attention to her, so she hired Ken Kragen of Los Angeles, who also managed Kenny Rogers and Travis Tritt. Though many around Nashville muttered that she was ungrateful and overly ambitious, Yearwood’s move led to a much higher profile in the industry. She went on to become the spokesperson for the Wild Heart fragrance for Revlon and made millions doing appearances for the Discover credit card. Talk show hosts like Jay Leno and David Letterman invited her on their shows, and a full-length biography, Get Hot or Go Home, came out about her life. Later, she acted in the Peter Bogdanovich film The Thing Called Love in 1993, which also showcased her singing talent.
In 1992 Yearwood released Hearts in Armor and began working on her image. She shed the down-home look of curly hair, denim shirts, and jeans in lieu of straight hair and designer clothes by Norma Kamali, DKNY, and Anne Klein. “I didn’t want the sequins and big hair,” Yearwood related to Kate Meyers in Entertainment Weekly. “I wanted a classy image because I feel that the music is classy.” She added, “If you saw me on the street you wouldn’t say, ‘I bet she’s a country singer.’ You might think I was a business executive.” Hearts of Armor reflected a slight shift inher musical style as well, displaying a more mature sound. Her next album, The Song Remembers When, released in 1993, was another hit, boasting an array of tunes tinged with styles from folk (“Hard Promises to Keep”) to rock (“If I Ain’t Got You”) to pop (“Lying to the Moon”). She then released an album of Christmas music, The Sweetest Gift, in 1994. After that, 1995’s Thinkin’ About You brought her two number one hits in one year, which is somewhat unusual for a female country artist, and the subsequent Everybody Knows, out in 1996, also yielded a number one hit with “Believe Me, Baby (I Lied).”
To wrap up the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Yearwood sang “The Flame” live to a broadcast of roughly 3.5 billion people after recording it for the One Voice Olympic album. She remarked to Chet Flippo in Billboard, “I’m not easily moved by things, but that was pretty amazing.... What was so overwhelming was the feeling that this is the only time that the whole world comes together, and you really feel it there.” Also that year, she shed 30 pounds off of her five-foot, eight-inch frame, reportedly to get fit after finding out that herfather was diagnosed with diabetes. Yearwood believes the fact that she is not perfect endears her to fans. “I think I’m kind of a real role model,” she explained to Jennifer Mendelsohn in USA Weekend, “rather than something impossible.” Her down-to-earth attitude is also appealing, as Mendelsohn noted: “Unassumingly pretty and soft-spoken, she’s more like someone you’d chat with over produce at a suburban supermarket than a global superstar.”
In spite of having a rash of popular successes, Yearwood was experiencing a dry spell in the arena of honors. She had won a Grammy Award with Aaron Neville in 1994 for best country collaboration for a remake of the Patsy Cline song “I Fall to Pieces,” but was not even nominated for a Country Music Association award in 1995. Yearwood hit her stride in 1997 and 1998 with a string of hits and awards. In 1997, she released Songbook: A Collection of Hits, containing seven songs that previously reached number one, as well as three new tracks. One of the previously unreleased tunes was “How Do I Live,” which was used on the soundtrack for the film Con Air. Fellow country star Lee Ann Rimes released a version of the same tune around the same time, fueling a small rivalry, and some radio stations even mixed the two together to create a “duet” effect. Yearwood won a Grammy in 1998 for best female vocal performance for her interpretation of “How Do I Live,” as well as another Grammy that year with Garth Brooks for best country collaboration, for “In Another’s Eyes.”
In addition, Yearwood was also named top female vocalist in 1997 and 1998 by the Academy of Country Music and won the female vocalist of the year award from the Country Music Association both years as well. She also sang with Luciano Pavarotti in the summer of 1998 at his benefit for Liberian children. Though Yearwood has not written any of her own material, she is precise about choosing songs. “I always select music based on emotion, how it makes me feel, even before I made records,” Yearwood told Rex Rutkoski of the Gannett News Service. She added, “My producer, Garth Fundis, and I have to catch ourselves if we begin to think about recording a song we don’t believe in just because we think it might be a hit. We have to ask ourselves: ‘Why should we consider it if not for the right reasons?’” The singer has indicated that she does pen tunes, but just has not recorded any of them yet. Her time is curbed severely by her frenetic touring schedule, and she also finds it important to balance her time with her family members and husband.
Yearwood was married in about 1987 to Chris Latham; they divorced in 1991 amid rumors that Yearwood was involved with Brooks (she vehemently denied the claims). She was married on May 21, 1994, to Robert “Bobby” Reynolds, a bass player for the group The Mavericks. They live in a log-and-rock house on an 18-acre wooded lot in Hendersonville, Tennessee, north of Nashville, an area that is so remote they need a four-wheel drive truck to get there. Though their careers call them on the road about 200 days each year, they find ways to stay close by talking on the phone and visiting each other during their tours. When home, they enjoy grocery shopping together, reading biographies, and sipping coffee on the porch of their expansive 4,500-square-foot home. Year-wood encourages people to follow their dreams and not fall prey to letting opportunities slip by. “I came from a very small town, I didn’t know anybody in Nashville or the business” she explained to Rutkoski. “I had no connections.... People ask me when I decided to be a singer. I tell them I didn’t. I really feel like music chose me.”
Trish a Yearwood, 1991.
Hearts in Armor, 1992.
The Song Remembers When, 1993.
The Sweetest Gift, 1994.
Thinkin’ About You, 1995.
Everybody Knows, 1996.
Songbook: A Collection of Hits, 1997.
Contemporary Musicians, volume 10, Gale Research, 1994.
Billboard, July 27, 1991, p. 30; August 17, 1996, p. 25; June 13, 1998, p. 1.
Country Music, January/February 1996, p. 30.
Entertainment Weekly, April 16, 1993, p. 24; August 8, 1997, p. 78.
Gannett News Service, October 28, 1994; July 14, 1995;December 6, 1996.
Los Angeles Times, February 8, 1992, p. F4; October 25, 1992, Calendar, p. 8; February 10, 1998, p. F6.
People, November 16, 1992, p. 105; November 15, 1993, p. 23; October 7, 1996, p. 61.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), October 6, 1998, p. 1E.
TV Guide, September 19, 1998, p. 28.
USA Weekend, September 20, 1998, p. 8.
Working Woman, August 1995, p. 37.
“CMA Awards and Nominations—Trisha Yearwood,” Country Music Association web site, http://www.countrymusic.org (November 5, 1998).
Born: Monticello, Georgia, 19 September 1964
Genre: Country, Pop
Best-selling album since 1990: Inside Out (2001)
Hit songs since 1990: "She's in Love with the Boy," "Walkaway Joe," "Xxx's and Ooo's (An American Girl)"
Boasting a pure, effortless voice that adapts well to any type of material, Trisha Yearwood was one of the leading female performers in 1990s country. Like fellow country star Reba McEntire, Yearwood chooses songs that portray a diverse cast of female characters, from the rebellious daughter of "She's in Love with the Boy" and "Walkaway Joe" to the sad ex-lover of "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart." Regardless of style, Yearwood unfailingly projects honesty, sincerity, and directness. Her unabated presence on the 1990s country charts was due to the quality and consistency of her albums, comprised of songs by top Nashville songwriters such as Matraca Berg. While lacking the soul-baring grit of country legends such as Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, Yearwood makes up for it with her flawless intonation, wide vocal range, and versatility. As the 1990s progressed Yearwood's records gradually became more pop-oriented without losing their charm and personality.
The daughter of a successful banker, Yearwood grew up on a large farm in Georgia. As a child she admired the music of rock pioneer Elvis Presley, as well as 1970s pop vocalist Linda Ronstadt. Attending Nashville's Belmont University in the mid-1980s, Yearwood studied music administration and performed an internship with the small MTM record label. Settling in Nashville full time in 1987, she worked as a background and demo singer, making friends with emerging country artists such as Garth Brooks, who encouraged her to pursue a professional career. Making good on his promise to help Yearwood in any way he could, Brooks used her as a background vocalist on his self-titled debut album in 1989.
Early 1990s Success
In 1990 producer Garth Fundis spotted Yearwood singing at a local bar and helped her sign with country music giant MCA. Yearwood hit commercial pay dirt with her first single, the exuberant "She's in Love with the Boy." One of the most infectious country hits of the early 1990s, the song established Yearwood's confident recording persona, mindful of country tradition yet unafraid to experiment with the bright accessibility of pop. A light-hearted tale of two young lovers facing parental opposition, "She's in Love with the Boy" bounces along on a sturdy rhythmic bed, its danceable groove punctuated by the catchy lyrics: "Her daddy says, he ain't worth a lick / When it comes to brains he got the short end of the stick." The song is a centerpiece of Yearwood's self-titled debut album, which ranges from wistful ballads such as "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" to the up-tempo rocker, "That's What I Like about You."
Proving her dramatic range, Yearwood shifted focus on her next big hit, "Walkaway Joe" (1992). Again, the song features a young female protagonist who spurns parental advice to run off with her lover. This time, however, the parents are right: "Just a little while into Abilene / He pulls into a station and he robs it clean / She's waiting in the car / Underneath the Texaco star." In contrast to the cheery "She's in Love," "Walkaway Joe" bears an unadorned sadness that suggests the influence of folk music. Proving her skills as a sensitive, intelligent interpreter, Yearwood conveys a wide-eyed openness that mirrors her character's naïveté. The girlish innocence inherent in her performance makes it easy to sympathize with the young woman's plight. In addition to "Walkaway Joe," Yearwood's second album, Hearts in Armor, features the tough, bluesy "Wrong Side of Memphis," as well as the guitar-driven "You Say You Will." While Yearwood often holds her voice in check on ballads, with the uptempo "You Say You Will" she reveals substantial power, belting the lyrics using the top part of her range. Singing the final, "but you never do," she plays with the words, bending them in a manner that recalls down-home country and blues vocalizing of the 1950s.
As country music became slicker in the mid 1990s, aligning with the smooth, clean sound of pop, Yearwood updated her approach, singing with a directness that bore few traces of country twang. Regardless of approach, Yearwood's albums displayed consistently fine songs, such as "Xxx's and Ooo's (An American Girl)," a highlight of Thinkin' about You (1995). An example of the new female independence that characterized country music in the 1990s, "Xxx's and Ooo's" is a catchy, tuneful account of a girl on the verge of womanhood, unconcerned with traditional pressures of femininity: "She's gonna make it in her daddy's world." On the Matraca Berg–penned "Everybody Knows," from the 1996 album of the same name, Yearwood reveals a playful sense of humor, singing, "I don't want a shrink / Don't even want a drink / Give me some chocolate and a magazine."
By 2000 Yearwood was continuing to record strong, personable songs such as "Real Live Woman," from her 2000 album of the same title. Despite her success and fame, Yearwood possesses the sensitivity to make lines such as "I work nine to five, and I can't relate to millionaire" believable. In 2001 she released Inside Out, a typically confident, diverse effort. "I Would've Loved You Anyway," driven by a strong, rock-styled electric guitar, finds Yearwood singing with undiminished assurance, while "When We Were Still in Love" ranks as one of her most impassioned performances. Singing against a sparse background of piano and strings, Yearwood captures a sense of loss and regret, imbuing the final line, "love is gone," with quiet sadness.
With her flexible, precise voice and talent for intelligent song selection, Yearwood remained a consistently strong presence in country music during the 1990s and early 2000s, staying afloat by adapting to country's increasing reliance on the breeziness of pop music. A skilled actress, Yearwood creates vivid portrayals of a host of female characters, bringing to her songs a dramatic sense of truthfulness.
Trisha Yearwood (MCA, 1991); Hearts in Armor (MCA, 1992); Everybody Knows (MCA, 1996); Real Live Woman (MCA, 2000); Inside Out (MCA, 2001).