Martina McBride: a ‘Happy Girl’ at home

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Country music star Martina McBride and her husband, John, married in 1988 and within two years moved to Nashville. After making a demo, the McBrides sent it to RCA in a purple envelope to gain attention … and it worked. Martina got an audition that resulted in a recording contract.

Born Martina Schiff, she was raised making music on a farm in tiny Sharon, Kan. Her father formed a band that rehearsed in the family’s house. When Martina was just 7, she and her brother, Marty, joined their father’s band. They played weddings, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, American Legion posts and other local venues at which Martina played the keyboard and sang.

Now, she’s a steady presence on country music’s top 10 while being named the Country Music Association’s female vocalist of the year four times.

Her life is hectic, but the singer with the passionate voice also loves to cook, read cookbooks and just spend time at home whenever she can. When possible, the singer and family also take to the road when career calls. Martina even took her three children, ranging in age from 2 to 10, to Los Angeles last year when she mentored “American Idol” contestants.

Here, she talks to about her life and career.

Bankrate: I read where you said that regarding your music, it’s so much focus on thinking and making decisions about little things. How do you switch that music focus to a more practical everyday life focus?

Martina McBride: I’ve never really thought about that. I deal with one thing at a time and what needs to be done. But like every other working mom, you deal with work when at work and then, when you come home, you deal with whatever you need to do at home.

Bankrate: With a busy career and family, what multitasking do you find yourself doing?

Martina McBride: I’m checking e-mails when I’m eating breakfast. I’m listening to songs for an album while I’m driving and try to pick up time, so not a minute is wasted. But multitasking has become such a way of life for me that I don’t even realize I’m doing it anymore. I just try to never leave a room empty-handed because there are always things that need to be taken to another room and put away.

Bankrate: What is your multitasking specialty?

Martina McBride: Eating lunch and doing an interview (laughs).

Bankrate: Are you as “real” when it comes to finances?

Martina McBride: I think so. There are a lot of everyday things that I do that by now don’t seem like they’re money-saving, but I guess they are. I try to start my Christmas shopping early, so I’m not buying presents at the last minute and spending more on them. I try to buy when I see a sale. I make a lot of lists and try to buy things as I see them throughout the year instead of waiting for the very last minute. But I almost always end up … rushing around like everybody else, but I try to get as much as I can done earlier in the year. And then, I like to wait to wrap them because I don’t want to wrap presents in July. I also make lists when I go to the grocery store or to entertain, so I’m not getting things I don’t need.

Bankrate: What kind of entertaining?

Martina McBride: I definitely plan what I’m going to serve. Spontaneous things are fun too, but definitely, it’s more relaxing if you plan ahead. Cocktail parties are a lot of fun because they’re a little bit shorter, and (there’s) not so much cooking involved and (they’re) less formal. I’ve got some good recipes like party sandwiches; a big pot of chicken gumbo where people can just help and serve themselves; dips like hummus that I might serve with cut-up pita bread; or chutney that you pour over cream cheese and things like that, nothing extravagant but really simple foods.

Bankrate: You enjoy cooking?

Martina McBride: Yes, I do. In the mornings, I have my coffee and read cookbooks. I do that at the beginning of the week — deciding what I want to cook for the week, making out the menus then making out the grocery list. I have one cookbook that I’ve used which is dog-eared and worn out. It’s the Junior League Cookbook from Wichita, Kan., that my mother-in-law got for me the first couple of years I was married.

Bankrate: Your home in Nashville is decorated beautifully yet there are some very “earthy” looks to it as well.

Martina McBride: I’d say our dining room is warm but dressy. Our master bedroom has a portrait of an angel that I found at an antiques show in Nashville. There are paisley velvet window treatments in the sitting room. They’re not so expensive when you call them curtains. But when you call them window treatments, somehow, they get more expensive (laughs).

Bankrate: I heard you moved from a small three-bedroom place to this sprawling home. How did you do that financially?

Martina McBride: When I first walked in the door of this house, it just felt really warm, like the house reached out and gave me a big hug. I said to John, “How can we make this happen?” And he said we would have to work a lot more shows, get a big loan from the bank and get a big advance from the record company. So I said, “Basically, we need to work really hard and go way into debt.” And he said yeah. And I said, “OK, let’s do that. That sounds like a good idea.” I wasn’t afraid of hard work … never have been. When we first moved in, we only had enough furniture to fill about a third of the house. And a lot of the rooms were empty for a very long time.

Bankrate: Apart from family, what’s the most important thing you’ve accomplished?

Martina McBride: I guess just building a successful career one step at a time. It took a long time for me to be taken seriously as a singer, artist and producer. There were some really hard times. But I’m glad I had to prove myself because it makes it that much sweeter.