Trisha Yearwood: Divorce, Tabloid Rumors and Country Music (2000)
Trisha Yearwood’s triumph over tough times drives her new music.
Originally published in the May 16, 2000, issue of Country Weekly featuring Trisha on the cover. This cover story is presented here in its entirety.
“I’m just laying my life out there,” says Trisha Yearwood. “It’s kind of like walking naked through the streets.“
Trisha is talking about her own personal evolution. In the past year, she has braved a headline-making divorce from The Mavericks’ Robert Reynolds, weathered a squall of tabloid rumors, helped her mom through a bout with cancer, celebrated her sister’s new baby and bucked some of Nashville’s conventional wisdom to craft a powerful, traditional country album.
“It’s been a real emotional year,” Trisha confides, staring pensively out a window. “But it’s been a journey. It’s like I’m finally saying, at 35, it’s time to take responsibility for myself, change the things that aren’t working and get on with it.“
For Trisha, that meant releasing her most personal album ever. The songs on her new Real Live Woman album mirror her life’s ups and downs.
“Real Live Woman is the most honest record I’ve ever made,” she explains. “In the past, I’ve hidden behind my music. I may have been going through some real-life happening, but I wouldn’t admit my songs dealt with it. Now I can admit the songs on this album capture parts of the roller coaster emotional ride called my life.“
She pauses, then continues. “But I didn’t make this record so someone will go ’She’s had such a hard year. I feel so sorry for her. Poor Trisha.’ Though people will read more into the lyrics than is really there, you definitely choose songs by how you feel at the time.“
Sitting in a Nashville office this spring afternoon, she’s chic in a sleek black turtleneck and black jeans. She candidly reveals self-doubts following her divorce, being “uncomfortably” single and a blossoming desire to have children.
With awards and platinum albums galore, she’s secure in her career abilities. She also seems equally comfortable inside the skin of a woman at peace with her personal life.
“Real Live Woman is part of the freedom I’m feeling of saying it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to say what you think—even if everyone doesn’t agree with you,” she declares.
To be that open, Trisha acknowledges she’s had to overcome the genteel Southern belle nature of her Georgia upbringing.“One of the album’s songs, ’I’m Still Alive,’ says I’m the kind of girl who never fails to hang on to the past by my fingernails. That line sums me up perfectly.
“I’m a good Southern girl who grew up wanting to please everybody. I didn’t want to say or do anything to make people uncomfortable. That makes any kind of change a horrible, gut-wrenching experience for me—even if it’s the best thing.“
One gut-wrenching change in her life was dealing with the break-up of her marriage to Robert.
“Since I do hang on to the past with my fingernails, divorce was difficult,” she admits. “It’s a serious decision involving someone you’re tied to emotionally, so it’s hard to move on. And it’s easy to drag things out so you don’t have to face people talking about you.“
She leans back into the sofa. “Then, after the marriage is over, you question yourself. You wonder if something’s wrong with you—which is pretty much where I’ve been. But I know I’m a good person.“
As she sips coffee, Trisha says she’s now in a better place emotionally.
“Even though I have no clue what my future holds on a personal level, I’m feeling good about things.“
The single life, she says, is another matter—entirely.
“I’ve always been dating or married, so I’ve never been single and alone. I’m learning how to do it,” she says with a smile. “Being single is not liberating. I’m not like, ’Oh, boy, I’m single!’ It’s just not comfortable at this point. It’s way too fresh.
“Right now I’m definitely not looking for someone to fill part of my life. I’m taking care of me, and then maybe I’ll be a good partner for someone.“
Part of that care taking involves immersing herself in her April headlining tour.
“I feel like I’m about to be so gone on this tour that I don’t have any business having a personal life anyway,” confesses the three-time Grammy winner. “So I might as well just get through this tour and see what 2001 brings.“
One obvious hope is the unfolding year will bring an end to the tabloid rumors that linked her romantically to Garth Brooks. True, she’s performed award-winning duets and toured with the superstar, and she admits they’re close friends, but Trisha feels the tabloid speculations don’t even merit an answer.
“There are parts of my life I want to keep private,” she says, simply and directly, “and I know my fans will understand.“
Is the twice-divorced singer burned out on marriage? Not at all. She says she can certainly see the possibility of another wedding in her future. And she’s got a good idea how she wants that future partnership to be: just like the relationship in her hot new single.
“I recorded ’Real Live Woman’ because I loved that the woman in the song is strong, independent and to a point where she doesn’t mind speaking her opinion. The song doesn’t say ’I’m strong, independent and I don’t need anybody.’ It’s says ’I’m confident, sexy and wonderful—and here’s the man who loves me the way I am.’ That’s the woman I’m aspiring to be.
“There’s a line in the song that says, And I thank God I finally know just who I am. The line would fit the real life me better if it said, ’And I thank God I’m finally figuring out who I am.’
“The other thing that drew me to ’Real Live Woman’ is its statement about physical perfection. I think I’m going to be the poster child for accepting yourself the way you are, even though I struggle with that every day.
“We’re at such a crisis with young people, especially young girls. They see some sexy model in a magazine and think they’ve got to look like that.“
Trisha says you know things are out of control when those who are already thin claim they aren’t thin enough. “We’ve seen that in country music. You can go back to CMT’s Signature Series and see videos of really skinny chick singers who’ve now decided they’re going to be even skinnier.
“It scares me for young girls, like my niece, who’s eight. I don’t want her to ever think she’s not wonderful, no matter what she weighs. Having a distorted self image is an issue that’s dear to my heart.“
Speaking of kids, Trisha reveals having children is also dear to her heart.
“I’d love to have children,” she says, smiling. “My mother had two children by the time she was 35. My sister is 38 and she’s got three children. I now realize I’m going to have to decide my career is not my child, if“—her blue-green eyes crinkle as she laughs—“I want to have a real child.“
“This is the first time in my life I’ve ever thought about having a baby. I’ve never believed I won’t be complete without children. I’ve only cared about my music. That sounds selfish, but I didn’t have children until now because I knew my priority.
“And, even now, I’m not completely ready for children. But I want a life beyond my music and I don’t have that now. Maybe some day.“
Aptly, Trisha has adopted “Some Days,” a song on the album, as an anthem. “That song fits me. When I first heard it, I thought, ’This is me, because it says there’s dark clouds now—but there’s hope.’
The ghosts that haunt me / They get me when they want me / Some days are better than others.
I have these moments of weakness / But I’ve had a lifetime of strength / And I know I will defeat this.
“It’s like good, strong, independent people can go through difficult moments and come out okay,” she declares. “I’m a strong person. I know I am. Whatever dark clouds come along, I’m going to make it through to the other side.“
She did just that last year.
“I took ’99 off and I’m glad I did,” she says confidently. “When you’re on the road you can’t really make big decisions. You’re so busy you can’t focus on anything except what you’re doing—your music. I wouldn’t be successful and satisfied with my career if I hadn’t been that driven. But it has cost me personally.“
Trisha pauses, eyeing sunlight flooding across the floor.
“In addition to the divorce, I had good and bad family things happen. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. I got to be there with her and so I’m thankful. She’s now been pronounced cancer-free. And I was able to be by my sister’s side when her baby was born in November.“
Taking the year off also let her focus on Real Live Woman, which she co-produced.
“The obvious choice would have been to go more pop,’ ” she admits, “because a lot of industry folks are saying that’s the way country is going. And because the pop-oriented ’How Do I Live’ was the most successful song I’ve ever had. But I was ready to do something different.
“I listened to influential albums—Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Tammy Wynette. I thought, ’Why don’t I find those type of songs and make today the kind of record I truly like?’ So that’s exactly what I did.
“I’m so proud of this record, and I put so much into it. The music is the best representation of who I am as an artist. And anyone who hears it will know more about me.“
Spoken confidently, independently—and like a real live woman.
Trisha Timeline 2000-05-16
|Sept. 19, 1964||Patricia Lynn Yearwood comes into the world in the small town of Monticello, Ga., joining her sister Beth, her banker dad and third-grade teacher mom.|
|1974||Trisha lands coveted role of Dorothy in her 5th grade production of The Wizard Of Oz.|
|1977||To pass the time while she’s laid up with a broken ankle, Trisha’s father gives her an old guitar—and she immediately plunks away.|
|1982||Trisha graduates as valedictorian from Piedmont Academy, a private high school in Monticello, where she excelled in softball and basketball|
|1985||Trisha and her loaded pickup arrive in Nashville, where she enrolls at Belmont University, then works as a record label receptionist and becomes a demo singer.|
|1987||Trisha graduates from Belmont with a degree in business administration. During college, she marries Chris Latham.|
|1991||Trisha’s debut single, “She’s In Love With The Boy,” soars to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It’s the first time a female artist’s debut single accomplished that feat since Connie Smith’s “Once A Day” in 1964.|
|1991||Trisha wins her first award, the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist.|
|1992||Trisha and Chris Latham divorce.|
|1994||Trisha marries The Mavericks’ bassist Robert Reynolds on the stage of Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.|
|1994||Trisha wins her first Grammy (she’d eventually earn three) for “I Fall To Pieces,” a duet with Aaron Neville.|
|1996||Trisha sings“The Flame” at the globally televised closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.|
|November 1996||Trisha saves the life of a baggage handler trapped in the belly of an airliner when she demands the captain stop the plane after she hears the man pounding and screaming.|
|1997-1998||Trisha captures the country music triple crown —- the Grammy, CMA and ACM awards for Female Vocalist of the Year —- and sings “How Do I Live” (from the soundtrack of Con Air) on the 1998 Academy Awards.|
|1998||Trisha’s acting career kicks into high gear with the first of several appearances as a forensic pathologist on CBS’s popular JAG drama series.|
|March 1999||Trisha becomes the 71st member of the Grand Ole Opry.|
|April 1999||Trisha hangs with The Muppets on Sesame Street.|
|October 1999||Trisha and Robert Reynolds file for divorce.|
|March 2000||Trisha releases her ninth album, Real Live Woman.|