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Speaking With.... Martina McBride 12.21.12

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◆ 8 p.m. Dec. 21

◆ Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State

◆ Tickets, $39.50-$110

◆ (800) 745-3000;

Martina McBride will soon embark on one of the most anticipated tours of 2013 — George Strait’s purported farewell tour set to kick off on Jan. 18 in Lubbock, Texas. And while she’s “excited and honored” to be part of that extravaganza, the 46-year-old Grammy winner is too busy with the holiday season — and her own Christmas tour, which brings her to Chicago on Dec. 21.

McBride talked to the Sun-Times about her love of all-things Christmas and one very special guest “voice” on her Joy of Christmas Tour.

Question: Why did you decide to do another Christmas tour?

Martina McBride: I just loved it so much and missed doing it. So this year I said why don’t we do a Christmas tour again, just a little bit different than we did before. It still brings Christmas to life in every way possible, but it’s a little more intimate show. I love singing Christmas music. We were going to have a Christmas album out this year but we just didn’t have enough time to make it happen.

Q. What makes this tour more intimate?

MM: On our last “Joy of Christmas” tour we did the big arenas, and it was all sung to tracks. This time out it’s got a 12-piece orchestra, backup singers, a pianist, bass player, drummer and guitar player. The last time we had dancers and actors all over the place, so that’s all gone. We’ve added some new songs. The one thing I kept was going out into the audience and talking to the people. It’s so spontaneous. I love that part of the show.

Q. What did it feel like to duet with Elvis on “Blue Christmas,” albeit, thanks to technology?

MM: I use the video of how we did that duet as part of my Christmas show because it was so special to me. It was just beyond my wildest imagination when I got the call to do the duet. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to hear his voice coming through the headphones. So everyone now gets to see Elvis sing this song with me. [LAUGHS] Not too many artists get to say they have Elvis as a special guest.

Q. What’s the best Christmas gift you ever got?

MM: I got a puppy when I was 8. It’s hard to beat getting a puppy for Christmas.

Q. What would be your perfect Christmas 5-song playlist?

MM: I just love “The Christmas Song,” so that would be on there. I love “What a Wonderful World,” even though it’s not really a Christmas song. “Blue Christmas,” by Elvis. My dad always played it growing up. I didn’t put this on my records, but “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” would be on the list. And “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Q. Your holiday album in so many ways is an homage to some of the more traditional offerings in the genre.

MM: I wanted to make a record that was very classical sounding, like the ones from a Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby kind of Christmas. I wanted to create a record that would still sound classic 20 years from now, that’s never gonna sound dated. I wanted to make a record that was timeless.

Q. What’s the perfect Christmas Day scenario?

MM: Just opening the presents and hanging out with the family. I cook a big dinner, and sometimes we’ll have friends drop by. It’s just being home all day and being thankful for what we have.

Q. Do you like to cook?

MM: I love to cook. I’m actually a pretty good cook. [LAUGHS] But I’m not a chef.

Q. You’re scheduled to go on tour again with George Strait next year; in what’s billed as his farewell tour. How lucky can you get?

MM: I can’t wait. Touring with him, he is just a great guy and it’s just an honor for me, especially on his last tour. He’s got this year and next so it will be a long tour.

Q. What did you learn about music and performing from touring with him?

MM: I just enjoy everything about his music and what he brings to the show. I just love being able to watch the show every night. It’s a lot of little things.

Q. What do you like about playing Chicago?

MM: It’s this great city with great food and culture and shopping. And I have great fans there. We chose to end our Christmas tour there because we wanted to have a great last show. We put a lot of thought into the first and last cities of a tour; it has a lot of meaning for us. And that was because of the fans we have there. I’m a Midwestern girl from Kansas, so it feels a little bit like home for me.

Q. What does the “Joy of Christmas” mean to you?

MM: It means family and making memories. And for me this tour is part of that. I feel like I want to become part of people’s Christmas tradition. Hopefully I can do this tour year after year and be part of those family traditions.

NOTE: Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reads “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” as part of the evening’s festivities.

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