[Listen to Martina McBride on iHeartRadio]

Martina McBride's new album, Everlasting, debuted at the top of the Country Albums Chart -- MAKING IT HER FIFTH COUNTRY #1 -- but it's not just a country record. It's actually a collection of covers handpicked from some of Martina's favorite pop and r&b standards. 

Martina sat down with iHeartRadio when she was in New York recently to talk about the new album, her upcoming tour and more. Check out the interview below!

[Buy Everlasting on Amazon]

Congratulations on your new album, Everlasting! Tell us about your decision to make an album of pop and R&B standards.

It was really a simple decision. It was a record that I had wanted to make for a long time, just songs that I love. I made a record a few years ago called Timeless, which was a collection of country standards, and I had so much fun making that record. It was such a joyful thing to do, to really just go in and record songs for the love of making records, of those songs, and trying to pay tribute to those artists and those records. This felt like an answer to that, in a way. It just felt like the right time... I just followed my heart, really.

Was it intimidating to tackle songs by such icons as Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Etta James, Elvis Presley, etc.?

I just tried to make them my own as much as I could, still paying respect to the original versions. Anytime you sing a song by an icon like Aretha Franklin or Elvis Presley, there's a little bit of pressure because they have so many fans who are so used to those versions of those songs, so you want to do the song justice, and try to do the best job that you can... But you still have to make it your own at the same time.

It’s your first release on your own label – talk about what that feels like.

I had two record company experiences in Nashville. I was with RCA Records for 18 years, and then I was with Republic Nashville for a couple of years. They were both amazing experiences; I really don't have anything negative to say about that, so they were great models for what I'm doing, really. This doesn't feel all that much different, because there's a business side to it which I've always been really involved in anyway. The biggest difference is that you can hand pick your team, and you're responsible for every decision. I guess the biggest difference is that if it doesn't work or something goes wrong, you don't have anybody else to blame.

What do you think your fans are going to love about this album?

I think my fans are going to love this album because it's still me. When you listen to it, it still sounds like me. It's not that big of a stretch from songs that I've had in the past, songs like, "A Broken Wing." We've always covered songs like this in our shows live, we've covered Aretha's "Natural Woman" and Etta James "At Last." I've just always loved to sing this music, so I think my fans that have been with me for a long time know that already. It's not that different from country music in a way, because it's really about the emotion in the song and about the lyric, and about a beautiful melody. A lot of these songs were actually country hits, so it throws back to a time when there really were no genres so to speak... 

The album includes collaborations with Gavin DeGraw and Kelly Clarkson. Talk about the songs you recorded with them and what each of them brought to the table.

Working with Gavin and Kelly on this record was really great, because they're both such great singers.

Gavin has a lot of ideas, so "Bring It On Home To me" was a little tricky to do as a duet. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to split it up and make it a true duet and not just someone singing harmony... I really wanted him to have lines where he stepped out and sang. We spent a lot of time trying to figure that out and he had a lot of great ideas about that and he's just very creative in the studio, so that was wonderful, and I think his voice fits it perfectly.

Kelly is a killer singer, and she has a ton of energy.She came in and sang her part and was done in about twenty minutes, and it was amazing.

While recording this album, were you thinking about how these songs would translate to a live audience? What can you tell us about the tour?

The whole time I was making this record, I was thinking about how these songs would translate live, and that's another reason, really, why I made the record. I just kept seeing a horn section, and background singers, and the energy. I wanted to make a record that when people listened to it, they'd say, 'I have to go see that live, it's so exciting.'

We've put together a show that's gonna go out starting in May -- May 8th is our first date -- and I think it's gonna be a blast. We are taking a horn section, and background singers, and really creating a show that is as much a visual as a musical experience. We're doing a lot of the new record and then bringing in come of our hits reworked in a different way, so that it all is a seamless evening of music.


Photo by Shelby Case for iHeartRadio