Trisha Yearwood honored the life and legacy of icon Frank Sinatra when she performed at Sinatra 100 concert on what would have been his centennial birthday. Fast-forward three years and the country singer/songwriter is paying tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes once more with her brand new album, Let's Be Frank.
Let's Be Frank is Yearwood's first full-length solo release in over ten years and covers 11 Sinatra hits. The LP features some of Frank's most iconic songs including "Come Fly With Me," "The Lady Is A Tramp," and so many more — plus one original song written by Trisha and her husband Garth Brooks called "For the Last Time."
Growing up listening to Frank Sinatra with her mother, and being a fan of his music for many years, Let's Be Frank has been a long time coming for Yearwood. She had been wanting to record the album for years, but it wasn't until meeting producer Don Was after Sinatra 100 did the plan to record Let's Be Frank come to life.
We recently caught up with Trisha before debuting her album at New York City's iconic Rainbow Room, where Frank Sinatra has previously performed and was a patron of. Yearwood opened up about Let's Be Frank, how she chose which songs to record, which song means the most, the song she recorded with her husband, and teased her forthcoming new country album and what fans can expect to hear. Read on below.
What does Frank Sinatra and his music mean to you?
"It's the Great American Songbook, you know? Frank had this unique ability, I think one of his greatest gifts besides his voice, it's amazing, was his ability to communicate in a way that made listening to him sing, and it felt like you were having a conversation with him. And that is not something everybody does. I think it's a gift that he has and that's what made these songs so accessible. A lot of people have recorded them, but nobody records anything like Frank."
How did Let's Be Frank come together?
"I had been wanting to do a standard's record for a long time. I didn't have it framed as a Sinatra record, but I loved all these songs and I had about 100 songs that I was in love with and I wanted to do. And after [Sinatra 100], that night I talked to Don [Was] and he asked me if I'd thought about making a record to these songs. I'm like, 'Yes, I think about it a lot.' And I said, 'Would you ever be interested in doing it.' And he said yes. So I think that Frank Sinatra 100th was a way for us to go, why don't we do it? Because everybody's recorded these songs, but if you kind of frame it in a Sinatra way, it gives it a focus, and nobody was cooler than Frank."
You were asked to write down a list of songs you wanted to record off the top of your head. How fast did you make that list, and how hard was it to narrow down which songs to choose?
"It was quick, and I think it was because I had had this ... really, I did have almost 100 songs that I loved and so I hope I get to do more records because I need to get to those other songs. But in the moment, [Don] was like well you're gonna want, you're gonna have to be the one to narrow these songs down because this is your record. You're gonna have to decide which ones you wanna do, and I just couldn't. So one of our first meetings with the engineer and the piano player, he just said, if you had to write them down right now what would they be? And I really took about two minutes and wrote them down, and we recorded all of them. So it was really cool."
You recorded these songs over a span of four days. What was that process like, especially recording with a 55 piece orchestra?
"They are so professional and they're prepared, so the arrangements and the charts are written in advance. I get a recording of the arrangement that's not, not by the orchestra, just by on keyboard just to make sure that I'm clear on where I'm supposed to come in, so I'm not wasting everybody's time when I get there. Our goal was to try to get three songs a day recorded for a total of 12 [songs], and we did. It's easier, I think. Like on a regular album, if I make a country album, you don't have all the songs when you start, usually. You usually record a few and then you see which ones fit, and then you go back and find more songs. These songs were there, so if you got the songs and the arrangements, you should be able to cut the album pretty quickly. And everything was very live, so we only did two or three total passes of every song."
What was it like recording at the iconic Capitol Records studio using Frank Sinatra's microphone?
"I believe in vibe, totally, and I do believe that that Capital has a vibe. It's one of the most historic studios in the world and when you walk in studio A, and especially because there's pictures lining the walls when you're walking down the hall to studio A, showing all these artists in that spot; showing Frank standing in that studio singing to the microphone you're about to sing on, you feel it. It's a real thing. I was nervous at first, but once I walked in and everybody made me feel like I belong there, it helped me with my confidence. And once we got that first song done, I was like okay, this is gonna be good."
You worked with people, like Al Schmitt, who had worked with Frank before. Were you nervous at all to make this record knowing that you were working with someone who actually worked with Frank Sinatra?
"Yes and there were several musicians who had also played with Frank. So, you kind of wait for that first ... and I'm sure these guys have played with everybody and made records that some of them they loved, and probably some of them they thought why are they doing this? But these songs have been recorded so many times, so you're just kinda waiting after that first song for the nod of approval. And the bass player said to me, 'Frank would've liked you.' And I'm like, 'Okay, I don't know if that's true, but I'm taking that.' So yeah, you definitely feel that pressure of wanting for the people that knew him to go, 'I think he would've like this.'"
Have you heard from the Sinatra family at all?
"We have heard through the family that some of them have heard it and like it. So I'm hoping that I get a chance to interact with them a little bit. I got to meet them when we did the 100th Birthday, so they've been very kind to me. I hope that they like it."
Is there any one Let's Be Frank song that really hits home for you?
"'I'll Be Seeing You' made it [as] the last song on the record because that song makes me think about my mom. My mom and dad both passed, but my mom, because this music really came from her, I felt her so much there. I felt her presence there as much as I did Frank. So that one was the one song that when I hear it, I got emotional singing it and that was the one that's really special to me. The hardest songs for me, oddly, were the kind of jazzy songs, like 'Come Fly With Me.' Those seemed in my head like they would be the easy ones, but there's a rhythm to being cool that does not come natural. So I was concerned about that. But, I think 'Come Fly With Me' was written for Frank, so that was a really cool one to get to sing. You can't not smile singing that song."
Talk about the song that you wrote with Garth Brooks, "For The Last Time." Was that written with this record in mind, or did you write it like a long time ago?
"We wrote it about a year before this project, and it was not written for the project. It was an idea. I had a song title and I just came in and said, 'I have a song title.' And when you live with a guy who's in several songwriting hall of fames, you don't really walk in and go, 'Here's what you should write today.' I'm not a confident writer. He doesn't like it when I say that, but I had this idea. So I said it to him and he started singing this melody, and it just sounded like something from another time. So we worked on it for a few weeks, finished it, wrote it and then it was like I don't know where it goes. It doesn't sound like a country song, maybe it's gonna be in a Broadway show someday if it's that kinda song. And when the Sinatra project got booked, he said you should play this for Don, and I was nervous to because I didn't want anybody to think that I was saying that this song was better than all these other amazing songs. But Don loved it, so we had to do it. So, I'm proud to have it on there and I like having one song on this record that is new, but sounds like it could've maybe been recorded in that time."
You're currently working on a new country record, too. How's that going?
"It's almost done. When the tour ended at the end of 2017, I said I need to spend next year making new music because I haven't done it in awhile. So making two records in the same year has been ... I've never done that before. It's been so fun. When I'm focused on Frank, all I wanna do is standards for the rest of my life, and then when I get in the studio and work on the country record, that's all I ever wanna do, so I love it. It's been fun to be so creative and get to do all of this. And, you know, I'm 54 years old and I hadn't make a record in a while and I thought, I don't know if I'll even find songs that feel like me. I mean, I don't know what's out there and I was so pleasantly surprised at the songs that I found, so I'm really excited. First I was like I'm just gonna make a record, I'm not worried about what we do with it, and now I'm really excited about it. So, it's almost finished, we're looking at fall for it to come out."
What can fans expect to hear on the new country album?
"I think what fans will hear is they'll know it's me. There's not gonna be any like, that's weird, what is she thinking? But after many years in the business, you try to find songs you haven't sung before. There are a lot of female writers on this album, and I didn't start out to make a statement about women in country music, although they're not nearly enough. But, I found some amazing songs written by females, [and it] just happened that way. We got, I think, 14 songs. I don't think I'm gonna drop anything because I just can't think of what to drop. I think it's just what you expect, but then hopefully songs that you go 'oh, wow, that was cool' and it's just so much fun to sing."
Photos: Russ Harrington & Becky Fluke