Martina McBride is saddling up for one last ride with the reigning “King of Country.”
George Strait is opening his aptly named “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour,” which he has said will be his last, Friday night with a home-state stop in Lubbock, Texas. He will play the second show on his 2013-14 farewell jaunt at 7:20 p.m. Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where he has ruled as a top draw since the venue opened back in 2002.
After she opened for “King George” on his 2012 tour, McBride, 46, said she was surprised and happy to be invited to support the 60-year-old superstar on his farewell trek.
“There's a lot of acts that would love to be on this tour, and you know, I feel a little greedy actually,” she said with a laugh during a phone interview last week from Nashville, Tenn.
“It's really an honor to get to be chosen to come back and be part of this very momentous part of his career. (It's a) momentous tour, and obviously he could've had anybody on this tour.”
The platinum-selling songstress will open the tour dates with a 70-minute set featuring her biggest hits, fan favorites and album cuts, including tracks from her 2011 album “Eleven.”
Her 11th studio album and first release on Republic Nashville, “Eleven” added two more hits to her repertoire: the uplifting ballad “I'm Gonna Love You Through It,” about a husband supporting his wife through her breast cancer battle, and the parenting anthem “Teenage Daughters,” which she co-wrote from personal experience. She and her husband, sound engineer John McBride, have three girls.
“I wrote a lot for the record and just kind of pushed the boundaries a little bit style-wise. And it was a lot of fun to make that record,” said McBride, who released her debut album in 1992 on RCA Records, her label home until 2010.
The Kansas native said she is readying to record her 12th studio effort.
“We're actually just starting to figure out a direction,” she said. “It's always exciting to start a new album, definitely. You know, it's a whole blank canvas and a whole new page. You can paint any kind of picture you want.”
But performing live endures as one of her favorite aspects of her more than two-decade career.
“I love every part of it, but performing live is great because you get that immediate connection with fans. It's just spontaneous, and so I love it for that reason,” she said. “I love to perform. I've always loved it since I was a kid.”
Like most modern-day country artists, McBride counts her tourmate among her childhood influences.
“He's part of my earliest memories,” she said. “I grew up listening to his music ... and performing it. You know, my dad was a singer and had a local band and would perform songs from George Strait. So, he was definitely a part of my life.”
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Strait has racked up records and accolades since his 1981 debut single “Unwound” became a top 10 hit. He has scored 59 No. 1 songs, earned more than 60 major industry awards and sold more than 65 million albums.
But McBride said his influence extends beyond music.
“His consistency and longevity and, you know, he always just handles himself with class and he has tons of integrity, so that's probably the biggest way that he influences all of us,” she said.
While touring with Strait always means playing for huge crowds of fervent fans, McBride expects extra enthusiasm and emotion on his final tour. For years, he has used his 1985 hit “The Cowboy Rides Away” to close his shows, and she anticipates plenty of fans will be in tears by the time he croons the ballad during his farewell shows.
“I know the fans would still come to see him for many, many, many years,” she said. “I just guess that everybody comes to that point in their career where they have to make that decision.”
While she doesn't have a particular Strait song she is most looking forward to hearing, McBride is glad the superstar cowboy invited her along on his last ride.
“Oh, I love 'em all. I mean, I love when he does the stuff like ‘Amarillo by Morning' and ‘The Chair' and ‘The Fireman.' You know, some of the older stuff. ‘Marina del Rey,' all that,” she said.
“We're just looking forward to doing this again and just being a part of the whole thing.”