ATLANTA - Six years have passed since Martina McBride's last Christmas tour, and 14 years since "White Christmas," her last holiday album.
But the country chanteuse known for her hits "This One's for the Girls," "A Broken Wing," "Independence Day" and a couple of dozen others is ready to embrace the Christmas spirit this year with her "Joy of Christmas" tour.
McBride, last seen earlier this year opening for George Strait, will return to the road with him next year, too, as he begins to wrap up the performing side of his career.
But first, there is a new album in the planning stages and this 16-date Christmas tour.
McBride called in from Nashville last week to let us know what to expect and also give a glimpse of Christmas in the McBride household.
Q: I understand you have a large band - 12 pieces?
A: Yes, some string players and background vocalists as well as my regular band. We did (a Christmas tour) for three years starting in 2006. It was a larger production, but I sang to track, so it's fun to have a band on stage. The show is a little more focused, and I think it's better than the one we put on before. It's more intimate.
Q: What can fans expect to hear? Are you also doing non-holiday songs?
A: We'll do most of the songs from my (1998) Christmas record, from "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to "Let It Snow." We do a duet with Elvis on "Blue Christmas." I'll go out and chat with the audience and have it be spontaneous and fun. We do hymns as well. My goal is to put everyone in the Christmas spirit. We do a couple of non-holiday songs, too.
Q: It's been awhile since you released a Christmas album. Is that something you'd do again?
A: We were going to do one for this year, but the timing didn't work out, so hopefully next year.
Q: What is your favorite Christmas song?
A: I love all Christmas music, so picking one is hard, but I especially love "O Holy Night." It's so emotional. I really like singing the hymns.
Q: What's a typical Christmas like in the McBride household?
A: We stay home all day and the five of us are all together. We have a big breakfast and I make a big dinner. It's our day to just be in the house with each other - kind of like everyone else's Christmas, really.
Q: You're going back on tour with George Strait. How do you feel about being part of his last live hurrah?
A: It's really great, to be asked to be part of this special event. It's an honor.
Q: What else do you have planned for next year?
A: I'm starting a new album in January that will be out for September. I'm just starting to find songs for that, so it's early in the process.