Country music legend Trisha Yearwood isn’t just an award-winning musician, actress and celebrity chef. Yearwood, along with her husband, Garth Brooks, has also been the face of Habitat for Humanity for more than 10 years. We spoke with Yearwood about gratitude, her marriage, and Every Girl on Tour — her first solo tour since 2014, for her new album, Every Girl — and we were so humbled by her passion for the work Habitat for Humanity does, and the lessons she and Brooks have absorbed about how to live their lives.
We were also joined by Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, who shared the details of this year’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. This year’s build took place in Nashville, where local homeowners worked alongside volunteers, including Yearwood and Brooks (and President and Mrs. Carter) to build 21 new homes in one week. (Additional funding will allow 12 more homes to be built as well, and an estimated total of 59 Nashville families will benefit from the project.) To hear Yearwood tell it, she fell in love with every aspect of Habitat for Humanity: getting to do real, physical labor; interacting with the communities you’re supporting; and — an added perk — late-night chats with President Carter.
Truth be told, this interview made us fall more in love with Yearwood than ever. From her picture-perfect relationship with Brooks to her passion for giving back, we’re so excited to see what comes next for this star.
SheKnows: How did you first become involved with Habitat for Humanity?
Trisha Yearwood: Garth and I were asked to participate basically in a photo op in New Orleans after Katrina and we went and — we were supposed to be there for an hour or two and we ended up staying all day and got involved in swinging a hammer and it was like, “This is our wheelhouse, this is what we want to do.” So much love, so much community, and to get a chance to give back in a very physical way, and actually get to meet the people that are going to live in the house you’re working on. … We loved everything about Habitat and we’ve been in it ever since.
SK: What’s your favorite memory from your time working with them?
TY: We’re always on the Carter builds, so for us, it’s those moments when Garth and I kind of pinch ourselves. We were in Haiti, and Haiti was really hot … 100-and-something degrees, and you’d go back to the “hotel” at night and the water would trickle out of your shower. And one night we were in the lobby area — this is a hotel that was just for us and the Carters and a few other folks — and President Carter walked in and sat down and started telling stories. And it was just — listening to him talk about his life and some of his experiences in the White House. We’re sitting there, and his son says, “Tell Garth and Trisha how you gave back the Panama Canal.” Those are stories you just don’t hear in regular conversation! So, those are my best memories, sharing special time with the President and Ms. Rosalynn.
SK: What can you tell us about this year’s Carter Work Project? How did you land on Nashville as a location?
Jonathan Reckford: This is the 36th year President and Mrs. Carter have built somewhere in the world and we picked Nashville as a great example of an amazing city that has had a boom — but there is another side of that boom, which is the cost of housing has accelerated far faster than incomes. And so, one of the goals is not just to build the 21 homes and be part of the solution here in Nashville, but also to bring attention to the need for safety and affordable housing in Nashville, across the US, and around the world. And the Carters and Garth and Trisha have used their social capital to help raise awareness, and that’s a big goal of this week.
SK: You and your husband Garth will often work together, including on Habitat for Humanity. Did you always share similar values and interests, or have those developed over time?
TY: I think we were raised very similarly, in that our parents instilled in us that we had a responsibility to give back. And it’s not — you know, it’s almost hard to say that, because a lot of it is supposed to be done without people recognizing what you’re doing, but we also understood, as people that are now in the public eye, we have an opportunity to bring more awareness to things that matter to us, because people do tend to go, “Oh, what are they doing?” So it’s given us a nice platform to do more, which is wonderful.
But, yeah, I think we take seriously that “[to] whom much is given, much is expected” statement, and so we definitely are like-minded in that. It’s something that makes us a better couple as far as our relationship, because we go home at night together and we talk about how blessed we are. It’s a reminder for us as a couple, [of] what’s important.
SK: You’ve now been married nearly 14 years, which is amazing. Do you feel like you have a secret to how you’ve maintained that relationship?
TY: Well, I would jokingly say he does whatever I tell him to. But the truth is, we were friends for a long time before we ever went out on a date. And so I think we have a very strong friendship, which is a solid base, and I think that’s really important because — you know, I’m madly in love with him, but sometimes I get mad at him. But he’s always my best friend. I think that’s one of the really big keys. And also humor! We laugh a lot.
SK: I also want to congratulate you on Every Girl On Tour. How have you been feeling in the weeks leading up to it?
TY: It’s been really fun. I’m a 55-year-old woman and I think I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my career, which I don’t know that I was expecting. But it’s all been really good, and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the success of the single. I didn’t expect it to get played on radio, so we’re really enjoying ourselves, and I’m having a good time.
SK: How did you prepare for the tour? What does that look like?
TY: I’m not one of those girls that has the five-year plan. Our tour is all [in] very intimate theaters, so I don’t have a huge production. It’s basically just like a conversation that we have through music and talking. So, just making sure your voice is healthy. Your voice is like any muscle in your body: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. So a lot of singing, a lot of rehearsing, just to make sure that I am physically ready. And I’m ready!
SK: And you’ve had the first few shows in Nashville, right?
TY: Yeah, we did three shows. We opened the fall season of the Nashville Symphony right before the build, and we actually had a lot of Habitat folks come to the show on Saturday night before we kicked off this Nashville build on Sunday.
SK: How have those shows been?
TY: I thought they were pretty good! I didn’t forget any words, I didn’t trip in my heels. Those are my two big things. If that happens, it’s fine.
SK: What was the inspiration behind your latest album?
TY: I haven’t had a record in a long time, and so I just really wanted to find songs that resonated with me. But — let’s stop talking about me! I really want to talk about Habitat.
SK: To touch on the larger theme of gratitude — as Thanksgiving approaches, our readers are starting to reflect on the year and what they’re grateful for. I’d love to hear from both of you: What are you most grateful for in 2019?
TY: Well I’m always grateful for the health of my family. Gratitude is a word that we use a lot in our house, so [I’m] grateful that something like this reminds us — we take for granted that we have a roof over our heads, and the things that having a roof over your head brings to a family that we don’t even think about. It’s not just having a place to live, it’s having stability in your life, it’s having a sense of community, a place to raise your kids, and that raises their self-esteem, so I’m grateful for that. And these builds make me even more grateful for my life.
JR: Yeah, I would certainly echo [that]. I’m so grateful for the people who, when I was young, invested in me and gave me opportunities and chances, and [for] people who love me. It’s so inspiring to see people who look to their own better angels and share that love with others. I think the Carters are amazing examples, Garth and Trish are amazing examples, but there are so many — I think 1.4 million people came out and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity last year, and the ripples of that…
You never know, when you decide to take that gratitude and put it into action, the difference that will ultimately make it in other lives. One of my favorite things is to meet people who grew up in Habitat homes and are now going on to do great things and to serve others, because they were given a chance. It’s not just feeling gratitude, but then going out and sharing it and doing something about it.
SK: That’s great. What advice would you give to readers who want to get involved with Habitat for Humanity, or just find small ways to help in their local community?
JR: We are launching a book today really inspired by President Carter, who wrote the foreword, called Our Better Angels. It’s really all about examples of everyday heroes who have gone out and done exactly that. And the hope is, when people read it, they’ll be inspired to look around and think, “Who could I love today?” Or, “What is that problem in my community I could go be a part of?” And sometimes even very small acts of kindness and generosity and service can have a huge impact.
And the not-so-secret, beautiful part of that that I see in Habitat for Humanity every day is that, when we do that, we experience more joy, purpose, fulfillment, and love, so it actually creates that virtual circle. So I hope people will read it and be encouraged, but then put it into action.
This interview has been edited for style and length.