By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Country singer Martina McBride is lighting up New York City this month, setting the Empire State Building awash in a pink glow to fight breast cancer as she launches an album that breaks new ground.
McBride, who has sung about women's issues on past tunes including "Independence Day" and "Broken Wing," will host a private show and benefit called "Martina McBride: Light Up the Sky" at the historic building in midtown Manhattan on October 14.
"We want to send a collective message of hope to breast cancer patients, survivors and supporters as we turn one of the world's most popular landmarks pink," McBride told Reuters.
The singer's current single, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," is based on a true story about Lily Isaacs, a breast cancer survivor who has been free of the disease for 27 years, something McBride didn't know when she first heard the tune.
"It was so honest," McBride said of the second single from her upcoming album, "Eleven."
"My first thought was, 'I wonder if people will be uncomfortable when they hear this' because the writers use words that aren't typically found in songs," McBride said. "My next thought was, 'it would be pretty brave to record a song like this,' and then I thought, 'I'm recording this song.' All that went through my head in about 15 seconds."
The New York performance comes three days after the singer releases "Eleven," her debut album for Republic Records, a new label that is only one of several big changes for her.
"One day you look up and realize 'This isn't working anymore'," McBride said of her career. "I need to surround myself with positive people, people who are passionate and excited about my music. I have found that at Republic."
McBride chose to record "Eleven" outside Nashville, taking musicians and producer Byron Gallimore to Atlanta, where she could avoid distractions and focus on "nothing but making music," working whenever creativity flowed.
"Eleven" includes six songs that McBride co-wrote, which is new territory for the 20-year country veteran, and she said it has been liberating to sing songs she had a part in creating.
"I realized I could write what I wanted to say instead of waiting for someone else to write it," McBride said. "It's a good feeling. I still love the pride of singing a song that was written for me and making it my own, (but) it was so exciting for me to go in and have all the songs and not have to wait to find the rest to finish the album."
Among the singles on the new album, McBride said that "Broken Umbrella" was among the hardest to record because of its tempo. She likened it to an older tune that her mom and dad "used to jitterbug to," with quick pace and brass horns.
"I haven't heard anything with this beat on radio in a long time," she said.
"When You Love A Sinner" is a provocative tune, but one grounded in the sort of real-life storytelling for which country songs are famous.
McBride said that with "Eleven" she felt she had the support to create an album that pushes the boundaries of what people expected from her.
"In the past I've always worried about making a record that radio would play, that my fans and my parents would like. I tried to shut those voices out and immerse myself in a great album, and I was able to do that. Plus having written a lot of it, lyrically and melodically, these songs fit me so much better than anything I ever recorded before."
"Eleven" hits retail and online outlets on October 11, and McBride's performance at the Empire State Building air three days later on Clear Channel Radio web sites.
(Editing by Sheri Linden and Bob Tourtellotte)