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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Trisha Yearwood glad to be returning to Ruth Eckerd Hall

Country singer Trisha Yearwood says her neighbors sometimes ask whether she’s going to stop doing music now that she has two cookbooks under her belt and a successful Food Network cooking show, “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen.”

“I always think, ‘No, no, no, no!’” she says by phone from her home in Oklahoma. “The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s important to me to do music because it feeds my soul.”

Yearwood on Thursday night performs at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall, a place she enjoys for its intimacy with the audience.

After a 20-city tour of small venues across the U.S. and Canada, she’ll be the opening act in arenas for her husband, Garth Brooks. The “Just Because” title of her mini-tour refers to the fact she isn’t touring to support a new album.

“It’s a selfish move on my part,” Yearwood jokes. “I said, ‘Look, I just wanted to go do some shows. Call some people and see if they’re interested in me coming to their venue.’ ”

Yearwood brings star power to whatever stage she’s on as one of the biggest selling female artists in country music history, including nine No. 1 hits and 20 top-10 songs, such as “She’s in Love With the Boy,” “Walkaway Joe,” and “How Do I Live.”

The energy of performing in front of Garth-frenzied crowds is powerful, she says, but she gravitates to the smaller halls where she can “have a conversation” with her audience.

“If you asked me to name the 10 favorites places I’ve ever played in my life, Ruth Eckerd would be on it,” she says. “It’s so amazing. The sound in there ... you can actually sit on that stage without a microphone and you could do a show.”

The home cook in her also enjoys the food provided at Ruth Eckerd, where Sally Milano shows love to stars as backstage catering coordinator. Milano in 2011 honored Yearwood in her own self-published cookbook with a recipe for Georgia Peach XXX’s and OOO’s Low-Fat Pie.

“The food there is legendary,” Yearwood says.

Cooking and singing bring a similar satisfaction, she said. When you make an album, you pour your heart and soul into it, she said. It’s the same with food.

“I really want everything to be delicious and awesome, and I want them to love it,” Yearwood says. “It’s great when people appreciate it.”

A double-career in music and food is something she says she never envisioned when she released her first cookbook, “Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen,” in 2008. The show debuted on Food Network in 2012.

She co-wrote the collection of family recipes with her mother, Gwen, and sister Beth. Her mother died in 2011 at age 73 from cancer. Her father, Jack, died in 2005.

Like recipes handed down through generations, Yearwood says her catalog of songs elicit memories of family and loved ones.

“Some songs seem very personal,” she says. “Especially having lost both of my parents. Like with ‘How Do I Live,’ I can find something in there that makes me think of my family in almost everything.”

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