Martina McBride to Guest Judge on 'America's Got Talent'

Martina McBride just took her turn as a judge on a reality TV talent show, judging a recent episode of America's Got Talent. The 52-year-old replaced joined Mel B., Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell for one night, but she insists she is nothing like the outspoken Brit.

"I was fair," McBride tells Billboard of her judging. "I wasn't too hard on anybody but hopefully I gave them some perspective and honest feedback and encouragement. It's not the easiest thing in the world for me to give criticism. Part of the culture that we live in now is that sometimes there is mean feedback for the sake of being rude or mean or trying to put somebody in their place.

"But when it's valid and helpful, I feel like I can manage," she continues. "I know I personally always liked to get encouragement from people that I trust. I kind of surprised myself. I thought that I would be quiet and observe but I got to say what I wanted to say and be a part of the whole process. It was really fun."

McBride, who sang in a rock band in her native Kansas before moving to Nashville, got her start selling merchandise for Garth Brooks, who gave her an opening spot on one of his tours. She quickly developed a loyal following, enjoying more than two decades on the charts. Still, although shows like America's Got Talent, American Idol, The Voice and more weren't available to her back then, McBride says she wouldn't have been afraid to try a TV show to get a record deal if she had the option in her early years.

"We had talent contests that I entered; they just weren't on national television," says McBride. "I don't think there is anything that can take the place of your 10,000 hours and really working and honing your craft in front of an audience and growing that way. I wouldn't trade that for everything but you can never say never. Who knows what would have happened to me if I had grown up in that environment. I think I would have done well on the show though because I was fearless back then.

"I moved to Nashville when I was about 23 and was singing since I was like four years old," she adds. "The stage part of it, I would have been fearless. I don't think I could do it now. I wouldn't want to do it now."

McBride is currently working on not one but two project: a Christmas record and another studio album, the follow-up to Reckless, released in 2016.

"[It's] kind of a big band swing Christmas album, kind of a vintage-y throwback sound," McBride says of the holiday record. "It's very different than anything I've done before. I did a Christmas album a really long time ago but it was more orchestral, like a classic-sounding Dean Martin record. This is more pop and big band and has big hymns. It's really fun. I never thought I would record 'Frosty The Snowman,' but we did it in such a cool way that it's a lot of fun."

Of her studio album, the married mother of three says it will reflect the freedom she has to record the music she wants to record, now that she is no longer under the constraints of a record label.

"It's kind of a vague idea in my head of what I want it to sound like," McBride admits. "One of the most fun parts of the creative process for me is figuring out what I want to do next. It's exciting. It's pretty early in the process but I think I want to do more of an acoustic based record. That's just kind of where I'm thinking about in my head right now – lots of harmonies."

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McBride's episode of America's Got Talent will air on Tuesday, July 31 on NBC.

Photo Credit: Getty images/John Shearer