Preview: Martina McBride spreading Christmas cheer

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When you get a puppy for Christmas when you're 7 years old, it's easy to see why you might fall in love with the holiday season. "It's pretty hard to beat getting a puppy," says Martina McBride with a laugh of her favorite gift ever, whom she named Jingles -- short for Jingle Bells.

It's little surprise then that the country star is jazzed about her upcoming "The Joy of Christmas" tour, which hits the Benedum Center tonight.

Martina McBride Christmas Show

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: 7:30 tonight.

Tickets: $49.50; 412-456-6666.

"It's something different that we get to do, and it's a lot of fun to put together and try to imagine how it's going to make people feel," she says of the merry-making trek. "We try to make Christmas come to life aesthetically. It's beautiful to look at. The music is familiar and classic, everything from 'Let It Snow' to 'O Holy Night.' It's just fun to look out and see families and think that this might become part of their tradition if we keep doing it."

Ms. McBride says fans can expect to hear almost all of her 1998 album, "White Christmas," as well as a few newer tunes worked into the set, including a rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You." She hopes to work on another Christmas album next year. And of course, she will also be performing some of the big hits she's amassed over her multi-platinum, multi-CMA award-winning 20-year career, like "Independence Day," "A Broken Wing" and the recent inspirational "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" from her 2011 release, "Eleven."

Several of those tunes have become staples on the singing competition shows, something the Kansas native takes as a compliment. "I grew up singing songs by other people, and it's fun when somebody thinks enough of you or your song [to sing it]. There's a lot on the line with those shows so it's always exciting to be thought of."

Following the holiday tour, Ms. McBride will begin the first leg of George Strait's "The Cowboy Rides Away" tour. "It's exciting and special, and it's an honor to be asked," she says of the country legend's farewell jaunt. "Luckily, he's spreading it over two years, so it's not quite goodbye yet. But we all grew up listening to George Strait, so I'm sure it will be an emotional tour for a lot of people."

Until then, she's going to focus on spreading a little seasonal joy without spreading herself too thin.

"I think it will be all right. I've got the date on the calendar when we're getting our tree. You just sort of have to plan for things. But it's good. I've already actually started a little bit of Christmas shopping so I'm ahead of the game," she says, adding with a laugh, "I just need to keep with it."



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