Reba McEntire is filled with energy that can only be described as infectious. Close to 40 years after releasing her debut album and 35 chart-topping singles later, she is still conquering new heights. Her latest single "Going Out Like That" shot to No. 1 on the Country iTunes Charts and scored the biggest single sales debut of her career. She recently celebrated her birthday and has no hesitation in saying, "I turned 60!" She credits her youthful look and vivacious spirit to eating right, getting lots of exercise and just trying to stay happy with a great attitude.
No doubt becoming a new grandmother last June to Kelly Clarkson's daughter River Rose has kept her on the move, and she's enjoying the perks of being a grandmother.
"You get to play with all the kids, and then they get to go home and be disciplined and taken to school and all of the other activities that they do by their parents," she said.
Much of her happiness spills over in Love Somebody, her first new album in five years." In addition to "Going Out Like That," the album includes a duet with Jennifer Nettles called "Enough," which McEntire calls a "stop-you-in-your-tracks song" that is in the same vein as "Does He Love You," her smash single with Linda Davis.
I caught up with the superstar to talk about her new music, love and why livin' ain't killed her yet.
Tell us about your new album Love Somebody.
It's a love album. The overall theme is love---whether you're falling in or falling out, being rejected or trying to find it, it's about love. It's an eclectic collection of emotion. Some of the songs are happy. Some of them are sad. Some of them are hopeful. A lot of them have sass or are sexy. It's just all over the place, but the main theme is love.
I like how you say "sass." Over the years your music has become sassier. Have you?
I think I have. I think I'm very comfortable in my own skin, and I'm not out to impress everybody. What you see is what you get. So, I do think I'm a little sassier with more attitude now.
What is your process for finding the songs you record?
It hasn't changed in many, many years. I let publishing companies and my favorite writers and writers I haven't even worked with yet know that I'm going to record. Then they start sending me demos. I listen and listen. I also have this team of people looking for songs and trying to find those 10 or 12 or 15 songs that we can go into the studio and start recording. When one feels like it's not getting there---like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole---we just go on to the next one. So, by the time we go into the studio, we have found songs that I'm in love with, and that's the way it has to be. If I sing it and I get a feeling of some sort of emotion that really touches my heart, hopefully it will touch your heart when you hear it.
I read that you wondered if radio would even play your new music because radio tends to always be looking for younger and newer artists. You have sold over 56 million albums---How could country radio not play your music?
There comes a point in your career when you've got to make room for the new people coming up. When Scott Borchetta [Founder of Big Machine Records] asked me if I wanted to record a new album, I asked him why. I didn't understand what his point was. Then he told me they were starting radio stations where they were playing old and new stuff. I told him they have plenty of old stuff, and he said, "Yeah, but we want new material from you to play on those radio stations." I was really excited because I love being on the radio. Who wouldn't? And I love getting back in the game and in the swing of things.
On Twitter you recently said, "I've been around and in this business a long time and just between you and me, it ain't killed me yet." Who or what do you credit your staying power?
Curiosity, ambition and competition. I really love competition. I always have. Ever since I started in 1976 I've taken little baby steps all the way. It was a growing process where I got to spread my foundation really firm and thick and strong instead of just jumping in the deep end. I have a lot of friends to thank for my success, and I couldn't have done it without them.
Since beginning in the business how have you grown?
Oh my gosh, how haven't I grown? (I think) watching the technology change, learning from other people how to find songs or what makes a good song, going with my gut instincts, and surrounding myself with the wonderful team of people who are smarter than me.
Do you ever put on your old records and sing along?
I don't sing along, but I do listen to my music every once in a while. I think one of my favorite albums is Starting Over Again. That's an album of songs I wish I had recorded first.
You have always been adventurous in your career. What is something you'd still love to tackle?
I'd love to do a good ol' western movie. I grew up on westerns. I'd love to do more television. I'd love to do more Broadway.
Speaking of new ventures, you're heading to Las Vegas with Brooks & Dunn in June to do shows at Caesars Palace. What can the audience expect?
I'm really looking forward to that. The hardest thing about putting it together was deciding which songs we were going to perform. They have a huge catalog. I've got a huge catalog. We've sat down and selected our favorites. That's kind of what you have to do first. Then you have to make sure those favorites are the fans' favorites. They are the most important because they are the ones who got us to where we are today. We got our stage and the set is ready to be built. So, we're really in the process of building the whole show together. It's going to be a really entertaining evening for those who come to see Brooks & Dunn and Reba at Caesars.
What's your favorite song to sing live?
"Fancy." Another song I've really enjoyed doing on stage is off the new album. It's called "Until They Don't Love You." It's the most fun song I've gotten to sing on stage in a long time.
Speaking of new songs, one is called "Livin' Ain't Killed Me." Life is filled with ups and downs. The ups are always exciting, but how have you gotten through the downs?
I think my faith in God has really helped me get through the rough times in my life. I believe everything happens for a reason. I don't know what that reason is. That will be one of the questions I ask when I get up there, for sure.
Since your new album is all about the journey of love, let's talk about your journey. You will celebrate your 26th wedding anniversary in June. What has been the key to your marriage?
Narvel and I work together. We have since 1980. We make a great team on getting everything together with the career. Having good communication is really important, too.
Before I let you go, after all of the albums, tours and other projects, what do you think is your legacy on country music?
Whoa. That's hard to say. Shoot, I really don't have a clue. Somebody else would have to answer the question. The songs are the a-number-one thing. If you don't have that good song to put out on the radio or to sing in concerts, you may as well stay at home.
"To Love Somebody" is available April 14. For more information, visit www.reba.com
Photo: Jeremy Cowart
Album Cover: Nash Icon Records