Reba: Touching Hearts

Reba McEntire’s new Duets CD had greater first-week sales than any of her more than 30 albums. She recently sat down to chat with CW’s David Scarlett about her new music, her career, her family and some powerful personal moments. Here’s some of what she had to say.

CW
Has it been good having Melissa Peterman opening for you on the road … someone from the TV show?
RM
You can’t imagine.Yes, we’ve had a blast. She opens the show for me, and I get to hang out with her all day. It’s just too much fun. It has really helped [ease the withdrawal pains from her cast mates on her TV show Reba].
CW
I see you’ve added a Carnegie Hall show to the tour. Will that let spend time with some friends you may have made when you were on Broadway?
RM
Well, I don’t know who all’s gonna be up there, but it is with Brian Stokes Mitchell, and it’s a special event there at Carnegie Hall. So I’m lookin’ forward to seein’ everyone. We just got through workin’ with Brian Stokes Mitchell on a South Pacific performance out here at the Hollywood Bowl for three nights.
CW
I know that, unlike the typical way of recording these days where all of the music tracks are done first, then people sing their parts later, you had all the musicians in the studio when you and your duet partners were there … everybody there together. Did that lend itself to any cool moments?
RM
The one thing I think you’re asking about is … that some of the artists we worked with weren’t used to having all the band in there at the same time. And that’s the way I like to record. I don’t like to record tracks. Because, when I get in there … maybe I have an idea … or it could even be as major as changing the key … take it up a little higher or maybe a little lower … or slower or faster. And when you’re in there with the musicians, you feed off of each other and the enthusiasm and the emotion of it. So it was kinda cool. Kelly [Clarkson] said, “Man, you guys all play in here together when you’re doin’ a record? That’s pretty cool.” And Don Henley was the same way … he said, “Y’all gotta give me some time here! I’m not used to this!” So it was fun.
CW
Talk about Kelly. I know you two are buddies. Does she come to you for advice on career challenges, other situations? Do you talk about those things?
RM
Yeah. Yeah, we do. She’s asked me several times, what did I think. And I said, “Well, my best advice is talk to [Reba’s husband/manager] Narvel, ‘cause he’s the one I go to advice for … and she did?” [Narvel is now Kelly’s manager, too]
CW
Do you ever have time to spend a night in and watch any TV?
RM
No … I don’t watch a lot of television. We either stay outside, or I’m working on projects … or we’re out with friends and family eating. The only time I really watch TV is in the morning getting ready. And then I watch TV in bed … watch the 10 o’clock news and go to sleep. So I don’t have a favorite TV show right now.
CW
One of the great songs on your Duets CD is “She Can’t Save Him.” I love the way you and Trisha sing it together. Have you ever been in … or close to … a situation where you saw somebody and thought, ”You know, I’ll do everything I can … I’ll really try to help. But it really is up to them. And I just can’t do it for you. They’ve gotta save themselves." Have you ever been close to a situation like that?
RM
Oh yeah, I have been. And you’re exactly right. You can talk ’til you’re blue in the face. But until they really make up their own mind to make a change, there’s nothin’ you can do, except be supportive when they do make that decision.
CW
Really great imagery about being caught in a stream with the water pulling him downshe wakes just before she drowns … powerful.
RM
That’s a powerful song.
CW
There are about eight love-gone-bad songs on here. Did it just work out that way?
RM
Well, there’s the ones that I chose. Then I would send ’em … like the one with Kenny Chesney ["Every Other Weekend"]. It was just a song that I had loved forever, that Skip Ewing and Connie Harrington wrote. I love Skip Ewing’s writing. And when I sent it to Kenny, he fell in love with it, too.
CW
"Every Other Weekend” reminds me of “What You Gonna Do About Me” on your The Last One to Know album [about divorce from a child’s perspective] I know you’ve been through a marriage that didn’t work … but at least there wasn’t a child involved. This seems to bring it to a whole other level in terms of the anguish that was felt there.
RM
Boy, that’s true. I was very lucky not to have any children involved. That’s a hardship, absolutely.
CW
Talk about Vince Gill some.
RM
Well, Vince and I have been workin’ together since 1989. “Oklahoma Swing” was our first duet to sing together. We’ve done videos together and other singles. We’ve worked together, toured together, done the Opry together. And we were at the Kennedy Center Honors last December honoring Dolly. And we were sittin’ out in the audience talkin’ and visiting. And I told him about the duet project and asked if he’d to it with me. And he said, “You know I will, buddy. I’ll be there for you.” As he has said many, many times in the past. And I asked him if he had a song. And he said, “Yeah.” ["These Broken Hearts"]

It was off one of his past albums that he didn’t release as a single, but really wanted to. And we changed it up a little bit … made it a little faster. And he loved it and I did, too. I couldn’t have had this album out without him on the album. It just wouldn’t have been a complete project.

CW
You and Don Henley both have instantly recognizable voices. People hear you and don’t think, ”Oh, I wonder who that is.” That’s gotta be a huge advantage for an artist trying to get attention with thousands of other artists out there.
RM
Well, thank you. I’ve always been a huge fan of his singing and his writing. But I think you’re right … it’s very important for a person, not only to be a good singer, but a stylist. Because if you’re a good singer and you just blend in like everybody else, it is hard to pick ‘em out when you hear ‘em. Jennifer Nettles is a perfect example. You definitely know who she is when she comes on the radio. Same way with Don Henley. His talent … to be in a group like the Eagles and then have a solo career … his writing … I’ve just always been mystified at how he writes such wonderful songs. I’m just in awe of that. So I was really pleased when he said yes to bein’ on this project.
CW
Are you someone who sheds a tear easily? Does it take a lot?
RM
I’m pretty easy. Yeah.
CW
What does it for you?
RM
Oh … a good commercial. I’m easy.
CW
Are you as easy to get angry?
RM
No, not as bad as I used to be. I used to be pretty hot-tempered. But I’m not now, hardly at all. I just don’t like silliness. If somethin’ needs to be fixed, I want to get it fixed immediately. There’s no need throwin’ a fit about it, just get it fixed.
CW
What’s the absolute best thing that could happen for you in the next few months?
RM
Seems like there’s always somebody who’s not in the greatest health. Success to me is being happy and healthy. Then, if you have a good career and a job you love, that’s the icing in the cake. But to have everyone healthy and happy is the A number one thing.

For more valuable insights from Reba, check out her story in the October 8, 2007 issue of Country Weekly.

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