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Country Music Icon Reba McEntire Shares Stories of Success, Longevity, and Staying Humble

“Stay true to your gut instincts.”

Courtesy of Reba McEntire
Courtesy of Reba McEntire

Global star and widely loved country music artist, actress, and humanitarian Reba McEntire celebrates her 16th Grammy Award nomination this year for her album, Stronger Than The Truth, which has resonated deeply within the country music community. One of the greatest selling country artists of all time, McEntire has previously won the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Vocal Collaboration, and Best Roots Gospel Album, and she has also been nominated for a Golden Globe award and more.

We sat down with the reigning “Queen of Country Music” to talk her Best Country Album nomination, how she turned her passion into a hugely successful career that has spanned over four decades, and advice for other female artists. You can tune into the 62nd Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020. 

Where were you when you received the news of your 16th Grammy Award nomination? 

I was at home in Nashville and my phone started blowing up around 7:30 a.m., right as the nominations were announced. My entire team texted me to let me know the news! There were a lot of excited emojis!

How does this year’s Best Country Album nomination compare to the one you received in 1994 for Read My Mind

I’m incredibly proud of both albums. I still love music now just as much as I did then, and I still follow the same formula I did then — pick great songs that touch my heart and hopefully they’ll touch yours, too.

How does this nomination stand out amongst the other 15 you have previously received?

I wanted to go back to my roots on this album and make a stone-cold country album with great story songs. To be recognized for that some 30 years after my very first nomination is pretty special. It’s just icing on the already really wonderful cake.

What about Stronger Than The Truth do you think resonated with the Recording Academy?

It’s honest and authentic. It’s full of songs that tell stories that I think anyone can relate to. 

From your first nomination (and win) in 1986 to now, the 2020 Grammys, how has your outlook on awards and accolades changed? 

I’m still as competitive as I’ve always been, but the pressure is less now. Of course I love to win awards, who doesn’t? But now I take pride in knowing that I’ve made the best album that I possibly could and that is my reward, whether I take home a trophy or not.

Many of the songs on your album have been on your radar for years. How does it feel to see these songs officially having their moment of recognition? 

I’m just thrilled to see great songs being recognized, and I’m thankful for all the writers letting me be the conduit for their work.

How does it feel to have your music consistently recognized for over three decades? 

Well it feels great! I, and my entire team, work very hard to put out music that means something and connects with the listener. I’m beyond grateful to still have the platform that I do and I take it very seriously.

That’s why I do this… I want the music and the songs to reach out and touch people and make them feel like they’re not alone and that someone else understands.

Reba McEntire

You most recently took home the award for Best Roots Gospel Album in 2017. How have you incorporated your faith into your country records, and what similarities do you see between the genres? 

My faith is part of everything I do. I pray every day that the Lord will use me and guide me in my all my decisions. I may not be singing directly about God and Jesus, but that doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t there. Songs like “You Never Gave Up On Me” on this record could be about someone’s relationship with the Lord. There’s always been an overlap between Christian and country, and I think there always will be.

Stronger Than The Truth is your 33rd studio album — a tribute to your success and fame. What has allowed you to remain grounded? How do you not let the pressures of success change you?

My family and my friends keep me grounded. No one’s going to let my head get too big and they bring me back down to Earth real quick if I get to floating off too far. My sister, Alice, gave me a toilet seat cover one time for Christmas that on the top said, “The Twinkle!” So I’m still working on being that “star.”

What has been the most unexpected joy you have received from creating this album? 

Hearing how the songs have touched people’s hearts. I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t listen to the entire album through at one time because it was just too emotional for them. That’s why I do this… I want the music and the songs to reach out and touch people and make them feel like they’re not alone and that someone else understands.

What things have industry peers shared with you about how they feel about this album that have surprised you? Is there anything that you didn’t expect?

I’ve had people come to me in tears with how much the songs have impacted them. I was just trying to make a great country record, and if people cry, that means we have touched their hearts. Making that connection is sweet.

What do you think sets you and this album apart from the other nominees? 

I think we’ve all made really great albums, but we’re all very different and in different stages of our careers. I think it’s really great to see such diversity represented in the category with all types of country music.

Are there any moments from your past Grammy experiences that stand out to you? If so, what are they?

Winning the Grammy for Sing It Now is something I’ll never forget. I made that record as a way to heal my own heart, and to see it connect with so many other people and then be recognized in that way meant the world to me.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for Best Country Album this year?

I don’t take it for granted. There are a lot of great artists making incredible music out there every day, and I feel very honored to have my work recognized as standing out among the crowd.

If you could share one piece of advice with female artists getting their start, what would it be?

Stay true to your gut instincts. I’ve always felt that is God’s way of directing me. Stay with the type of music you want to be making and what type of artist you want to be. Stand your ground and make music that you’re proud of. Everything else will work itself out. Work hard, show up on time, be prepared and have fun!

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