Interview: Reba McEntire Celebrates the Holidays With ‘CMA Country Christmas’, Festive Album
It's the most wonderful time of the year -- especially if you're Reba McEntire. The singer is ushering in the 2017 holiday season in two ways: by wide-releasing her Christmas album, My Kind of Christmas, and by hosting this year's iteration of the annual CMA Country Christmas TV special.
McEntire's holiday album started on a whim a few years ago: "About five, six years ago, my piano player, Catherine Marx, and I went into the studio over at Starstruck," McEntire recalls to The Boot of the beginnings My Kind of Christmas. "It was summer, I didn’t have anything to do, I was trying to look for something to do.
"So we cut about eight songs, just in case I needed something for the Christmas season," she adds. "If somebody wanted something, I had the tracks."
A few years after McEntire recorded her Christmas album, Cracker Barrel approached the country star about putting several items -- including candles, clothes and plates -- for sale in their Old Country Store. When they asked if she could add a Christmas album, it was an easy decision.
"We took what we had recorded and made sure it was alright to put on an album and recorded two or three more songs and made it 10 [tracks]," McEntire shares. "I just picked out my favorites: songs I wanted to sing, songs that touched my heart. And that’s how we came up with the Christmas album."
After Cracker Barrel debuted My Kind of Christmas in 2016, exclusively in its stores, McEntire's record label, Nash Icon, requested to be able to release the disc to the general public. For the wide release, McEntire added a few more songs: collaborations with some of her favorite singers.
"Of course I went to my buddy Vince Gill first, and I asked him and his lovely wife, Amy Grant, if they would sing on "Mary, Did You Know?" with me. And Vince said yes, and Amy said yes," McEntire recounts. "My next spot was Darius Rucker. He and I share the same manager, Clarence Spalding, and when we were talking about Vince and Amy, Clarence said, ‘Darius is going to be in town the same day. Do you want me to ask him?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ So he agreed, [and he sings] on "O Little Town of Bethlehem.""
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"I thought, ‘It’s not a Christmas song, but, oh my gosh, we need this message so badly right now, especially at the Christmas holidays,'" explains McEntire. "If you’ve got worries, if you’re stressed, if you’re sick, give it up to God. He can take care of it. He can take all of that pain and suffering off of you and channel it a lot better than you ever could."
My Kind of Christmas also features a version of "Silent Night" with Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood. The three originally sang the song together for Clarkson's 2013 Christmas special Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Tale.
"They entertain me," McEntire boasts of Clarkson and Yearwood. "I sit back with my jaw dropped and just listen to them sing and perform. I’m just in awe of them."
Although McEntire admits she's a fan of each song on My Kind of Christmas, she does say that one stands out -- at least for her -- above the rest. That track would be "Mary, Did You Know?" mostly because it includes Grant speaking through part of the song.
"It just blended so well together," McEntire says. "And it was Vince’s idea for Amy to speak -- Amy’s got a great speaking voice, if you want her to do that."
McEntire hosted the ACM Awards for more than a dozen years, so returning to hosting duties for CMA Country Christmas is something she's looking forward to.
"I totally enjoy it. I really do like to do it," she says. "We’re taping the Christmas special, but when it’s like the ACMs and it’s live -- that going out, that first step, if you take two steps, you’re okay. And if you get two words out, you’re okay."
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