Interview: Reba McEntire Talks ‘Healing’ Gospel Album, ‘Sing It Now’
If anyone earned the right to take some well-deserved time off in 2016, it was Reba McEntire. In late 2014, her beloved father passed away, and in the summer of 2015, the country star revealed the end of her 26-year marriage to Narvel Blackstock, also her manager. No one would have blamed McEntire for stepping away for a bit, nursing her wounds and perhaps even indulging in a little self-pity.
But instead, McEntire decided to sing. The 61-year-old recorded her first gospel album, Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, a double-disc collection that includes 10 of her favorite hymns and 10 contemporary Christian songs, immersing the singer in her faith, which has carried her through much of her life.
"I really do believe that timing is everything," McEntire tells The Boot. "And that everything happens for a reason when it happens. So now is the perfect timing. I don’t really understand why, but it just worked out to be the time for me to do a gospel album."
For Sing It Now, McEntire recorded classics such as "Jesus Loves Me," "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art," along with new tunes such as "There Is a God" and "God and My Girlfriends." She narrowed down her album's track list by selecting "the ones I really wanted to sing, the ones that touched my heart."
"And it’s no different than the way I select songs for a regular album," McEntire adds. "I’ve got to sing the ones that I want to sing. Because if you’re just singing a song and you don’t really feel it, the audience will tell it."
Sing It Now's title track, written by gospel songwriters Tony Wood, Joseph Habedank and Michael Farren, conveys exactly the message that McEntire wants to get across: "Oh, it’s not always easy to join those melodies / But how sweetly they remind me of what I still believe / A voice that’s raised in times like these may be the truest praise / 'Cause I’ve never been forsaken, and that will never change." McEntire knew that the song needed to be the cornerstone of the entire record.
"A line in the song says, ‘If I could sing those songs back then, I can surely sing them now,'" McEntire shares. "And it was just a great pairing of the two CDs."
For McEntire, recording Sing It Now gave her the "huge healing" that her heart craved, especially "From the Inside Out." Its lines -- "Well, I need to be angry, I need to scream at the air / And the silence that’s there when I pray, oh, when I pray / And I need to be frightened / Until I find my anchor / Until I find my shelter / Until I find my Savior" -- rang truest to her of all the songs that she recorded for the project.
""From the Inside Out," it’s autobiographical," McEntire reveals. "When you’re hurt and you need to heal, you’ve got to do it from the inside out ... You’ve got to start at the heart, from the gut. It was very healing to sing that song. It hurt, but it was very healing."
McEntire also found respite by being in the studio, recording Sing It Now's songs with some of her dearest friends. By surrounding herself with people she knew and trusted, both in the recording booth and in real life, the time it took to create Sing It Now became the balm that McEntire needed.
"[There was] lots of laughter. A lot of crying. A lot of healing. A lot of cutting up," McEntire recalls. "I had my band, and then Jay DeMarcus, who co-produced some of the songs, he’d bring in his musicians, and then we’d be in the studio ... and we’d be cutting up and laughing. Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood [came] in the studio with me to do "Softly and Tenderly," and we were just cutting up, having a great time, telling stories ... It’s just hanging out with friends in the studio. Sharing music and sharing stories. It’s just so much fun."
McEntire has sold more than 90 million albums, and she holds the record for the most No. 1 singles by a female country artist. She's starred in TV shows and films, and on Broadway, and she is currently part of a successful Las Vegas residency, Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas. She also has a lifestyle brand line at Dillard's department store. But none of that is nearly as important to her as the message behind Sing It Now.
"I was supposed to do this album," McEntire insists. "I know I was put on this earth to help others. Not to be rich and famous, not to be popular, not to be a celebrity. I was put here to help others. And He just used me this way to do it. And so, whatever He wants me to do, I’m going to do it His way, not my way."
I know I was put on this earth to help others. Not to be rich and famous, not to be popular, not to be a celebrity. I was put here to help others. And He just used me this way to do it.
As for whether or not McEntire -- whose last record, Love Somebody, was released on Nash Icon in 2015 -- will record another country album, she admits that it's still undecided.
"I’d love to do another country album," McEntire says. "It just depends on -- the music business right now is so different, how we’re getting the music out to our fans. So, it’ll just depend on a lot of factors, if I do another country album."
Still, after weathering plenty of storms in recent years, McEntire is certain that whatever the future holds, she will be okay.
"I’ll tell you, I am happy. I'm loving where I am in life. I’m at peace," she says. "Because, number one, I’m at peace with God, and when you’re at peace with God, you can be at peace with yourself, and with others, inside and out ... I am a happy camper right now, I am loving life. I am enjoying what I’m getting to do.
"Everything’s different from last year," McEntire adds. "Last year was a big transition, and I am really happy where I am right now."
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