A Surprise Announcement, A Formula For Success and Words of Wisdom from One of the Most Accomplished Entertainers of our Time
By Lisa Morgan
It became very apparent to me, that the name “Reba McEntire” sends ripples across genre, gender and age barriers. There may be a few Amish families who will look at you quizzically at the mention of her name, and chances are, one of them is fibbing. When I posted on Facebook that I was going to be given the opportunity to interview Reba, I was swarmed with responses both public and private, all stirring with excitement. Some of my heavy desert rock buddies chimed in, my 22 year old son responded with “Way to go Mom!”, and I believe I was even un-friended and blocked out of shear jealousy by an ex-“let’s just be friends”-boyfriend. It was a good day.
Reba McEntire is, hands down, one of the most successful female recording artists in history. She has sold over 56 million albums worldwide, is a member of both the Hollywood Bowl and the Country Music Halls of Fame, has won 15 American Music Awards, 13 ACM Awards, 9 People’s Choice Awards, 7 CMA Awards, 2 GRAMMY Awards, an ACM Career Achievement Honor, and (take a breath) she is one of only four entertainers in history to receive the National Artistic
Achievement Award from the U.S. Congress. Her reign of #1 hits spans over 40 years of Billboard charts, and she is recognized as the biggest female hitmaker in Country music history. She earned her 64th Top 10 hit and her 35th #1 with “Turn On The Radio,” from her most recent album, ALL THE WOMEN I AM, and has sold over 9 million concert tickets in her career.
Then there’s her acting career: The Oklahoma native has 11 movie credits to her name, including Tremors, North & The Little Rascals. She made her Broadway debut in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun which the New York Times hailed, “without qualification, the best performance by an actress in a musical comedy this season.” She has also starred in one of America’s favorite sitcoms, Reba, which ran for 6 seasons. She even had her own personal exhibit featured at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
The woman is a success machine. But to this writer, she represented something far more personal. Reba was one of my strongest influences and in a way, taught me how to sing. I spent a lot of time determined to match Reba’s tone, pitch and range as I sang from her, For My Broken Heart album. The title matched my state of heart at the time, and songs like “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” were like therapy as I ventured into one of the toughest seasons of my adult life. While other women were working out to their “Buns of Steel” videos, I was working my vocal chords, taking special note of the way she could virtually reach into your chest cavity and squeeze your heart with the stories she sang. The idea of singing and moving people in such a powerful way was a lofty dream at the time. 20 years of singing professionally later, I’d say she had a bit of an impact. That being said, I’m sure you can imagine, with spot on accuracy, the gushing I opened up with as I stumbled over and submitted my list of questions.
CVW: With so much success behind you, you must have developed some formula, attitude, principle or discipline that helps you reach for and achieve greatness, time and time again. What is it?
Reba: Thank you very much for those kind words! I have a very strong and consistent work ethic instilled in me by both my parents. I’m very focused when it comes to my career. Whether it’s finding songs to record, learning songs for the next tour, watching what I eat, drink, getting plenty of sleep to keep my health in its best shape, or exercising, I take it very seriously. I know the fans can spend their money on other artist’s CD’s and stage shows. I never want them to go away feeling cheated when they buy my CD and concert ticket. I’m very blessed to get to do what I do. Always keeping that in mind, keeps me in a great attitude. God has been very good to me and has given me a talent I never take for granted.”
CVW: This industry has changed drastically over the years. What advice do you have for artists dreaming of a career in country music today?
Reba: Wow! Things have changed so much since I first got into the business, but the thing that hasn’t changed is this: we have so many big hearted people in our industry that I absolutely love! My best advice is hang with the good folks and stay away from the bad. You’ll know them when you see them. Go with your gut instinct! Work hard, pay attention. Listen more, talk less. Have confidence but be humble.
Consummate professional that she is, the fastidiously classy lady of country royalty, known to be fairly verbal early in her career as a neo-traditional country artist, declined to answer my question regarding pop influences in today’s country music, and the controversy over what has been dubbed “Bro-country”, a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, rock. She also took a pass on my question regarding the struggles of being a woman rising to the top in a male dominated industry. Both were later indirectly addressed in a “surprise announcement” that broke following a Facebook post that caused quite a stir with her fans.
Reba, who has recently and increasingly begun turning to social media to reach out directly to her fans, posted a teaser via video post on Facebook: “Hey, we’ve got a little surprise for ya…a little surprise announcement Oct. 21. Stay tuned right here for more details.” Speculation ran rampant among her Facebook followers, with the majority apparently hoping that she was either going to announce a new album or the return of her sitcom, Reba. Other fans have speculated that the iconic singer may be gearing up for a tour, or that she will announce the impending birth of a grandchild.
Reba McEntire, now 59 and still making history, announced Tuesday morning (October 21st) on Blair Garner’s “America’s Morning Show”, that she is going to be the first artist signed to Nash Icon Music, a joint venture between Big Machine Label Group (Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Glen Campbell, Florida Georgia Line, to name a few) and Cumulus Media (the second largest owner and operator of AM and FM radio stations in the US). The merge of the two corporate giants is an endeavor that reportedly looks to put once high flying and still commercially relevant mature talent back on the airwaves, and back to a position of prominence in the mainstream. McEntire has already cut 11 tracks for the new project, working with producers Tony Brown and James Stroud. “I’ve got three more to record,” she shared with a note of excitement. “I’m always trying to beat out what I have already, so we just keep looking.”
The move is not actually that much of a surprise, since Reba has worked with Scott Borchetta and the Big Machine Label Group in the past under the Valory Music imprint. Reba’s last two albums, Keep On Loving You and All The Women I Am were released under the Starstruck/Valory label, and Reba also appeared on a compilation released by Big Machine recently. Borchetta stated that he had been trying to talk Reba back into the studio for three years.
Following the big announcement, Reba told Country Weekly, “I’m very pleased to be the first artist signed to Nash Icon. I think it’s a huge honor that they selected me and asked me to be a part of it. I always like that part ‘cause with the folks I get to work with and help me find the songs and get in and record with the musicians, after the songwriters have done such a great job, now it’s my turn to get out there and do what I love to do.” With hopes that this new partnership will allow her fans to hear her new music on the radio, Reba shared, “It’s been kind of a weird time in country music for females, I would say, and it’s in a trend now that I’m hoping is going to be more female friendly, for personal reasons.” Again, taking to social media, Reba tweeted, “It’s official – the #NashIcon contract is signed! I can’t wait to get this new music out in the world!”
Saturday, November 1st, Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio will be her first concert following her big announcement. Tickets are available at www.fantasyspringsresort.com or call (800) 827-2946. The box office will be open until 9pm that night.