As someone who’s mastered the recording studio, stage, TV, movies and Broadway for 40 years, there’s little left for Reba McEntire to accomplish or explore. But amid her mounds of creative pursuits and albums centered around originals, covers, Christmas tunes, duets, concerts and soundtracks, the Country Music Hall of Famer and frequent pop crossover favorite has finally found one avenue she’s yet to explore.
Sing It Now: Songs Of Faith & Hope (Nash Icon Records/Capitol Christian Music Group—buy) marks McEntire’s first ever foray into gospel music, although technically, it’s a double shot of uplifting material to help make up for some of that lost time. Following a set of hymns channeled through an artistic lens that sounds like only Reba can deliver (alongside guests Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood and several family members), the superstar turns in a second installment of entirely new tunes, such as “I Got The Lord On My Side” (co-penned with her mother Jackie) or selections gleaned from several all-star songwriters.
And when the woman who’s thus far logged 35 #1 singles and sold over 56 million albums calls CCM Magazine from Nashville, it turns out she’s remarkably down to earth, sweet and sincere, while exuding enthusiasm for this truly soul-stirring project surrounding a set of beliefs that have been embedded in her heart since birth. In addition to hearing all about this latest career direction, longtime fans are sure to savor many other morsels, including growing up on southern gospel, a bit about her Las Vegas residency with Brooks & Dunn and how she balances trendsetting fashions without ever going overboard.
CCM Magazine: For as many albums as you’ve released over the years, I’m surprised this album dedicated exclusively to spiritual songs didn’t come sooner. Had it always been in your mind or was this a more recent desire?
Reba McEntire: It wasn’t my idea, so I couldn’t say either way. Bill Carter, who was my manager in the ‘80s, and Tony Brown, who has been my producer since 1990 off and on, both came to me at separate times and suggested me doing an inspirational album. I really do respect their advice and their opinions, so I went to my record label. “What do ya’ll think?” And they were all over it.
CCM: What inspired this collection’s unique split between hymns and new songs of inspiration as opposed to going just one route or the other?
RM: Well, that wasn’t the original plan. I was going to do half old songs and half new songs. And then when I got into the studio with my two co-producers—Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and Doug Sisemore, who is my musical director and band leader—we kind of got carried away and recorded way too many songs. So when I presented them to Jim Weatherson at Nash Icon and Bill Hearn at Capitol [CMG], I said “guys, I’ve over recorded, so pick out which ones you like and which ones you want to take out.” Well they came back and said they couldn’t do it, so they just said, “Well, record a few more and we’ll do a double CD—one of the old songs and one of the new songs.” It worked out great in my opinion.
CCM: You’re currently in the middle of the Las Vegas residency with Brooks & Dunn. Will there be a segment in the show where you incorporate these new songs?
RM: It’s really hard with all the songs that Brooks & Dunn and I have had in the past 25 years for them, and 40 years for me. It’s hard to really slide in new songs because the fans have come from all over the world and they want to hear the greatest hits. We try to put in one or two every once in a while. I am definitely going to be putting in a song or two from the gospel album because I think that needs to be heard. Ronnie [Dunn] does “Believe” on the show and it always gets a standing ovation. It just brings the house down. People say, “Ohh, gospel songs in Vegas?” No, no, no. Our audiences love it and eat it up.
CCM: While some of your listeners may come from a church background, others may not. What do you hope everyone will take away from your message?
RM: Well I hope everybody listens to it. I hope everybody loves it. What they take away from it is up to the Holy Spirit. I always thought when you listen to a song, it’s kind of like reading the Bible. The Holy Spirit gets in there and gives you what you need, so it’s up to Him.
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