Earlier this year, Reba McEntire discussed with CMT the secrets to her success, the importance of faith, and some simple words she lives by.
When one is beginning something new, it’s good to remember not to reinvent the wheel. McEntire took this to heart. In her CMT interview, she discussed some of the wisdom that she’s relied on throughout her career.
One of these pieces of wisdom is straightforward and simple: Be on time and know your stuff.
McEntire said she took the advice from Barbara Stanwyck, who played Victoria Barkley in the 60s Western television show, The Big Valley. Reba loved watching the show growing up, and also admired Stanwyck’s career (which included several movies, in addition to television). Stanwyck was known for her punctuality and professionalism.
“I was just a huge fan,” McEntire said. She went on to say that she read Stanwyck’s autobiography and keep news clippings about her. “And also,” she continued, “when I was watching her movies on television, they would talk about Barbara and how she was the most professional person to ever work with because she was always on time, maybe a little bit early. On time for her was early.”
Because of this, McEntire is someone who doesn’t waste time. She is punctual and professional, both of which have added to her recipe for success.
As an example, she called almost ten minutes early for her interview call.
However, the biggest influence on her career is a much higher authority.
Writing with her Mama
Her faith is so influential in her life that she released a double-disc faith-based album titled Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope. The project is a mix of traditional hymns and new contemporary Christian music. The record exemplifies her faith, but also other aspects of her recipe for success.
One of those aspects is collaboration. She recognizes the meaning that family and friends bring to projects.
For example, McEntire wrote the contemporary pieces of the record. But “I Got the Lord on My Side” she co-wrote with her mother, Jacqueline McEntire. When asked about how it was writing a song with her mother, she had positive remarks.
It was wonderful. I had already written the song, and we went into the studio to record it. We went into the control room, and mama was sitting there. The band went back in to get ready to perform it again, and she said, “Can I make a suggestion?” I said, “Well, sure.” She said, “You’re always saying, ‘I’ve got the Lord on my side. I’m so happy.’” Why don’t you change the second verse to be, “If you’re happy, you got the Lord on your side.” I said, “Wow! That’s great. Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s how mama became co-writer on the song.
The Importance of Friends
Her mother wasn’t the only collaborator on the project. One of the traditional hymns, “Softly and Tenderly” is a trio with McEntire, Kelly Clarkson, and Trisha Yearwood. McEntire said that singing with girlfriends made it even more special.
“It’s really cool to get to sing with people who can sing. I’ve known Kelly since 2002, and I’ve known Trisha, gosh, maybe 26 years? Oh, Lord — maybe longer than that. When she first got started in the music business, that’s how long I’ve known her. So when you get to sing with your good girlfriends, and you’ve got a long friendship, that’s what makes that so special.”
In another interview, this one with Christian Post, she revealed that her girlfriends have also helped her through the years following her divorce. This is why “God and Girlfriends” are on the album.
“And not only has God helped me but my girlfriends have helped me. They’ve been there for me — to help me vent and talk through stuff. So this song fit me perfectly; it’s almost autobiographical for me.”
But beyond family and friends, McEntire had quite a lot to say about how her faith has influenced everything from her business decisions to her personal life.
The role of faith
McEntire said that her faith had guided her course throughout her life, including her career.
“My faith has helped me tremendously throughout my whole life. I’ve depended on it. I’ve trusted it. It’s guided me, influenced me and given me advice in all ways. And of course, I’ve doubted some of the things I’ve done. But usually, when I ask the Lord first what should I do in a situation, I pray that it comes through loud and clear, and it helps me. Sometimes I have to wait a long time for an answer. He’ll tell me in his own time when I need the information. But faith is so important to me. I would not want to live my life without it.”
She added that she feels God’s presence when she listens to her new album.
“Every time I listen to this album. When I talk about it, especially the song “How Great Thou Art.” I just feel the Holy Spirit wrap His arms around me and it’s such an anointed song.” she described the song as a powerful love song to God that is praise and worship.
When asked if she utilizes God’s wisdom in making business decisions, it was a clear and candid yes. She said that she remembers asking God’s advice on a number of them.
“On a small decision, I even say, “What do you think?” On a large business decision, I always talk to God about it: “Give me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of what you’re giving to me,” because that’s very important. You can get wisdom and knowledge and not know what to do with it. You have to tack on there understanding, so you know what He’s saying to you.”
In the Christian Post interview, she further illuminated the role of God in her life.
“I can’t imagine living a life without God in my life. He is my best friend; He’s my buddy, He’s the one that I talk to when there’s no one around. I talk to Him when people are around a lot too. He’s my confidant; He’s my advisor, He’s my director. I just don’t know why you wouldn’t want that in your life. He’s just like a bodyguard; He is your protector.”
Even in the smallest details, she sees his hand–and is thankful.
“I got in the car the other day, and I was driving, and I turn the corner, and there was the most beautiful rainbow. And I was like, “Wow, thanks for letting me see that.” It’s just the beautiful things that I get to see and hear and smell. One of the songs says, “There is a God, how much more proof do you need?”
Times of Crisis
Reba McEntire isn’t a stranger to tragedy. More than two decades ago, she lost her manager and several crew members in a plane crash. She was supposed to be on that plane but was home recovering from illness. She’s been public about her faith in times of crisis.
Listening to her describe her faith, it could seem that she always feels grounded and close to God. But that isn’t her position. She admits that she has had times of struggle. She said that music helps her when she feels spiritually lost, particularly music from her childhood.
“Have you ever heard of the Singing Rambos? It was Reba Rambo with her mama and daddy Dottie and Buck Rambo. And [McEntire’s brother and sister] Pake, Susie and I were in high school when we listened to their albums over and over again. We would sing all their songs and absolutely love that three-part family harmony. That’s who we listened to growing up. And of course, Loretta Lynn’s gospel album Hymns. Hymns was wonderful when I was growing up. I just love it.”
Beyond her personal growth, she views Christian music as a salve to help heal the world at a time when it most needs it. She said that because of this, she thinks her album was well-timed.
“Anytime a gospel album can come out is great timing because people do need that firm connection with God. And music is the best way to do it — talking to Him through praise, worship and especially through music. It’s gratefulness, thankfulness, and it’s just like a lifeline to heaven.”
Putting it All Together
The last two ingredients in her simple recipe are also straightforward: Say no when you need to, and do what you love.
She said she loves her career and the entertainment business. Traveling while performing allows her to fulfill two of her great passions simultaneously, and she isn’t unaware of her good fortune. She even sees Gods’ hand in her choice of vocation.
So it seems that success is simple, but not easy. Be on time. Work hard. Involve family and friends. Keep the faith. Be grateful. Say yes when you need to. Say no when you need to. And do what you love.
There’s certainly no assurance that that formula will produce the success McEntire has enjoyed, but it does seem like a surefire recipe for increasing the odds–and being happier all around.