Keeping Up With Reba

As the redheaded star says, "Be careful what you wish for – and be specific."

Alanna Nash
Reba McEntire at Muhammed Ali's Celeb Fight Night
Charley Gallay

Among her almost two dozen awards – including CMA, ACM, Grammy, AMA, Billboard, and People's Choice Awards – Reba McEntire's somehow found time to nurture her entrepreneurial side. We sat down with the Oklahoma sweetheart to talk about life in the music industry and how she's handled setbacks.

Q: You have your own line of products available at Cracker Barrel. How much do they reflect your taste and who you are?
A: Well, Cracker Barrel came in and said, “What do you think about these products?” I said, “I like the lamp, but instead of just a smooth [finish], could that be tooled leather, so it will remind me of my daddy’s saddle?” They said, “Sure.” Then I said, “I love this Bible box,” because it was [made of] a carved tree. But I said, “Could you carve a cross on the bottom of it? That reminds me of Grandma Smith.” That’s who I’m named after, Reba Smith. Her faith was so strong. And she taught us kids a lot about the Lord. So that reminds me of Grandma, like the lamp reminds me of Daddy.

Q: Did you ever think about taming your accent?
A: Everywhere I went, people said something about my accent. One time this kid said, “Oh, wow, you kept your accent!” (Laugh) I said, “This accent’s made me a lot of money.” (Big laugh) No, I never wanted to change it. Sometimes it gets a little thicker than other times. It depends on how tired I am, and whether it’s at the front of my mouth or the back. But I like my accent. It’s done all right for me.

Q: You’re such an even-keeled, well-mannered person. How do you navigate the cutthroat music industry without sacrificing your Southern values?
A: Well, number one, you’ve got to realize it’s business. And you can’t take it personally, which I used to really do a lot. Growin’ up, I just assumed everybody liked me. My older sister might have said it was egotism, but it was confidence. And when I found out a few people didn’t like me (big laugh), it hurt my feelings really bad. Because I think I’m a pretty likable person, and I get along [with people] real well, and I’m fair. So you’ve just got to remember it is business, and don’t take it personally.

Q: When your first album, Reba McEntire, came out in 1977, it didn’t chart as well as you’d hoped. How did you gain the confidence to step out and say the next one was going to get better?
A: Well, it had to get better. It couldn’t have gotten any worse! (Big laugh) I think my first single moved two notches on the charts in [late] ’76. “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand.” That’s pretty funny. When I got into the music business, I thought I’d have a record on the radio, and I’d get a bus, and I’d be touring, and I’d be famous. That’s all I wanted to be. I wanted to be famous. And then I didn’t have a number one record until six or seven years after my first single. But every step was a step up. I never went backwards.

Q: What did you think that fame would bring you?
A: I thought that more people would like me. And enjoy my company as much as I enjoy myself. (Laugh) I thought it would let me get to go places, and have a bus, and live very comfortably for the rest of my life. And then once I started making money, and I got to buy clothes, I bought the most uncomfortable things, and high heel shoes. I just couldn’t take it, so I went back to my tennis shoes and boots.

Everything that I was thought was going to be really great, wasn’t that great. I just like to hang out with my friends and eat good food, and go nice places and stay in nice hotels. But it’s funny. What is that, “Be careful what you wish for and be specific?” That’s good advice.

Read more about Reba's childhood on an 8000-acre farm in Oklahoma and her best life lessons.