Reba McEntire is about to release a new album on April 5th called Stronger Than The Truth, and this release may be way more significant that just a late career entry by an aging star that country radio has long since put out to pasture. Reba already promised us it was going to be the most country record of her career, and judging by the early singles, this is not hyperbole. And it’s not just country, some of these songs are pretty incredible entries for any genre of music, and may challenge for some of the best in Reba’s legendary career.
But Reba’s career hasn’t always been country. She’s most certainly veered well into the pop and contemporary realm. But in a new interview with the PBS New Hour, she reveals that this wasn’t always her call, just like it isn’t for a lot of artists who are signed to country music’s major labels.
“Every time I would try to do something very country, the record label or somebody would want me to go more contemporary, or what mainstream was at the time, or what radio was playing at the time,” Reba says. “So it’s just back to basics for me. It’s my heart. It’s me. At this stage, I’ve been wanting to do it forever. But finally I get to.”
Reba also spoke openly about Bro-Country, though she didn’t use the term specifically. She also let it be known where she wished country music would go in the future.
“Oh, it’s the Bro trend,” Reba said. “You know, ‘Hey Bro, let’s go down to the river and catch some fish,’ and everybody’s a good ol’ boy, and that’s the Bro music. I think it’s kind of going away from that a little bit. I would really like it to get back to the real strong country, the country of Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, Mel Tillis. I miss that kind of country.”
Reba may be right that aside from some exceptions, country music is becoming more country in the mainstream in the aftermath of Bro-Country’s dominance, with artists like Luke Combs and Midland finding serious traction in their career, and even George Strait reappering on the radio. Reba’s Stronger Than The Truth may give country another serious nudge in that direction.
Reba also addressed the ongoing women in country music issue. When announcing the nominees for the ACM Awards recently, Reba remarked, “I’m missing my girlfriends on this” when reading off the all male nominees for Entertainer of the Year. When talking with PBS News Hour, she also made sure to underscore that for any artist to succeed, hard work and sacrifice are necessary.
“Didn’t surprise me,” Reba said about the ACM nominations. “But, when anything like that happens, I just go, ‘Us gals got to work harder. We got to support each other. We got to get in there. It’s gotta change.’ “
The interviewer then read a quote from Reba from a separate interview.
“There’s a lot of people, a lot of girl singers that are 10,000 times better than me, but they don’t have the drive, they don’t have the work ethic, they’re not willing to sacrifice what it takes to do this,” the interviewer quoted. “What did you mean?”
“Just that,” Reba answered. “They want it, but they don’t want to have to do everything you have to do to get there. You have to stay away from home a lot. You have to leave your kids home with a nanny. You have to say no to a lot of great things you would get to do at home with your family, like missing your kid’s championship hockey game. A lot of that stuff, I wish if I could go back, what would I do? How would I do it again, knowing what I know now? But you can’t look back. You can’t live on regret.”
Reba McEntire will be hosting the 2019 ACM Awards on Sunday, April 7th. Her entire new record is streaming at the moment on NPR.