Reba McEntire's New Album Is A Dedication To Family And Faith

Feb 4, 2017

On her latest album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope, country veteran Reba McEntire went through hundreds of songs from her history, picking and choosing the ones that touched her heart the most. One of them is the iconic worship tune "Jesus Loves Me," which, in a way, was the first song McEntire was ever paid to perform.

"I was in Cheyenne, Wyo. with my family. We were staying at the Frontier Hotel, and back then they didn't have televisions in the room, so everyone would congregate down in the lobby," she says. "They got my older brother Pake to go up and sing a song to entertain everybody. He sang 'You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog.' One of the cowboys gave him a quarter, and I thought, 'Whoo, I want in on that!' So I got up there and sang 'Jesus Loves Me' ... and I got a nickel."

While McEntire has come a long way from earning a nickel per show, her creative relationships with family and Christianity are as strong as ever. "I Got the Lord on My Side," a song from the new album, even features a co-writing credit from McEntire's own mother.

"The band and I had listened to what we had just recorded and we were making some changes," she explains. "Momma said, 'Can I make a suggestion?' I said, 'Well sure, what?' She said, 'Instead of saying on the second verse, 'I'm so happy,' why don't you say, 'Oh you're happy, you've got the lord on your side?' And I said 'Dangit, why didn't I think of that?'"

Hear the rest of Reba McEntire's interview with NPR's Scott Simon at the audio link.

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(SOUNDBITE OF REBA MCENTIRE SONG)

REBA MCENTIRE: (Singing) Walking down some winding roads, twisting in some long shadows.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Reba McEntire has sung about love and the blues, New England and the night the lights went out. In her latest release, the songs are about faith.

(SOUNDBITE OF REBA MCENTIRE SONG)

MCENTIRE: (Singing) Yeah, that's when I hear my angels singing, singing that heavenly song.

SIMON: The new double album is called "Sing It Now: Songs Of Faith & Hope." And Reba McEntire joins us from Nashville. Thanks so much for being with us.

MCENTIRE: My pleasure, Scott. How are you doing today?

SIMON: I'm fine, thanks, how are you?

MCENTIRE: Doing great, thanks.

SIMON: Is this the right time for an album like this?

MCENTIRE: I think so. It really has lifted my spirits. It's intensified my faith, given me more hope. That's what music does for me.

SIMON: Well, let's hear some of the music. Very first song - "Jesus Loves Me."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JESUS LOVES ME")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.

"Jesus Loves Me" was the very first song I ever got paid for singing. I'm not for sure how old I was, but I was in Cheyenne, Wyo., with my family. Daddy is a three-time world champion steer roper, and he was competing at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo there. And we were staying at the the Frontier Hotel. And back then, they didn't have televisions in the room, so everybody would congregate down in the lobby visiting. They got Pake, my older brother - he's two years older than me. They got him up to sing a song to entertain everybody. And he sang "You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog" and one of the cowboys gave him a quarter. And I thought, woo, I want in on that. And so I said, Pake, help me think of a song. And he said, well, you know "Jesus Loves Me." And so I got out there and I sang "Jesus Loves Me," and I got a nickel.

SIMON: (Laughter) You grew up in a family of faith.

MCENTIRE: My grandma was a huge believer, very spiritual, probably the most spiritual person I've ever known in my life. Grandma and Grandpa went to church every time the doors were open. And then Grandma would take Susie and me, my little sister, down to the pond dam, go fishin' and we would sing songs. And "Jesus Loves Me" been one of them or "Oh, How I Love Jesus" and "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder." And then she'd tell us Bible stories, so I've known Jesus all my life because of Grandma. She introduced me to him.

SIMON: Religious music is being written all the time. Tell us about - well, let's listen to this new one we want to hear (laughter) "God And My Girlfriends."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD AND MY GIRLFRIENDS")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) I love how they know me, forgive me and show me again and again I can depend on God and my girlfriends.

SIMON: I feel like I'd like an introduction to who you're talking about, the girlfriends.

MCENTIRE: (Laughter) Oh, I've got tons of girlfriends, from my mama, my sisters to my buddies, lots of girlfriends. I'm very blessed on that department, and I love the line where it says they're just a prayer or a phone call away.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD AND MY GIRLFRIENDS")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) Anywhere, any time of the day, just a prayer or a phone call away, God and my girlfriends.

SIMON: Now, we noticed a co-writing credit here too - Jackie (ph) McEntire. Who is this young, new talent?

MCENTIRE: (Laughter) That's my mama.

(SOUNDBITE OF REBA MCENTIRE SONG, "I GOT THE LORD ON MY SIDE")

MCENTIRE: I wrote that song when I was out walking one day on my place in Tennessee, and that's my church time. That's when I get out and I praise the Lord and I thank him for everything. And I was just - you know, just saying I'm so happy. I got the Lord on my side. And, oh, I'm smiling. I got the Lord on my side. So we went in and record it for this album, and Mama was in the studio with me that day. And she was sitting in the control room, and Mama said, can I make a suggestion? And I said, well, sure, what? She said, instead of saying on the second verse I'm so happy I've got the - why don't you say, oh, you're happy you've got the Lord on your side? And I said, well, dang it, why didn't I think of that?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I GOT THE LORD ON MY SIDE")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) If you're happy, you've got the Lord on your side. If you're happy, you've got the Lord on your side. If I see that big, ol' happy grinning smile on your face, I know you're happy. You got the Lord on your side.

So Mama's got writer's credit on it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I GOT THE LORD ON MY SIDE")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) You got the Lord on your side.

SIMON: I'd like to get towards the end by asking you about one of the great traditional songs of faith I think. And this is "How Great Thou Art."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOW GREAT THOU ART")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to thee.

SIMON: Now this is a song that will be heard in thousands of churches this Sunday and a song I suspect you've given voice to thousands of times in your life. What are you trying to put into this song?

MCENTIRE: Doug Sisemore, who co-produced part of the album with me - he's my musical director and bandleader - he did the arrangement for this song, and his approach was that he wanted to make it not orchestral or with a choir. He wanted it to be soft and sweet. And when I sing it, to me, it's a love song. It's my love song to God. And this song slays me. It just - I can feel the Holy Spirit just wrap his arms around me every time I listen to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOW GREAT THOU ART")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art, how great thou art, how great thou art.

SIMON: Reba McEntire - her new double album is "Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope." Thanks so much, very nice to talk to you.

MCENTIRE: Oh, good visiting with you, too, Scott. Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN THE GARDEN/WONDERFUL PEACE")

MCENTIRE: (Singing) I come to the garden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.