Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade

SUNDAY WITH REBA MCENTIRE

- By Alison Abbey

Since her debut album in 1977, Reba McEntire has ruled the country roost with sales of more than 56 million albums and 35 No. 1 singles, including “Whoever’s in New England,” “Does He Love You” and “How Was I to Know.” Now McEntire, 61, puts her softer side on display with Sing It Now:

Songs of Faith & Hope, a double album that mixes classic worship songs with new faith-based tracks and features some special guests.

How did you choose the spiritual standards for the new album?

I had an old hymnal from the church that we went to in Chockie, Oklahoma, and I just started going through it. I asked a lot of my friends and my family,“What songs would you like to hear me do?” My little sister, Susie, said “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and Melissa Peterman from the Reba show said “Oh Happy Day.” And it just went down the line like that.

Do you have a personal connection with any of the songs?

Oh, “I’ll Fly Away,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Softly and Tenderly,” “In the Garden,” “How Great Thou Art”—all of these songs! I can just picture us being at the little one-room church in Chockie with Grandma and Grandpa Smith singing these songs. It really does take me back.

Trisha Yearwood and Kelly Clarkson are featured on “Softly and Tenderly.” Did the three of you get to record that together?

We worked a full month trying to get our schedules together so we could be in the studio together, because I wanted it that way. It was a fun girls’ day. We had a blast. It was a long, long day—not because we had too much work to do, but because we were sitting around visiting and telling stories.

Did recording a faith-based album have a personal effect on you?

It sure did. Every song that I would sing would remind me of when I first sang it, as a child or teenager or adult. But my faith and my spirituali­ty have always been pretty strong. I think in the last couple of years, I’ve hooked back in more because I need more help now. And God’s always there, no matter how far you stray off. He’s always there when you want to come back.

What were Sundays like for you growing up?

Chockie was a small town of 18 people. Neighbors came in from all over to go to this little oneroom church. We were way out in the country, so we’d walk down the hill, go over the railroad tracks, up the hill, go across Highway 69 and then go up the hill to the church. All the ladies would bring their food. They’d bring a covered dish, and then outside they’d have these big long picnic tables. They’d put their food on it, and after church we’d all eat together. I can see it like it was yesterday.

And what about Sundays now?

I don’t have a typical Sunday. I don’t have a typical day, month or week! I’m really trying to find one day a week where I don’t do work at all. I usually work, work, work, work and take a week or two off and go on vacation, but I’m really trying to make myself not do work for one day of the week and do what God told us to do: Take a day to rest.

What do you like to do on those days or weeks you take to rest?

I love to get out in nature. I love to get outside and walk in a park or just walk down my driveway. I love to hang out with my girlfriend­s, with my family. I’m a people person, but sometimes I do like to be by myself so I can be quiet and listen.

Visit Parade.com/reba to find out the significan­ce of her upcoming Ryman Auditorium show.

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