Reba McEntire was nervous about being in Dolly Parton's presence. The women remade McEntire's beloved hit "Does He Love You," but because of COVID-19, they couldn't record together in the studio. They found a way to costar in the music video for the song, and McEntire was determined to be on time for the shoot. She's infallibly punctual in normal circumstances, and Parton was her dream duet.
Then the generator went out in her trailer, where she planned to get dressed. McEntire, 66, hurriedly dropped by her office, met her glam team, got dolled up, and rushed to the video shoot.
"I was so panicked," McEntire admitted, explaining she wanted to arrive on set before Parton. Instead, Parton was there for 40 minutes by the time McEntire showed up. "That really bugs me. Get there early, be prepared, don't waste anybody's time and show respect. That was always my motto. For her to beat me there, oh my gosh."
Courtesy Green Room PR Reba McEntire
McEntire was the only one worried about it. She said Parton, 75, was friendly to everyone and wished them good morning.
"It sets a precedent when the star of the show comes in with a great attitude," she said. "We had a blast."
McEntire and Parton's remake of "Does He Love You" is on McEntire's new three-album set, REVIVED REMIXED REVISITED. Available Friday, the albums are a collection of fresh versions of McEntire's No. 1 songs. REVIVED is 10 songs recorded the way McEntire performs them onstage. REMIXED is dance versions of McEntire's biggest hits. And REVISITED, produced by Dave Cobb, is stripped-down interpretations of her signature songs. "Does He Love You" anchors REVISITED. "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" and "Why Haven't I Heard from You" are on REVIVED and REMIXED. "Fancy" is on each of the three albums.
"These songs are No. 1 hits that had been heard for many years, but they've got a little facelift, a little polish and they've got a little newness to them," McEntire said.
The process started with choosing which songs she wanted to appear on which albums. McEntire lobbied for an album of "should have been singles" selected from her back catalog. However, the final concept landed on three albums of No. 1 songs people have loved for four or five decades. With that decision made, McEntire and her team decided which songs received which treatment. They made lists, tested ideas, changed their minds and tried again.
McEntire's manager Clarence Spalding tossed out the idea of engaging Cobb in the process. Known for working with artists including Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, Cobb's style is often more restrained in the recording studio than the producers with whom McEntire usually hires. McEntire didn't know Cobb, but her boyfriend, actor Rex Linn, is a huge fan of Isbell and introduced her to his music. She said Linn "was elated" that she planned to work with Cobb and wanted to attend all of her recording sessions.
"He said, 'Oh my gosh, that's a great idea,'" McEntire recalled. "Of course, he came to all of them, and he had a blast. I think he had more fun than I did."
McEntire said Cobb only used about six players on the songs and the experience was more laid back than she was used to. The singer and actress explained the new version of "Consider Me Gone" is more introspective and that Parton brought a softer interpretation to "Does He Love You."
McEntire remembers Spalding, Linn, and others on her team packing themselves into Nashville's RCA Studio A to hear the new version of "Does He Love You" for the first time.
"We were all listening," she said fondly. "And it was over, and we were like, 'Play it again.'"
McEntire is anxious to share her road versions of songs with people on "Revived" because the arrangements are familiar old friends. She called REMIXED a "different animal" that is "unfamiliar to me."
"I'll grow into it," she promised.
But REVISITED is her favorite album of the three.
"It's where I'm at in my life," she said. "I'm more settled and more content and so happy. And these versions are mellow, and I feel I'm very mellow at 66 years old."
With her album out, now she's shifting her focus to her other creative endeavors. McEntire and Linn are filming new episodes of the CBS series Young Sheldon. While they haven't been in a scene together yet, she hopes they will be soon. McEntire's Lifetime Christmas movie Christmas in Tune, which she shot with fellow actor and country singer John Schneider, will debut this holiday season. In December, she's also set to conclude the years-long Las Vegas residency she shares with Brooks & Dunn.
"I'm sad," she said emphatically. "I love playing Caesars Palace with Kix and Ronnie. It was a fun time. It was almost vacation for me because you're in one place. You get to do what you love to do. People come to you from all over the world to see the show, and we loved it. That's not to say we might come to Vegas and do something else somewhere else. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm certainly open for it into it."
MCA Nashville Reba McEntire's new collection
McEntire is also looking forward to going on tour next year. She's excited about her stage clothes but jokes that she and Linn have so much fun going to Sonic that she needs to swap her figure-hugging gowns for an assortment of brightly colored muumuus.
"We've had to have three fittings because of my COVID weight," she said with a laugh. "Everybody is trying out new recipes, and Rex and I love to cook. Then we got on a Sonic binge, and every time we have a hamburger, I get to have tater tots. It's going to be a hard time losing the weight."
Reba McEntire Instagram Rex Linn and Reba McEntire
But she's not complaining. The downtime that came with COVID-19 forced her to reevaluate her work-life balance — and McEntire is happy.
"We see now what's important," she said. "And the things that aren't important, we just don't do. It's a new way of approaching our business."
When explaining it, McEntire was wistful as she remembered her late mother Jacqueline, who died during the pandemic.
"My mama used to say this all the time," McEntire said. "I said, 'Hey Mama, you want to go to Casper, Wyoming, with me this weekend?' She said, 'Oh, my house is a wreck. I should stay home and clean it. But, it'll be here a hundred years from now so why you don't pick me up?' It's those kinds of things. Just don't sweat the small stuff."