For country music star Reba McEntire, relying on the Holy Spirit each and every moment of her life is common practice.
“The Holy Spirit was left behind to comfort and guide us, and I rely on that strength each and every day,” McEntire told The Christian Post. “I just pray that the Holy Spirit guides me, speaks for me, helps me down those stairs.”
An outspoken Christian, McEntire said her faith also impacts her impressive music career: She’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, selling over 85 million records worldwide and winning numerous Grammy Awards.
“It’s all God; He’s the reason for everything I do,” she said. “I pray that I will find songs to record that will touch people’s hearts and heal their hearts. Before I go on stage, I ask the Holy Spirit to touch people in the audience, if they need healing or comfort.”
“God gave the songwriters that gift, and if there’s something in songs that can come out of my mouth and touch a person and heal their heart, it’s all worth it to me,” McEntire added. “Music has allowed me to do wonderful things God intended for the people who are listening.”
Now, the 64-year-old is nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Album for her 33rd studio album, Stronger Than the Truth. The record, released in 2019, is a pure country collection of songs, which McEntire co-produced.
“It’s a huge honor,” the “Fancy” singer said of the nomination. “Everybody is always excited when you get a nomination because people are recognizing your work, your body of art. It’s always great to be loved and accepted. I did this album out of love because I wanted to do a real country album and I found songs that touched my heart and I’m glad that they liked it enough to nominate it.”
It was the success of her Christian album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, McEntire said, that inspired her latest collection of songs. The 2017 album won a Grammy Award for Best Roots Gospel Album and a GMA Dove Award for Bluegrass/Country/Roots Album of the Year.
“When you do something that you love, it’s not a job; it’s a lot of fun. The gospel album was a passion project for me,” she said. “It inspired me to get back in the studio. I couldn’t do it by myself and I wouldn’t even want to. God put a great team of people around me, believers who know where all this inspiration is coming from. I give Him the glory for all of it.”
Despite her impressive career, numerous accolades, and name recognition, McEntire admitted her life hasn’t been without pain. In 1991, a devastating plane crash killed seven members of her band and her tour manager. In 2015, she split from her husband of 26 years, Narvel Blackstock. They went on to divorce later that year.
But even in those dark moments, McEntire said she felt God’s comforting hand on her.
“I feel Him all the time, every day,” she said. “God helped me through my divorce. When the plane crash happened, I never was mad at God, never was. People had asked me, ‘Did you get mad at God?’ I didn’t. Everything happens for a reason. In my little minuscule mind, it’s not mine to ask or judge. I’ll ask when I get up there, just to say, ‘How come?’”
“I’m in a great place right now, and my faith got me through all of it,” she added.
McEntire revealed that the song "Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain" from her new album reflects some of the pain she endured stemming from her divorce.
“I grew up listening to Tammy Wynette, and when she sang, you knew you were supposed to hear her for a reason,” she recounted. “I wanted that to come across in this song. It’s so visual; it’s like a video playing right in front of you.”
But according to the Oklahoma native, of the hundreds of songs she’s released throughout her decadeslong career, her favorite is the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
“It was my grandmom’s favorite song, and when I sang it in the studio, I would sit there and sob. The Holy Spirit touched me when I sang it, so it’s my favorite of all time,” she said. “It’s the highest praise song to me.”
Gospel music, she pointed out, has always had a strong influence on country music — and the two genres are easily interchanged.
“Even many of my own songs you can take as either secular or spiritual,” she said. “The connections between gospel and country go way back; spiritual songs were the songs people sang at home and it blends into when they sit around the fire. You’d sing a secular song and then a spiritual song. They go hand in hand, and that’s how I was raised.”
This phenomenon allows her to reach a wide demographic, McEntire said, meaning she’s able to reach both the churched and unchurched with the message of the Gospel.
“When people listen to my music, I want them to get happiness, joy, healing — something out of them instead of just adding 3.5 minutes of your time,” she said. “Whether it’s a tear or giggle or laugh or memory that it drudges up, I hope they feel something.”
Whether she’s winning a Grammy, performing in front of sold-out audiences, or recording another chart-topping album, McEntire said her goal is to help others and glorify God through her music.
“I hope I have helped people, I hope it has healed hearts,” she said. “It’s helped mine. I just appreciate doing what I love to do and that God has allowed me to do all these things. I pray I will glorify Him all along the way.”