"I just wanted to record the best songs possible that I could find that touched my heart and hopefully, they'll touch somebody else's heart too."
When it came time to write and record her vibrant 2019 studio album Stronger Than the Truth, Reba McEntire hoped to avoid the commercial linchpins typically assigned to major releases.
“Not chasing a trend, not chasing radio, not chasing what everybody’s listening to nowadays,” the singer told Entertainment Weekly’s Sarah Rodman in a recent interview. “I just wanted to record the best songs possible that I could find that touched my heart and, hopefully, they’ll touch somebody else’s heart too.”
They certainly did. The record, which dropped last April, landed at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and was recently nominated for Best Country Album at the 2020 Grammys. “We were thrilled to pieces,” says McEntire of the nod. “I was kind of shocked, really, but shocked in a happy way.” Before the ceremony, the Country Music Hall of Famer shared a few exclusive behind-the-scenes photos of the album’s recording process.
McEntire says she hit the studio in late 2018 feeling refreshed and excited about the prospect of singing a collection of tracks she considered “honest and…country.” “It wasn’t anything forced at all, it was just so relaxed,” she says of making the project, her 33rd studio album. “I loved every one of them, [producer] Buddy Cannon is a jewel to work with, and all the musicians made it just a great fun week to get into the studio and record.”
Album highlights include the title track, which was co-written by McEntire’s niece Autumn and Hannah Lousie Blaylock. “I heard this song probably four or five years ago, and loved it,” says McEntire. There is also “In His Mind,” a track that is sung from a man’s point of view. “It’s about a man — his wife, they’re divorced, and she’s getting remarried. But he keeps thinking that she will come back to him, but she never did. And the kids aren’t gonna tell him about their mom getting remarried, because in his mind it wouldn’t make any difference anyway.”
Overall, McEntire strived for a sense of balance between uptempo tracks like “No U In Oklahoma” and more contemplative material like “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain.”
“In the TV business we call it a treacle-cutter,” says McEntire, who’s starred in the sitcoms Reba and Malibu Country. “When you’re in a very serious situation, and somebody cracks a joke, it’s to break the ice and to lighten the load. You have to have those songs in there to give a breath of relief, and then you go back with a song like ‘Stronger Than The Truth,’ or ‘Tammy Wynette Kind Of Pain,’ or ‘The Clown.’ It goes right back to the heart.”
That heart of Stronger Than the Truth will once again be on display when the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards air on Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on CBS.
—Additional reporting by Sarah Rodman