Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire has a new show on ABC ('Malibu Country') and will soon have a new daughter-in-law, Kelly Clarkson


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Oklahoma native Reba McEntire is a woman accustomed to winning. Along with her Grammys and Golden Globe, the singer dubbed "The Queen of Country" has multiple Academy of Country Music and American Music awards. The 57-year-old is also an accomplished actress, appearing in film and on Broadway and television. She and her second husband, Narvel Blackstock, will soon welcome singer Kelly Clarkson into the family. The first "American Idol" winner is engaged to Brandon Blackstock, Narvel's son. Ms. McEntire returned to television last fall with the sitcom "Malibu Country," playing a soon-to-be-divorced country singer who has moved her family to California. The show co-stars Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue and airs on ABC Friday nights at 8:30.


Your father was a rodeo star. Did you ever consider going that route?



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with Reba McEntire.



Absolutely, I wanted to be a world champion barrel racer. It's the ladies event in rodeo. It's a timed event. You are on a horse and you go around three barrels in a clover-leaf pattern. Whoever goes around the barrels the fastest without knocking over the barrels wins the money.

Did you ever try the steer roping your father was famous for?

No, I just ran barrels for about 10 years.

Was there any adjustment for your parents to your success as a singer?

Well, Granpap was a world champion cowboy. Daddy was a three-time world champion steer roper. My brother and my sister, Pake and Alice, both rodeoed and were champions. Not world champions, but they won rodeos, trophy buckles, saddles and things. So winning was a normal thing for the McEntire bunch.

When I came along and started singing, it was just in a different genre. Daddy was always telling me to quit running barrels, to quit with the horses and do what I could do better. I said, "What's that?" He said, "Your singing." But see, it was a God-given talent, and I didn't know how to practice that. I could go out and ride my horse all afternoon after school, but how do you practice singing? La, la, la, la, la, la, la -- that was boring to me. I wanted to be outside with Pake and Alice in the roping pen.

Once you broke through and made it, did it ever go to your head, especially in those early years?

Oh Lord, no. There was so much work to be done. Every time I thought I'd get a little step up, there was somebody always bigger, better and making more money, winning more awards, filling the seats better than I was. No, there was no room to get the big head.

You work with real comedic talents on "Malibu Country." Is it hard to keep a straight face with Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue?

Oh Lord, yes, it's hard! I broke up when Lily Tomlin was going on this rant about how I played piano as a little girl. Sara Rue looks over at me and she starts laughing. She said, "You've got tears running down your face." I said, "I can't help it. The lady's funny." And she is. Oh my God, Lily Tomlin entertains us on and off the stage.

When your first TV series ["Reba"] ended in 2006, did you think that was it for television or did you want to get back to it?

Oh, I sure wanted to. I love doing television. I love the schedule. It's play work to me. It's a lot of fun. It is hard to memorize and keep it going. They rewrite stuff, and you have to re-memorize something. That's the hard part, but other than that, I love doing it.

Is it easier for you to memorize a song because of the music, the melody?

It is easier when there is music added to it because it's in a melody and also it rhymes. Now if the television show is conversational, it is easy for me to understand and easy for me to memorize. But if it's a paragraph of something such as a philosophy, it's hard for me to memorize.

You appear so comfortable in front of an audience. Did you or do you ever get a case of the nerves?

I do feel very natural in front of an audience. ... The only time I get really nervous is when I have new shoes, a new outfit, lines I don't know, a new song I haven't learned really well -- that's when I get nervous. You don't know if the shoes are going to be comfortable or if they are going to be slick and go with the outfit. Is the zipper going to break? Am I comfortable in it?

Was there ever a time in your career that singing lost its luster for you?

Hmmm. Lost its luster? No, no. Do I like to go have fun and play with Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue and the rest of the cast a little bit more? Yeah.

Does singing feel more like work?

Yeah. I do love to be on stage. I do love to be in front of an audience and I love the songs I have gotten to sing. But when you get to play ... I mean it's like when I did "Annie Get Your Gun." I was on stage being a different character. I was Annie Oakley playing with great actors, singing, acting -- that was the best part. That was the best thing ever. Now here I am Reba MacKenzie [on "Malibu Country"]. I get to sing and I am acting with Lily Tomlin for Pete's sake! That's pretty hard to beat.

Because you have the show now, do a lot of your friends in the business ask if they can do guest appearances?

No, but I sure wish they would. I mean, there are tons of people I would love to have on the show. Bette Midler -- I would just absolutely love to have her because she and Lily Tomlin worked together. I would love to have Dolly [Parton] come on. Jane Fonda -- they worked together on "Nine to Five." I'd love for William Shatner to come on. Alec Baldwin. I got to work with Alec Baldwin on "South Pacific" when we did it in Carnegie Hall years ago. That would be fun.

How was that, by the way?

It was too much fun. Working with Alec is a hoot. He's great. He's just a very wonderfully talented, mischievous little boy.

I hope you do get all those people to come on. It would be amazing.

I've got so many people that I am dying to have on. There's a long list, but we've just got to be very patient and we hope we get picked up for the second season. You know, you've just got to take it a little bit at a time.

So I understand you are going to have another famous singer in your family, Kelly Clarkson. Is there any competition there, or do you give her advice on how to do it? I guess she already knows.

[Laughing] Yes, she already knows. Kelly and I have toured together. We sang on television together. We've done duets. We've been friends over 10 years. Narvel [Reba's husband] started managing her. I think it was after she met me that she met Brandon. But she didn't know that we were related. We'd all been friends. Kelly had been on vacations with Narvel and me, been to the house, we'd been to her house -- I mean just best friends. So for this to happen it was just the icing on the cake for Narvel and me. We totally adore Kelly. All of my family, all of Narvel's family love her with all our hearts. I feel like a very, very lucky blessed person to have Kelly now as a part of the family.

It sounds like you are having a charmed life. Knock on wood it continues.

My family is happy and healthy and we are all just having a great time in this new year. I just can't wait to see what happens in the future. As I've said many times, I'm a happy camper!

breakfast

Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pasheridan.


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