The Queen of Country; Reba McEntire

Heads up the 54th Academy of Country Music Awards

By Lisa Lee & Taylor Payne

There are really not a lot of things that Reba McEntire hasn’t done in iconic career, but co-starring with a 40-year-old 100-pound tortoise wearing his own tiny cowboy hat may just be one of them. That’s the surprise that awaited her on the Hollywood soundstage for this year’s CBS promo shoot, but just like everything else in her life, she took it in stride and had fun with it. Taking life as it comes and making the most of it is one of Reba’s trademarks, and it’s one of the many qualities that make her such a great host for the live 54th Academy of Country Music Awards. Whether you’re watching at home or in the audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, you know Reba’s got this and you’re in for a fun ride. We sat down with the 16-time ACM Award winner (including a win for Entertainer of the Year and seven for Female Vocalist) between takes and photos at the promo shoot to catch up.

What do you look forward to the most about the ACM Awards every year?

Well, the ACM Awards are like a family reunion. Everybody gets together, has a wonderful time and we get to celebrate people being nominated for their hard work throughout the year. Then, we get to applaud the winners and celebrate later on. It’s a lot of fun. We love it.

Between the ACM Awards and your residency with your buddies Brooks & Dunn, you’ve played Vegas a lot. Why do you think the city is such a great home for the ACM Awards?

It’s a great home for the ACM Awards because, number one, it’s a great place to be. Vegas just breathes excitement! Before the awards everybody gets to have fun exploring the city, catching some fun shows, eating at delicious restaurants and just enjoy visiting with each other. We’re all in a great mood until somebody loses $50 and then it’s just terrible. (laughs)

As the landscape of TV as we know it today is changing, why do you think it’s important to still have the ACM Awards every year to recognize artists?

I definitely think it is important to recognize accomplishments and celebrate each other’s victories over the last year. We’re all so busy with touring and recording that award shows give us a minute to slow down and hang out with each other. Plus, it’s great publicity for the artists because people are sitting in their living rooms saying, “Oh wow, I didn’t know they had a new album out” or “I haven’t heard this song before but I loved it. I’m going to go buy it, download it now. And, I’m going to stream the music video.” It really gives another layer of visibility to everyone and country music in general.

After hosting so many times, do you have any pre-show rituals?

No, except just to go say hi to everybody I can before I go to the stage. We do a whole run through of the show that morning, walk the red carpet and then go live at 5:00 pm so it’s a packed day. It’s a lot of fun to see everybody, and there are some nerves in the air because it’s live TV with equipment going on stage and changing sets. But there’s plenty of excitement. I just have to be ready and make sure everything is in the right place where it’s supposed to be, zipped up and ready to go!

Just two days before the show your new album, Stronger Than The Truth, is coming out. What are you looking forward to the most about having this new music out and hopefully performing some of it on the show?

I’m really excited about the new album, and I’ve been working on it for a while, co-producing with Buddy Cannon. It’s been fun to release a song each week on the streaming services leading up to our April 5 release date because I get to see what my fans think early on. The musicians did a wonderful job, and I’m so proud that one of the first songs that we have released is the title track that my niece, Autumn McEntire, co-wrote with Hannah Blaylock. I got to write on three or four of them too. I grew up singing in dancehalls and rodeos, so to be able to put Western swing songs on this album that people can dance to was really important to me. But it wouldn’t be a country album without vivid story songs like the ones I listened to growing up from Tom T. Hall, Porter Wagner and Dolly Parton or those that draw intense emotions of love and loss.

strong>Party for a Cause Benefitting ACM Lifting Lives

Country Music’s Party of the Year wouldn’t be a party without the opportunity to party for a cause — especially when that cause is improving lives through the power of music. Each year, the ACM gets a chance to see how the country music community can come together to raise money with fans and industry alike. ACM Party for a Cause will return to Las Vegas for its seventh year April 5–7 leading up to the 54th ACM Awards. Party for a Cause will feature four marquee events for fans to enjoy, including ACM Stories, Songs & Stars, ACM Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off, and the ACM Decades.

The weekend of festivities will conclude Sunday, April 7, with the ACM Awards Official After Party, at the Marquee Ballroom at MGM Grand, immediately following the 54th ACM Awards. Hosted by Shawn Parr and Big Kenny, the night will feature performances by Jimmie Allen, Big Kenny, Brantley Gilbert, Adam Hambrick, Caylee Hammack, Walker Hayes, AJ McLean, Cassadee Pope, Runaway June, Dylan Scott, Brett Young and the 2018 New Artist Nominees.

Tickets & info @ partyforacause.com