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Reba McEntire on collaborating with Dolly Parton, looking ‘tough sexy’ and living ‘Not That Fancy’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Want to live like Reba McEntire? You’re in luck.

On Friday, the country music and entertainment icon will release a new album to partner with her new book, “Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots.”

The book, which arrives Tuesday, is a collection of recipes, memoir, photos, and lifestyle tips. The “Not That Fancy” album is a collection of acoustic covers of McEntire’s biggest hits, with a few surprises thrown in. Like Dolly Parton, who takes the place of Linda Davis on “Does He Love You.”

The book, McEntire explained over the phone, is “about things not having to be so fancy or structured. Whether it’s a dinner party or going out to eat, having friends over. If you don’t have your brand-new couch in, you’ve got to cover your old couch, that’s fine. People don’t care. They just want to get together and have fun.”

Re-recording some of her most recognizable songs in an intimate fashion just felt like the perfect partner for a book that already crosses mediums. “It’s not just a cookbook. It’s not just a photo album. It’s not a storybook. It’s an eclectic group of everything,” she explains.

“And I had to proofread it, so I went through it several times and never got bored with it. And I have the attention span of a 3-year-old, so for me not to get bored with it is a huge compliment to the book.”

McEntire spoke to The Associated Press about her new album, book, and dressing “tough sexy.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: The book came first, then the album. Where did the idea for acoustic covers originate?

McENTIRE: We had done (the compilation album) “Remixed, Revised and Revisited,” and so we pulled some of those songs. Working with (producer) Dave Cobb, that was an album that was stripped down, that we wanted to pull from. And we added some more songs to it, brand new songs, which is our new single called “Seven Minutes in Heaven.” And it just worked out really good to be “not that fancy.”

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AP: Dolly Parton takes the place of Linda Davis on this version of “Does He Love You.” How did the collaboration come to be?

McENTIRE: Well, we were picking out the songs for the album, “Does He Love You” came up and we were all like, “Well, if we did it again, who we like to have sing with you?” We all started pitching names and put them in the hat. When somebody said “Dolly,” everybody just said, “Oh, absolutely, we got to ask Dolly.” And she said, yes.

AP: So, it didn’t take much convincing?

McENTIRE: I hope not, anyway!

AP: Brooks & Dunn joined you again for “If You See Him/If You See Her.”

McENTIRE: We all got in the studio together. Of course, Dolly and I didn’t get to record together because of the pandemic, but Ronnie (Dunn) and Kix (Brooks) came in and we love to perform and sing together. We’re good friends. So, it was a great day hanging out at the studio.

They are terribly notorious for being pranksters. When we first started our tour in the early ‘90s, that was my first rule: No pranks. We do not like pranks. And so when Kix and myself, when we were singing “Cotton Fields,” he kind of kept spitting on me. We got off the stage, of course, and we walked back to the dressing room. I said, “Would you please quit spitting in my face?” And that’s when he gave me a big yellow rain slicker the next night.

AP: Ha! Did re-recording these songs transform them, in some way?

McENTIRE: You get used to hearing something a certain way, and then when it is stripped down to just a few instruments, you got to get comfortable with it again. You kind of have to relearn it. And some of the songs we slowed down, changed the tempo, and it just made it a totally different song. So, I thought it was a great idea and a great way to give the fans something different.

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AP: In the book, you describe your style as “tough sexy.” What is “tough sexy?”

McENTIRE: I’m a tomboy at heart. I grew up on a working cattle ranch. I worked outside with my older sister Alice and my older brother Pake and little sister Susie. We had to do the chores with the men and then come in and us girls had to take care of things with Momma. So, I always considered myself a tomboy, but I still like to dress up and be sparkly with rhinestones and glitter and fringe and all that kind of stuff. So “tough sexy,” to me, when they say, “How do you like to dress?” “I like tough sexy.” “Well, what’s that?” “In my cowboy clothes with a sexy side of it.” That’s my interior design, also.

AP: “Not That Fancy” offers simple living advice. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, maybe something you’ve shared on “The Voice?”

McENTIRE: I pass on the best advice I’d ever gotten from a good friend of mine who’s not with us any longer, a billionaire. He said, “Overall, have fun.”

And also, don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry that you don’t have eight glasses that match. Use Solo cups or paper plates, whatever you want to use, but have your friends over. Do not postpone a get together because you don’t have the perfect set up in your house, or maybe the house cleaner didn’t come, or maybe you didn’t feel like cleaning your house. Don’t worry about it. They just want to see you.