“I think that’s what music has been designed for—to create an environment where people will love one another and just to give them a warm feeling of hope, to give them a time where they can escape and forget all their troubles,” said the 55-year-old singer.
McEntire will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 21, in the air-conditioned comfort of the Sports and Aquatic Center.
The sister of superstar singer and actress Reba McEntire, Susie’s musical career dates back to her childhood.
McEntire and her siblings grew up on an Oklahoma ranch.
“My mom and daddy had four kids in five years,” she said. “We grew up pretty poor, but we grew up as a very tight-knit family, especially with my mom. My daddy was always pretty busy.”
Her father was a rancher and rodeo cowboy—he was named a three-time world champion steer roper, she said.
Her grandfather also was a rodeo cowboy, and much of McEntire’s early years revolved around rodeo and ranching.
But music played an important role, too. It was McEntire’s mother who nurtured her and her siblings’ musical interests.
“My mama got us to sing three-part harmony in the back seat of our car on the way to rodeos,” she said. “My brother, Pake, my sister, Reba, and I sang a lot growing up.
“In our high school days, my mother was a secretary for the school, and we had an art teacher there at our school, a very small school, that was also a musician on the weekends, so our professional career pretty much started there.”
McEntire explained how, at the request of her mother, the school board approved adding a daily, one-hour music class to the schedule.
“Out of that class came a lot of different musicians, three of which are my family,” McEntire said.
As a teenager, McEntire was part of the “Singing McEntires,” with Reba and Pake. Following her graduation from Oklahoma State University in 1980, she again sang with Reba.
McEntire made the switch to a solo career in 1984. Having a well-known sister has helped— not hurt—her career, she said.
“I believe God had a hand in where I was placed in my family,” McEntire said. “It opens up a lot of doors for me, where a lot of acts like me wouldn’t be able to go to places that I get to go to. Ever since I’ve started singing, I’ve never lacked for a place to sing.
“I believe Reba opens up a lot of doors for that.”
McEntire said she has gained credibility in part as a result of Reba’s work ethic and long career.
“I believe it’s helped me so much more than it has hurt me, so I have to just woman up and say, ‘You know, it ain’t about me, it’s about what God wants me to do,’ and I’m going to roll with it.”
McEntire has released 14 CDs and earned a number of awards and nominations from The Nashville Network, the Gospel Music Association and the Canadian Country Music Association.
In Positive Country Music, she has earned “Artist of the Year” multiple times and had four No. 1 singles on the radio charts.
McEntire also co-hosts “Cowboy Church” on RFD-TV with Russ Weaver. They host services at a variety of churches and appear annually at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming.
Family of her own
McEntire is married to Mark Eaton, her second marriage. Between the two, the couple has six grown children, three sons and three daughters.
The couple lives 15 miles north of Atoka, Okla.
“We live on the same ranch that my mom and daddy put together when we were kids,” McEntire said. “He bought the first piece of land there in 1952, so now my kids are ranching there and we live there, and so we’ve kind of got a little bit of a commune there. We love it.”
She and Mark maintain a robust lifestyle.
“We’re healthy, we’re fit,” she said. “We have a lifestyle of working out and going to the gym.”
McEntire and her husband share other passions, too.
“We both love music, we both love to cook, we love to travel,” she said. “When we get to a spot, you’re apt to see us on the sidewalks walking and looking at people’s homes and how they decorate, or how they have flowers and how big the trees are and things like that.
“We love to get out, we love to be a part of the community, and you usually won’t see us just flying in and flying back out, although we’re going to have to fly in pretty quickly to (Marion County).”
Mark joins Susie on stage and will accompany her to Marion.
“He runs the sound, and he also plays (guitar) with me on stage,” she said. “We do an acoustic set; he plays the guitar. He sings and plays with me.”
Multiple music themes
McEntire brings a number of themes to her performances, including home, family and faith.
“Faith in not a preachy way or a churchy way, so that folks that are not church-going people won’t be offended, but in a fresh way that speaks of life and how my Grandma Smith influenced my life,” she said. “At the age of 12 years old, I went forward and gave my heart to the Lord.”
McEntire’s ranching background adds flavor to her message.
“Growing up on a ranch, you know the importance of agriculture, the importance of working, that kids work and learn responsibilities and just things like that—and uplifting songs about love and relationships.”
McEntire said the thing she enjoys most about her career is meeting people and sharing her songs on stage.
“A lot of people will listen to a song before they’ll listen to a conversation,” she said. “They love the singing, they love the music, the melody, the beat—and I try to sing songs that have meaning.
“I’ll see people wiping a tear away or laughing or kind of looking at their spouse or their little kids or something in a warm way,” she added. “It encourages them to love one another.”
Variety of venues
McEntire performs at wide range of venues, but she does not shy away from small ones such as dinner parties and county fairs.
“I like to do all sorts of things because it keeps me fresh,” she said. “It keeps me willing and able to sing close to people, and on the stage when people are a hundred yards away. So I like to vary it up a lot.”
County fairs hold a special place in her heart, however.
“My daddy was a rodeo cowboy and also a rancher, so music, rodeo and then ranching was a huge part of our lives growing up,” She said. “So that’s why I love to come to the fairs. It’s very close to my heart.”
McEntire’s CDs will be available for purchase at the concert.
“I just want to invite everybody to come out for family entertainment,” she said. “(We) just want to share a part of our lives with them.”