Reba talks about her 25th album, new sitcom and love of Canada

Flame-haired country legend Reba McEntire co-wrote one track on her new disc: She’s Turning 50 Today, a tale of a jilted wife who hits the road in search of a new life on her 50th birthday.

Reba McEntire performs at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville

Reba McEntire performs at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville

Flame-haired country legend Reba McEntire co-wrote one track on her new disc: She’s Turning 50 Today, a tale of a jilted wife who hits the road in search of a new life on her 50th birthday.

McEntire’s protagonist finds hope on the other side of a breakdown.

But the 54-year-old McEntire said that for her, reaching the half-century mark was nothing but a positive experience.

“I was thrilled to death to be hitting 50,” McEntire told The Canadian Press over the phone from her house in Mexico.

“I’ve got friends and family members who never got to see 50 years old. So when I turned 50, (husband) Narvel (Blackstock) threw three parties for me — one in L.A., one in Oklahoma and one in Nashville, and I celebrated for all the friends and family members who never got to see 50 years old.”

“I’m a celebrator. The alternative (to turning 50) is not good.”

Indeed, McEntire appears to be thriving.

On Tuesday, she’ll release Keep on Loving You, her 25th studio album (the title, she says, was chosen because this year marks her 20th wedding anniversary).

The record’s first single, the hard-twangin’ anthem Strange, reached No. 11 on the Billboard country charts in Canada and the U.S.

And while her Emmy-nominated sitcom Reba closed its six-season run in 2007, McEntire hasn’t lost interest in television.

She says she’s working on developing a new sitcom, though the project is still in “very rough stages” at this point.

If Keep on Loving You is a hit, it shouldn’t come as a surprise — every McEntire record since 1986’s Whoever’s in New England has been certified platinum in the United States.

But McEntire says it occasionally takes some nimble footwork to stay relevant while sating longtime fans.

“That’s the thing that you really have to watch — you don’t want to leave what has been successful to you for the last 30 years, but you still want to stay up to date and contemporary,” she said.

“It’s the musicians, it’s that edge that you put on it to sound contemporary. ”

“You wanna keep everybody happy who’s been with you, but also to gain new fans.”

While Keep on Loving You is unlikely to turn off many of McEntire’s longtime followers, her first solo record in six years does find the singer incorporating rock influences that continue beyond the crunchy electric guitars of disc opener “Strange.”

“Just When I Thought I’d Stopped Loving You features a jagged electric guitar riff, while the sassy I Want a Cowboy rides a funky acoustic guitar hook.

The second single from the record is a more traditional McEntire ballad, Consider Me Gone, which she says she’ll perform at the Canadian Country Music Association awards in Vancouver next month.

McEntire said she it didn’t take long for her to accept the invitation to make her first CCMAs appearance.

“Well first, Canada’s been so good to me, all the time, ever since we first started touring in the early ’80s, you have always been so nice to me,” she said.

“And to get to come up for the awards in Vancouver — one of the most gorgeous places in the entire world — who wouldn’t want to do that?”