At 28, Reba McEntire had just received a phone call that would change her life

A few months before her 28th birthday, Reba McEntire was hanging out in a "bus shed" in DeSoto, Texas, waiting to replace the wheels on her tour bus when she The manager's call came. She just won her first championship.

It was 1983, and the Oklahoma native went straight to find an old rotary phone. "My mom was the first person I called," McEntire, 68, tells Bustle.

She has spent the past five-plus years traveling across the United States trying to break into the country world. She had released five albums and dozens of singles before "Can't Even Get the Blues" topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. And this is just the beginning.

Now, 41 years later, McEntire has held the No. 1 spot 25 times and has no plans of slowing down. Last year she performed for the first time at Madison Square Garden, published a New York Times best-selling book and joined The Voice as a coach. In January, NBC announced she would star in a new comedy series.

"I still think I'm not successful. I'm still working hard. I think maintaining [success] is harder than gaining it."

On Sunday, February 11, she plans to sing the national anthem at Super Bowl 58 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her discovery. Fittingly, this was during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 1974 National Rodeo Finals.

Below, McEntire reflects on her '80s fashion sense, life on tour, and her regrets. ——Busy Editor

McEntire performed in 1981. NBC /NBCUniversal/Getty Images

1982. Gary Gershoff/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Let me go back to 1983 and 1984, when you were 28 years old. What are you doing Where do you live?

I was living in Sterlingtown, Oklahoma, and had just had my first No. 1 record. Going into '84, life was good. I won my first Female Vocalist of the Year award, so I finally took my first step. This is the beginning.

Around that time, you left PolyGram/Mercury Records and signed to MCA Records. Why did you do this?

I decided it was time to take action and I discussed it with my producer, Jerry Kennedy. "We're going to miss you and hate that you're gone, but I support you 100 percent," he said.

Jimmy Bowen is about to take over MCA. That was one of the reasons I went, but then he was cleaning house. I thought, "Oh my God, I'm going to be thrown. What have I done?" I heard Irving Azoff say, "You're not going to give up on her. She's an up-and-coming entertainer and singer." So I remained at MCA and have been under the Universal Music umbrella ever since.

Who is your support system during this transition?

My band and crew. I mean, we're on tour all the time, so they're my family. They supported, encouraged, and taught me. Learning never ends in the music industry. Technology has changed a lot since I started. There are new ways to record, there are new ways to deliver music to fans. Everything changed except for the love of music.

I just look for songs that touch my heart and hope that when I sing them, they touch yours too.

What songs from back then could really touch people's hearts?

"Can't Even Get the Blues No More" certainly does that. “Somebody Should Leave,” a very sad song that I really like. "How Blue" is another.

What does a typical Friday night look like for you?

Well, we'll be performing on Friday night. We worked Thursday, Friday, Saturday – that’s why I didn’t know anything about Saturday Night Live .

What was your go-to outfit at the time? Have you been involved in fashion trends?

It’s trial and error: see what works and what doesn’t. I went to several stylists and finally I had to firmly say, "I don't care how it looks. If it's not comfortable, I won't wear it." That was from the '80s, when I had to feel comfortable.

Comfortable fashion. I like. Besides your own music, what else were you listening to at the time?

I've been listening to song demos. I need to listen and pay attention because I need to know if I'm going to record that song.

Looking back, do you have any advice for your 28-year-old self?

have fun. I take everything so seriously. I come from a ranching and rodeoing family. You show up, you're prepared, you know your stuff. So when I went to record, I had everything ready.

Was there a moment when you felt like you had succeeded?

I still don't think I've succeeded. I'm still working hard. I think maintaining [success] is harder than achieving it. I compete with myself. I think it's very healthy - I like doing new things so I can be challenged.

Is there an award you would still like to win, or an award from the past that you are particularly proud of?

Oh, I'm proud of all the awards I've won, but it's not just me. Our entire team won the award: my team, the fans who supported me, and the people in the industry who taught me.

Awards are not that important these days. This is to provide high quality material, both performance and musical. I want them to walk out and say, "Man, that was great." Because people work hard. I don't want to waste their time or money.

Many of our readers are in their 20s and 30s. How did you view money at that time in your life?

I'm very hands-on. I approved every one of my bills. I wasn't always like this and I regret that. If you have questions about your financial situation, ask. Interested, pay attention. The more you pay attention, the more the people handling your finances will pay attention.

I like this suggestion. There's a lot of shame around discussing financial matters with other people. What do you think is your best memory from that period?

I was in the bus shed in DeSoto, Texas when I got a call from manager Don Williams. I remember looking around in the greasy old garage. Some band members were watching TV on the bus. I walked up and said, "We got our first No. 1 record!"

I like that. How do you celebrate later in the day?

I cried tears of joy.

Jump to today: How did you react when people used your Reba song "I'm a Survivor" on TikTok?

I like it. I was very flattered and delighted. very creative.

I believe you posted your own as well, as well as your horse.

Yes, donkey. We have fun. It shows another side of my personality. Who would have thought I'd be there to feed the donkeys?

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity .