Part I of the CMT Music City Madness Grand Prize was a backstage experience with Reba McEntire on the George Strait/Reba McEntire/Leanne Womack Tour.
For the complete story, Chance chronicled his experience and put it in the following blog!
The “Reba McEntire Experience”
By Chance McKinney (CMT’s Music City Madness Winner)
We woke up Saturday morning in a suite at the Hampton Inn down in the Tacoma area, courtesy of Big Machine Records. I’ll admit that the continental breakfast was at the top of my priorities at 9:55am so we scurried down to grab a little somethin’ before they cleaned up the joint. Needless to say, I was pretty happy when waffles, bacon and muffins were on the menu for the day.
We headed back to the room for a quick cat-nap (bein’ as I’d exhausted myself from eating… ha!). No, really I just knew that Saturday Night at the Tacoma Dome with Leanne Womack, Reba McEntire and George Strait was going to be a late one and I wanted to enjoy every moment of it at the top of my game.
When I woke up for the 2nd time that day, Bucko and I went shopping at Best Buy. I ended up not buying the Flip video recorder I’d been eying, but I got to see one in action. I’ve seen the quality that people post on YouTube.com from our shows so I wanted to try one for myself. I can wait. Until we’re on tour with some of these folks, I probably won’t have too much need for one because most of my stuff will be from the stage instead of behind it. Anyway, once we got back to the hotel I headed for the gym at the Hampton. I got a little workout in while watching a throwback movie (Lethal Weapon 2) on the gym tv and then hit the hot tub for a bit. Lord knows sleepin’, eatin’ and a small workout required a trip to the hot tub… ha!
Sadly enough, after our leisurely day it was almost time to head for the Tacoma Dome. I had a little time to get cleaned up and work on some music (which always calms me down). We skirted out the door and rolled into the parking lot at roughly 6pm. Our scheduled time to meet Reba was between 6:30pm and 7pm, so we trotted by the KMPS booth and watched some of their festivities on our way to grab passes and head for the backstage.
Strangely enough, they didn’t have our passes and tickets in the same envelope so we ended up with just backstage passes. When we got to the northwest, first floor entrance the security gal wouldn’t let us in! Ha… here I’d won a CMT competition and Sally Security Guard was standing between me and destiny (actually, it wasn’t that dramatic… I’m embellishing a little. She was super-nice and just called her supervisor on her 2-way to get approval to let us in while we waited.) It wasn’t more than 3 minutes before the Vice President of Big Machine Records (JZ) came rollin’ up and extended a welcoming hand. I’d spoken with him several times by email, but this was my first face-to-face with him. Great guy! By all standards, he was genuinely enthusiastic and treated me with a level of respect not necessarily due someone of my status. Here is a guy who works with artists like Taylor Swift, Reba McEntire, Jewel, Justin Moore, Jack Ingram, etc. and he’s escorting me and Bucko around personally.
While waiting, we discovered that JZ’s first cousin Courtney, was the girlfriend of a guy who used to “bounce” for me at shows I did last summer in preparation for the Gary Allan concert last August. What a small world?! Courtney was named Seattle SeaHawks SeaGal of the Year for 2009. Great gal… dating a genuinely good guy.
Anyway, back to the story at hand. JZ escorted us backstage to meet Reba at that point. We waited while the regular Meet n’ Greeters got their photos taken with Ms. McEntire. Reba’s folks ushered ‘em in and out with the utmost efficiency. She was gracious, quick-witted and genuinely happy as she went about her gagillionth meet n’ greet. I observed “grace in motion” and took every mental note I could. What a consummate professional. By the time the room had cleared, I had a new understanding of the attention millions of fans must’ve experienced over her 30+ year career.
JZ also introduced me to JL (VP of Valory Music) and CC (Director of National Promotions for BMR) in the meantime. You could tell these guys spend a lot of time together. Where one would leave off, the other would pick up and continue the conversation.
As the room cleared, JZ introduced us to Reba. My expectations were set on “low” going into this. I figured I’d get the “handshake-photo-smile” combo and be out the door. Little did I know what I’d really get was a little PT (personal time) I’d remember for the rest of my life. We immediately took photos so as to let the photographers get out of the way and back to whatever other business they had to attend to that night.
The conversation took a turn from small-talk to interesting when I told Reba that her current lead guitar, Jeff King was actually the lead guitar on the recording of the winning song, Be Real. She lit up and said she’d love to tell him that before they went on stage that night. All too often, musicians in Nashville donate their talents and then never receive the recognition due because their work is done so far in the future that it’s hard to keep track. For example, Be Real was recorded in the summer of 2007. It didn’t win the CMT Music City Madness Competition until December of 2009. Jeff’s been on 2 world tours with Reba since then and recorded countless songs, so it may have slipped his mind he was even on the recording.
We talked about our impending Studio 330 Sessions on April 29th in Nashville, TN. EC (CMT’s Studio 330 Producer) called me a couple days prior to this to work out details and told me of the day’s schedule. Steel Magnolia will film at 10am that morning… Reba (and Jeff King) will film at 3pm that afternoon and then we’ll break for dinner and come back to film my session at 7pm. Which reminds me, I’ve totally got to email Jeff and let him know we’ll be there. I’d love to catch up with him.
After chatting with the “Queen” of country music, the executives from Big Machine & Valory Music took Bucko and me out to our 5th row seats where we enjoyed the concert. 5th row seats to Leanne Womack, Reba and George… hell, that was worth it all by itself, but to throw the backstage experience in with it, well… it was over-the-top!
Next stop… Opening for Dwight Yoakam on April 24th and then off to Nashville for the last week of April to record Studio 330 with Steel Magnolia and Reba McEntire!