Living and Learning with Reba McEntire features an intriguing array of topics and guests, including Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Karamo Brown, Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Jordan and Glennon Doyle

By Nancy Kruh
September 21, 2020 09:00 AM
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Reba McEntire and Melissa Peterman
Anthony Matula for Spotify

Reba McEntire has spent her career answering interviewers' questions, but now she's turning the tables by hosting a talk show-format podcast — and she confesses she's needed a little help to do it.

Who better than Melissa Peterman, McEntire's comic foil on her long-running hit TV series Reba and a favorite gal pal?

Enlisting the actress-comedian as her co-host was one of the first moves McEntire made when she decided to undertake the podcast, Living & Learning with Reba McEntire, which debuts two episodes of its 12-episode season Monday on Spotify.

"I'm a better listener, and when [the guests] get to talking, I keep listening," McEntire, 65, tells PEOPLE. "Melissa hops in and asks another question to keep it rolling, so I think we make a good team."

No doubt the chemistry between the two women is part of the show's appeal. So is the intriguing and diverse array of guests, which includes Dolly Parton, comic actor Leslie Jordan, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Fonda, Untamed author Glennon Doyle and Queer Eye's Karamo Brown. The list was assembled from nominations made by McEntire, Peterman and the podcast's producers.

The topics, says McEntire, are proving to be just as eclectic as the guest list, and she ticks off a few: "dating at an older age, cancel culture, spirituality topics, how to deal with rejection."

"It was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be," she allows, "but after listening to the sessions that we've done already, I'm very proud of it. It's very entertaining — and educational."

Parton was the guest that McEntire perhaps knows the best; the two have been friends for over 40 years.

Was there a question that McEntire had always been dying to ask her fellow country queen?

"I didn't get a chance!" McEntire says with a laugh. "That's where Melissa came in. She talked the whole time. But Dolly is so funny. She's so witty. She came up with some of the best one-liners. She said, 'A loose tongue can lead to broken teeth,' and 'Never ignore your roots — your home or your hair.' And Melissa gave her this big introduction, and Dolly said, 'I'm not all that. I'm not even all there.' Who comes up with this clever stuff?"

McEntire says Karamo Brown was the guest who so far has brought her the most unexpected moments. "I didn't watch the show [Queer Eye]," she says. "I was not familiar. He came on and talked about cancel culture. He said if you don't listen to someone who is totally opposite of your views, how will you ever learn the other side? He said cancel culture stops education. It stops us from learning."

The podcast arrives just as McEntire notches yet another career achievement: a No. 1 song with "Be a Light," Thomas Rhett's collaboration that also featured Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin and Keith Urban.

The feat means McEntire has topped the charts in five consecutive decades spanning back to the 1980s. She also is only the fourth country artist in history to achieve five straight decades of top 10 hits, joining three of her fellow Hall of Famers, Parton, George Jones and Willie Nelson.

McEntire admits she originally doubted her accomplishment. "I started counting up, and I said, 'I don't think that's right,'" she says, chuckling, " and they said, 'Oh, yeah, that's right.' It makes you feel really good. I'm very thankful that I've had the career I've had."

And, as always, she shows no sign of slowing down — a cue she takes from Parton, she says: "Dolly and I talked about this several years ago — about retiring — and she looked at me and said, 'I like to stay busy. I like to do things. I like to be around people.' So we totally agree in all aspects of loving our jobs."

At the moment, the only thing, of course, that's holding McEntire back is the pandemic, which has been restricting live performances.

"I miss being on stage the most," says McEntire of life under quarantine, "but I love being at home. I've not had this much time off, I guess, since I was in college, so I love it. I'm totally busy all the time, but it's a different kind of busy."