Not every album stands the test of time, but Reba’s Rumor Has It is a landmark collection that certainly does. The hit 1990 album is being re-released September 11th in celebration of its 30th anniversary and will include three versions of fan favorite “Fancy.”
Rumor Has It has been certified triple-platinum by the RIAA, signifying sales of more than three million, and spawned four top ten hits including the title track, “You Lie,” “Fallin’ Out of Love” and “Fancy.” The project also marked Reba’s first collaboration with acclaimed record producer Tony Brown.
“The best thing about these songs—I’m looking at the list right now—they are all relevant today. Every one of them could be released today,” Reba tells Sounds Like Nashville and other local media via Zoom. “I think every one of them will hold up to today’s society and what’s going on. It’s about life, and that’s another reason why this album was so successful because these songs are relatable. People can say, ‘Wow! She’s singing that song to me.’ That’s what makes it a good song.”
The re-release of Rumor Has It has put Reba in a nostalgic mood and prompted her to reminisce about what was happening in her life during the making of the album. “February 1990 I had Shelby,” Reba says of her only child, son Shelby Blackstock. “I’d been on bed rest since December 6th, so I finally had him on the 23rd of February and then we started in on the tour, but while I was on bed rest I was listening for songs.”
Reba recalls listening to a huge box of cassette tapes while on bed rest. “I had to stay on my left side all the time, so I had my boombox and I would listen to songs all day long and the UPS man would come in. I just left the door unlocked because in between songs, I’d be buying stuff off the television, the 1-800 numbers, so the UPS man would just come in and say, ‘I’m leaving it downstairs’ and I’d say, ‘Did you bring any food?’ Of course he wouldn’t, because I was eating all the time,” she says with a laugh.
“So I had Shelby and then we went right in to recording with Tony Brown,” she continues. “I’d been recording with Jimmy Bowen before that since 1984 and Tony and I had been big friends for a long time there at MCA Records, so he started producing me. We had a blast with that and then we went on tour and it was hard. I was way out of shape. I had to get back in shape quick. I had a brace around my back and my stomach because it was the big staircase that I had to walk up and down.”
Reba has fond memories of 1990 and the changes happening in her life at the time both musically and personally. “A lot of stuff happened, but a lot of great stuff happened,” she smiles. “Now Shelby is 30 years old. ‘Fancy’ is my biggest song of my career, [and I had] four great singles off this album, so I’m really thrilled they we are going to re-release it. Who would have thought you’d be able to do that?”
With the re-release fans will be able to experience Rumor Has It via special CD, vinyl and autographed bundle packages featuring items such as a commemorative lithograph, limited-edition t-shirt and other goodies. The re-released Rumor Has It will feature three versions of “Fancy.” The anniversary edition vinyl will feature a live acoustic version recorded at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The CD and digital versions will include that bonus track as well as a new dance version of “Fancy” remixed by Dave Audé.
“I was very skeptical,” Reba says of the dance remix. “Why do you do that to ‘Fancy?’ ‘Fancy’ is ‘Fancy.’ Bobbie Gentry wrote it and had it out in ’68 and I’ve loved it ever since, but Dave did a great job of it. I love it! I don’t remember who had the idea [to do the dance remix.] It wasn’t mine. I can’t take credit for it at all and then we the Ryman Auditorium performance. There I had three band members and we did ‘Fancy.’ Everybody said, ‘How are you going to do ‘Fancy’ with three band members?’ But it worked out great and so there’s three versions on this album of ‘Fancy’—one normal, one over the top and one like a breakdown.”
Reba has always been a fan of singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry, who wrote and originally recorded “Fancy,” and says she’s always wanted to meet her, but it’s never happened. “I’ve never met her or talked to her. I’ve talked to so many people who have gotten to work with her and know her and do stay in communication with her, and I would say, ‘Hey, would you tell her that I’d really like to meet her sometime or talk to her or email or text or smoke signals or anything? I don’t care. I’d just really like to communicate with her,’” Reba says. “I’d love to know where did she get the idea of ‘Fancy’ and what was the thinking behind it? When she released it, then I fell in love with ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ and the albums, her duet album with Glen Campbell. I’m just a huge fan. I think she’s a genius, great songwriter, beautiful woman, great singer. She’s a mystery woman.”
Another reason the Rumor Has It album is so special to Reba is that it marks the beginning of her successful creative partnership with producer Tony Brown. “This album in particular is very special to me because it was the first time I got to record with Tony Brown, and he was the reason I finally got to record ‘Fancy,’” she notes. “Now here we are 30 years later and I never end a show without singing that song.”
Looking back on the making of Rumor Has It, Reba has fond memories of taking baby Shelby to the studio and also the camaraderie she enjoyed with the musicians. “I [remember] bringing Shelby into the studio and getting to hold him while I’m singing and doing the overdubs and stuff. That was a lot of fun,” she recalls. “And Tony has such a great sense of humor. After we’d get through, we’d go eat and the band members, they were so much fun. With a deal like that, when you have such great musicians, it’s always a great possibility that the musicians were on the road at one time or another and you talk about road stories! We’d sit for hours after we were through and visit and talk and giggle and laugh and one story would spur another story for another musician or Tony or the engineer. We’d just sit for hours and have such a great time.”
When asked if the success of Rumor Has It had any impact on how she recorded future albums, Reba responds, “It taught me that when you do something and you get recognition back and feedback that says, ‘We like it,’ you do it again, but better.”
For Reba that meant searching even more diligently for the best songs she could find. “I’m not that good of an actress. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t come through and fans know it’s not from my heart,” she says, “so I started looking earlier. I started listening to more songs. I remember taking a trip to Hawaii for a vacation and I took a duffel bag on the plane with me and a little cassette player. I listened to that whole duffel bag full and each cassette would probably have 5-10 songs on it. I’d get my lap full of lyric sheets and cassettes. . .When I got off the plane, the duffel bag was empty and I’d not found one song. That’s how many songs I would listen to, but not only me, I’ve got girlfriends. I’ve got guys that would listen, publishers, people at the record label.”
Reba is currently working on a new project and has been relying on friends to help in her search for great songs. “I’ve got a lot of girlfriends that are songwriters that help me find songs,” she says, “and we pray before we go into listening that God guides us to the right songs that are right for me to sing that will help somebody who is listening.”