The Grammy-winning country legend, 68, joins returning coaches Gwen Stefani, John Legend and Niall Horan on Season 24 of NBC's “The Voice” (returning Monday, 8 EDT/PDT) following Shelton’s departure after 23 seasons and nine wins.
“Everybody's getting along great. This bunch: So much fun,” McEntire says in an exclusive interview during a recent set visit. “I get to hang out with Gwen without Blake around, so that’s fun.”
McEntire is already part of “The Voice” family. She was a battle adviser for Shelton’s team in Season 1, returned in Season 8 as a mentor and served as a "Mega Mentor" ahead of last season's Knockouts round.
It was when McEntire was a Mega Mentor that she knew she wanted to have a bigger role in the singing competition series. “You’ve got to do it,” Shelton told her, she recalls.
“He was cheering me on, and we're both from Oklahoma, so you got that camaraderie going,” she says.
Despite her prior mentoring experience, becoming a coach has come with a learning curve. “It's a well-oiled machine and they've been very patient with me, which I'm very grateful for,” she says.
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Reba McEntire is here to ‘help in any way I possibly can’ on ‘The Voice’
Though an inarguably accomplished musician, with more than 30 studio albums and membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame, McEntire isn’t here to nitpick the technical aspects of the contestants’ performances. Instead, she'll “support and encourage and help in any way I possibly can,” she says.
That means nurturing them as performers by imparting “life lessons you can use in anything you go forward with. While I have their attention, I want to give them that ... advice from life experiences that they can use,” she says. “The music and melody (are) technical things that I don't have. I'm not a perfectionist, so it doesn't really bother me if it's a little flat or sharp."
“If your heart and soul is in it and I felt something, we've done our job.”
McEntire's talent for encouraging young musicians is apparent as she coaches the contestants ahead of Season 24's Battles. The most common question they ask of her is what to do about nerves.
It starts with wearing comfortable shoes, and a positive mindset and confidence – they should make sure to have fun. But if all else fails, "the crowd loves a boo boo," she says, telling a story about how a slip-up she made during a concert turned into a fun, impromptu experience with that crowd.
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McEntire's initial hesitation in joining "The Voice" years ago was that she'd discourage talented musicians when they don't advance in the show. But she now has a different perspective.
"They're going to win whether they win this competition or not. Being in front of this many people, the exposure that they're getting: Unfathomable," she says. "When I got started, there wasn't anything like this. And you just had to continue singing wherever you could because you never know who's going to be in the audience."
Although it's unclear whether the “Fancy” singer will bring home a win in her first season as a coach, McEntire will be back for Season 25 next spring, joining Legend and Chance the Rapper as well as rookies Dan + Shay.
“I mean, who wouldn't wanna hang out with folks like that?” McEntire says.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The Voice' judges welcome Reba McEntire for 2023 season. She's ready