Two Part Harmony
With schedules like theirs, who has time to cut the grass? Both tour 200 days a year. Then there are recording sessions, video shoots and TV appearances, which leave them an average of five days a month to be home together. Both agree that isn't enough. Recently, when Reynolds had a break, he slipped on a backpack and flew to meet his wife while she was touring Europe. "I took planes, trains and automobiles to find her in Ireland," he recalls. "It was very romantic."
This week—on Wednesday, Oct. 2—Yearwood and Reynolds will be together again at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville (CBS, 8 p.m. ET). She will perform her new song "A Lover Is Forever," and they'll both huddle anxiously in the audience as the envelopes are opened. Yearwood is nominated for vocal event of the year for her work on the single "On My Own," with Reba McEntire, Martina McBride and Linda Davis; Reynolds and the Mavericks hope to repeat as the CMA's vocal group of the year. "Of course you want to win," says Year-wood, a 1994 Grammy winner, who failed to win the best country album award at last February's Grammys, though the Mavericks picked up an award for best country performance by duo or group with vocal. "Now we have one each," she says with a shrug. "So we're even."
And both are at the top of their game. Yearwood's brand of country pop has sold 7 million albums, and her latest, Everybody Knows, is already a smash. Garth Brooks, for whom she opened concerts in the early '90s, says, "With that voice of hers, she could sell oil to the Arabs." The Mavericks, meanwhile, who play country with rock overtones, have seen their last two albums—the latest is Music for All Occasions—reach the Top 10. "There's so much talent in one marriage," says producer John Jennings. "They're each making distinctive, innovative music—stuff that will last beyond a week. It's not all tight jeans and twang."
Nor is their life together all biscuits and gravy. Yearwood, a confessed "control freak," admits she had problems getting used to the 4,500-square-foot, stone-and-log house she and Reynolds bought in 1994. It wasn't the house itself that troubled her, she says, but that the previous owner had insisted the place be sold with all its furnishings, including a life-size oil portrait of silent movie star Mary Pickford, two giant cast-iron chandeliers and a Rembrandt copy. "I didn't want a house full of stuff that's not mine," says Yearwood.
Since they moved in, though, Yearwood and Reynolds have added touches of their own, such as posters and photos of Elvis, Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin. They also say they've grown accustomed to the stuff they inherited—and haven't had time to get rid of. Not that the laid-back Reynolds ever fretted about his surroundings. "I have no organizational skills," says the musician, who prefers wandering in the nearby woods to redecorating. "We balance each other," says Yearwood. Adds Reynolds: "We're compatible because of our differences."
Those differences are hardly surprising, considering the contrast in the way they grew up. Reynolds was raised near Miami, the oldest of seven children. When he was 16, his parents, Robert Sr., a clothing manufacturer, and Jana divorced—and Reynolds began to spend most of his time performing with pickup bands. He went on to play the Miami club circuit and, in 1990, helped to form the Mavericks. A year later the group signed with MCA Records. Yearwood, by contrast, grew up in a tightly knit family in Monticello, Ga., the younger child of Jack Yearwood, a banker, and Gwen, a grade-school teacher. Carefully charting a career in country, she attended Nashville's Belmont University, majoring in music business. After graduating in 1987, she recorded demo tapes for songwriters, won a record contract with MCA and scored her first hit, "She's In Love with the Boy," in 1991.
While Yearwood's career took off, her personal life suffered. In 1991 she divorced her husband of four years, Chris Latham, a Belmont classmate. Yearwood admits her ambitions put pressure on their marriage. She doesn't expect the same thing to happen with Reynolds, whom she met in 1991 at a country-music radio conference in Nashville and wed three years later. "This is the first time I've been in a relationship where I've felt the freedom to be career-driven," she says.
For Yearwood, who has shed 30 pounds in the past year by dieting and doing aerobic exercise with a personal trainer, marriage means contentment. Though she and Reynolds have agreed to wait before starting a family, the two make the most of their time together in Hendersonville, shopping at the Kroger supermarket, reading biographies and, of course, sipping coffee on the porch. Those interludes are brief, but Yearwood sees a benefit to that. "We love what we do, so it makes us happier people," she says. "And when we are together, it's all a new adventure."
JANE SANDERSON in Hendersonville