ABC via Getty Reba McEntire and Rex Linn
On Monday, McEntire, 66, debuted the second season of her Spotify podcast Living & Learning with Reba McEntire and the first episode featured none other than her boyfriend, actor Rex Linn. On the episode, the couple discussed how they kept connected during quarantine — despite the distance — and a sweet phone call that Linn, 64, received from McEntire in the '90s, before their friendship turned romantic.
"It was important for me to include guests that would excite my listeners, and I think we have the perfect line-up this season. To be my guest for the first episode, I invited the very talented actor, Rex Linn, who just happens to be my boyfriend!" McEntire tells PEOPLE about the podcast episode. "This is the first time we've had any kind of long-form public conversation, so I'm glad we could do that on this show."
She adds, "I'm excited for people to get to know Rex the way I do and hear some of his amazing and funny stories. I think everyone will love it and love him as much as I do."
On the episode, McEntire and Linn talked about their scheduled "coffee camp," which the two would use to keep in touch with each other while they were apart.
"It was a very special relationship, us getting to know each other without any physical aspect to it at all," McEntire said on the podcast. "We'd talk in the morning, we started 'Coffee Camp' while I was staying in Oklahoma... We haven't missed a 'Coffee Camp' since March 16."
"I was in California, she was in Tennessee and sometimes my 'Coffee Camp' started at 3 a.m. but man I have never missed one; I don't wanna miss one," replied Linn.
Along with their digital coffee dates, Linn shared that he would send her food "a lot of times" as a way to connect with McEntire.
"It allowed us to develop an emotional intimacy through those months and weeks," Linn said about their 3-hour-long daily calls, before adding, "But I would send you food from all over the country cause I'm a foodie and you're a foodie. I was thinking last night, what was your favorite food that I sent you?"
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Some of the delicious treats he'd send included, lobster rolls, McConnell's ice cream and McEntire's favorite: a pecan pie.
"We were flabbergasted 'cause that was such a good pecan pie," McEntire said. "I kept the box it came in and everything, your note. We were thrilled to death for the UPS or [FedEx] or any kind of delivery person driving up the hill. Marc would ask me that morning 'Is Rex sending anything?'"
Part of their special bond also came after McEntire's mother was diagnosed with cancer last year. (She died in May 2020.)
"We had just found out that she has bladder cancer and you said 'You just feel free to call me anytime you want to talk' and I just quit texting and we've been talking ever since," said McEntire.
Linn's offer was a sweet moment that echoed one from McEntire in the late '90s when Linn's own mother died as well.
"In 1998, my mom passed away and the day that we buried her we went back to mom's house... My sister walks up and says, 'You got a phone call' and I said, 'Now, right now?' And she said, 'I think you probably want to take this,'" Linn explained. "So I went back in my old bedroom that I grew up in, sat on the bed and it was Reba. And she said, 'I understand what you're going through today. I just wanted to talk to you.' We talked for about 25 minutes and I never forgot it."
Linn continued, "It was amazing and it was uplifting. It was really special and little did I know 20 years later, 21 years later, I'd be doing the same thing with her... But I never forgot that. And that's why I said to you, 'If you ever want to talk, just give me a call.'"
"So starting in March of 2020, we just kept talking and visiting and finally got together, see each other in June," she said. "And we've been pretty much inseparable ever since."