Interview | Dolly Parton: Welcome To Dollywood23rd November 2014
Rarely does an artist evoke a reaction like the one Dolly receives. I told a number of people I was going to interview Dolly and young and old alike knew exactly who I was talking about. You see she’s an artist who transcends demographics, she’s loved by all and sundry. This is fact. Having recently finished a sellout World Tour, headlined at Glastonbury and become one of just a handful of women to top 100 million world wide record sales, a number of journalists were invited to a press conference with the star, here is what we learnt. Dolly is an unstoppable, loveable and relatable force of nature and she’s one of the nicest ‘town tramps’ we know.
Your connection to the gay community is strong and undeniable, is there a song or album over the years that you’ve heard from your gay fans they particularly connect with?
Oh, I think a lot of my fans relate to different songs, a lot of them like Light Of A Blue Morning, it’s a very uplifting song, it’s really a song of overcoming different things, but I think they just relate to my songs just in general. Hopefully, I think, they relate to me more than any particular song, although, at some point, I would like to do a dance record and I have several songs that are targeted towards the gay community, like a fun little song called Just A Wee Bit Gay, it’s a great little dance tune. I do write a lot of songs along those lines for people that are different and unusual and for people that are, you know, just themselves.
I have a lot of those good positive uplifting songs and hopefully eventually I will get (them) out there.
Can you update us on Doggie Parton?
YESSS! …We gotta call with the main people with the government and they told us that the true owners did come forward. They had reported the dog missing. It was a language barrier. I think they were from another country and they got the dog back. Everybody feels good about it. I do not get to take her home, I was looking forward to it. I was going to rename her Glassie because of Glastonbury. I was gonna say Glassie comes home, but they want her and they feel good about that and I have been very instrumental in making sure that the dog is taken care of all the way through. So now they have her back. She’s 15 years-old, they thought at one time she was seven, but she’s 15, so everyone’s happy that she’s back where she belongs. I’m a little sad, because I was looking forward to taking her home, but I’m glad she’s back where she belongs.
On your newest album Blue Smoke, Lay Your Hands On Me and Miss You Miss Me are great songs about strength and comfort, can you talk about the background of those and what you would say to kids who are feeling broken or rejected?
Lay Your Hands On Me, I just always loved that song and when I first heard it years ago it just sounded like a gospel song ‘cause I grew up in the church where people did, you know, lay hands on just to pray for the sick or just to make you feel better as a spiritual thing. So I just thought it’d make a good song to turn into a gospel song – just having a conversation with God. I asked Jon Bon Jovi and Richie if they’d reconsider reworking it and working it into a gospel tune and they were willing to do that and it’s actually one of my favourites and as far as the Miss You Miss Me track I actually had a niece who was going through a divorce and my little grand niece who was part of that whole divorce, was feeling like she didn’t quite understand why there were such problems between her Mum and her Dad and that’s what inspired that particular song. I just think that so many children get caught up in the divorce and children are left to be made to feel like they’ve done something wrong when two grown people, even if they can’t get along should be more considerate where the children are concerned.
You mentioned being disappointed about not being able to take Doggie Parton home with you, do you think you’ll get a new dog to adopt from the Happy Landing Shelter?
Well, no, I don’t believe we’re looking, I have a big responsibility at home. My heart went out to this particular dog, because of the way, it was like it was meant to be somehow. It was just so touching to me, that she got lost there at the festival where we were. I would definitely want to make sure when we all became aware, that this dog was lost and found. It just really broke our hearts, that someone could abandon it, but I’m not looking to adopt another dog. This one was the one I was definitely going to make sure she was okay, no matter what. I would have not been able to take her had they not found the owner, because she was not in great health. They thought it would have traumatised her. So I guess God knows what he’s doing. Everything is back in order and I’m thankful that everyone played their part and I was not going to drop the ball nor the dog… (laughs)
We heard that you shipped your buses from Australia to Europe for this tour, what prompted you to do that?
Well, because I love living on the bus. We’ve been on tour so many times through the years, I found that I just love living on the bus as opposed to going in and out of hotels. I can always keep all of my things on the bus so we have two buses running all the time on these tours. If we have to fly from point A to point B we have one of the buses, which are almost identical; that are stocked almost the same way, so it just gives me a feeling of being home all the time. I can scatter my stuff and I don’t have to carry all that luggage in and out of hotels. I’m just a gypsy this is my caravan (Laughs).
Is there a significant difference between overseas’ audiences and American audiences? Perhaps in the way they react or respond to certain songs?
Yeah, I think the main difference is in America they’re great, I mean I love all my audiences and they’re all wonderful. But in America they know they’re going to get to see you because you’re there all the time. The main difference is when we’re overseas, you don’t get to come that often and they really, really go out of their way to let you know how much they love you, how happy they are to see you and if they don’t see you again they remember that they appreciated you being there. So there’s an excitement that you can’t hardly describe. It’s really just the time and the space I suppose. ‘I don’t know when I’ll see you again so let’s just make the absolute most of it’ and that’s how I respond to them. I try to give them everything I possibly can, incase I don’t get chance to come back for years and years or ever… But they’re a wonderful audience and we just love them all. Don’t take nothing from my American audience though… Them also!
How would you, Dolly Parton, get over a heartbreak?
Laughs… The way everybody else does. You have to let time heal all wounds. I’m one of those people – I wound easy, but I heal fast. I always thought that a broken heart is like a broken bone. I wrote about that in a song. It’s like a broken heart is like a broken wing, it must have its time to mend. It’s like any other injury. Usually a terrible, terrible heart ache takes about a year to really heal, but some of us can heal a little faster. You just gotta look at it like an injury and just try to think positive, try to live above it, try to live beyond it. But you gotta wallow in that sorrow while it lasts – You can’t out run it, you got to roll with the sorrow too.
How have you sustained an abundant positive energy for almost five decades of your career?
I have a good attitude. I love my work. I think it’s important that people be busy, stay busy, try to be creative and I don’t think the years matter so much if you really make yourself busy. Of course you see yourself getting older, you notice little things as the years go by, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop. You just need to take care of those things as they come along. But keep a good attitude above everything else. I just keep myself creative and busy. I have good doctors – good makeup – and a good attitude and whatever it takes to keep myself looking better and better. That’s what I’m gonna try and do from now on…
You just performed Jolene at the Glastonbury Festival, 40 years after its release in 1974. How does it make you feel that this song is still so recognised?
Well, Jolene, a lot of people don’t realise is the song that is recorded more than any other song, by other artists throughout the world. I still enjoy singing it. It makes me feel great. I think it’s just so easy to sing. It’s got that bouncy little feeling. I think a lot of people relate to it. So I’m very proud of Jolene. I’m glad that people are still liking it.
Any future plans for touring after this summer? Working on any new music?
I’m gonna take off for a little while, I’m doing my life story as a musical. I’m also doing my life story as a movie, which also has a lot of music in it. I may possibly do some television, and some producing so I’ve got a lot of business stuff in mind, but I do not plan to do any more touring in the near future. We’ve done this world tour and we’re winding that up pretty soon, I’m sure as years go by we’ll be doing other things, but for now I’m gonna concentrate more on the business end of things and the creative stuff like the musical, the movies and the TV.
You talk about the movie business and you had a part in From Hollywood To Dollywood, but we’ve not seen you in a movie since Joyful Noise, is acting something you’re likely to get back into?
Well, only if I get good scripts. I’m not opposed to it. I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to do, but I do hope to do some more movies. I would like to do, as I mentioned, some TV things as well. Maybe some TV movies. If I get a great script for a movie, I’m certainly not opposed to do it. Always looking for a good script though!
We’d like to know how it felt to perform to a staggering 100,000 people at Glastonbury at this point in your career?
Well, there were a lot of people there. It was a sea of people, but to me I enjoyed it. It didn’t scare me. I’ve worked in front of a lot of people before – and that was a lot of people, but to me I look at those fans, and I just love them all. There can be 100,000 or 10,000 and I’ll just play to them all the same… But looking out, I have to say, at Glastonbury, it was more people than I’ve ever seen at one time. We had a really good time. They seemed to enjoy it. Got a lot of great, positive press, I was really shocked and surprised we did as well as we did! I wasn’t expecting anything other than just to go out and do my show, but it’s turned into something really special and it makes me feel real good that they accepted me that well.
You’re about to go Platinum with your Cracker Barrel exclusive: An Evening With Dolly Parton, how does it feel to still be putting out a Platinum album?
Well, you know, anything good that happens to me I’m just grateful for it. I don’t care how old I get. Any little award I get or any kind of acknowledgement, the fact that people still love my music, and the fact that I still want to do it. I always said that I’d still be doing my music, even if I had to sell it out the top of my car… So it makes me feel good, and my relationship with Cracker Barrel has been great. We make a great team.
You said that the town tramp was a fashion inspiration for you, and you’ve been such a fashion icon for many people, what is it about the town tramp you like so much and are there any fashion icons today that you’re excited about?
Well, I actually love anything that glitters and shines. I love a lot of colour and close fitting clothes. I always say I buy my clothes two sizes too small and then I have them taken in… I just love my clothes to fit me good and that was the thing about the town tramp – she had a lot of colour, a lot of flare. She showed her legs, she showed her boobs, she showed her waist line, she had her nails, she had her hair all piled up, she was just really beautiful – and that’s the way I felt inside. I’m not a natural beauty, so I have to kinda paint n’ powder and put it all on, so that the way I dress kinda fits the way I feel. I’ve always been very comfortable with that, it honestly is the truth that I patented my look after that, because I was impressed. To me that was what beauty was. And that just fits my style. and I still love the flare and the gaud.
Did you ever keep in touch with the town tramp? Does she know how much she inspired you?
Oh absolutely not. I knew her name, but I would never ever ever use it. I didn’t know if her folks knew that she was the town tramp! I don’t even know if she knew she was the town tramp! That’s just the way everybody saw her, she probably wasn’t a tramp! She may have been very much like me, just somebody who wanted to be more…
They always say less is more, I always thought that was the biggest crock I ever heard. More is more, Less is less… (Laughs…) I want more!
What did you think about all that nonsense about whether you were miming or not at Glastonbury?
Oh you know what, every-time I go on tour I hear that. I just like people to come and watch what I do and then you tell me what you think… But they say that about every artist. I’m not getting into that. I’m there, I’m Dolly and I’m singing. Someone’s always gotta have something negative to say, so I just roll with the punches.
You’ve been crossing over into pop for decades. How do you straddle the country music image where the media portrays them as this kind of conservative, right wing, anti-Obama, anti-abortion… Verses liberal left-wing Hollywood – how do you straddle that line and how do you suggest other artists to do the same?
Well, I don’t usually get into any of the political stuff, I’ve been Dolly all the way through, people know who I am. They know that I’m very open and loving of all people. Accepting of all things. I’m an American girl, I’ve got the freedom to do whatever, and I’ve always been blessed with that. So I just write my songs, I just do my thing and say what I say and either people accept it or don’t. I’ve been around so long people just kinda think of me as a family member and I think they know I’m not out to do any harm, nor to get too political on anything. I’m just a living human being, trying to do the best I can.