May 24, 2014

The Mac Wire Exclusive Interview: Dolly Parton Talks About The Making of her 42nd Album, Blue Smoke

By Krista Forni

Iconic performer and songwriter, Dolly Parton  spoke to The Mac Wire about her  recently released forty-second studio album, ‘Blue Smoke’ which includes 12 tracks and encompasses styles and flavors from throughout her career. She shared with us just how much the album means to her and a few highlights from  a career that has spanned nearly five decades,  Without a doubt, this incomparable performer  is surely an inspiration to artists all over the world.Read on and let Miss Dolly inspire you!

What’s been most special in making this album?

Well I always get excited with any and every album I do and I always think I have done the best one yet. But you do you kinda I have always said I wake up with new dreams every day, but this particular one I wanted to do an album that had all the colors of my whole career, that’s why we have some blue grass stuff, we have some gospel flavored things, we have some mountain style. I love choosin’ other people’s songs, doing some covers things it was really a special album to do it. It was fun to do and I get a change to work with a lot of the same musicians that are performing on my road show. That makes it even nicer ‘cause we can all get excited together known that we are gonna get to perform these songs together on stage. It’s always fun to write ‘em, sing ‘em, and get out there and do ‘em.

Any songs off of ‘Blue Smoke’ that you are most proud of?

Well it’s like I’ve always said about my songs, they’re my children and I hope to have them support me when I’m old. It’s kinda my favorite joke, but its true and so they’re like your kids. You love them all, some are a little bit more special and you can sense that and know that and it doesn’t mean that you love them less but some of the songs I really enjoy singing. I love the song “If I Had Wings” because I love to sing that kind of song, I love write that kind of song. It has that old world feeling of songs I used to sing growin’ up. [It’s] got a little bit of that spiritual flavor to it and I love the little song “Miss You, Miss Me” because it came from a very personal place with somethin’ going on in my home family and so many people can relate to it because so many people divorcin’ and the kids always wind up suffering the most. So those two are real special to me but I enjoy doin’ songs like the rewrite of “Lay Your Hands on Me” the Bon Jovi song. It’s fun to get in and cover other people’s songs like the Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice.” It’s always a challenge, but it’s always fun to experiment with new things.

What made you want to rework ‘Banks of Ohio’ in the manner that you did?

All my life I’ve been singing that song and it was just an old folk ballad which they say is from a true story like so many of those hundreds of year old songs are and so I just always liked it but it was just such a man’s song to me because it was just about a guy that killed his girlfriend and when other people listen to it they’re like ‘that’s weird of her to be singing that’ so I decided that I was just gonna write a little part that if I was a journalist, or a reporter, goin’ into an interview with somebody in the prison and I felt that would make a clear little way for me to say and then he said, she said, and she said, he said. So anyway it was kinda to me it would make it more open for other women to sing it and even though I wrote that little part I’m sure that if through the years a woman decides to sing it, I bet they’ll use it and I hope they do.

What was your ‘Aha moment’ with this album?

I guess that would probably the Bon Jovi song of turning that into a gospel song with their permission and their help. I called Jon Bon Jovi and asked if he’d be opposed to me workin’ in that and turnin’ it into a gospel tune and I called Richie Sambora who was co-writer on it. We all three got together and everybody through in their thoughts and their ideas and they certainly condoned my thoughts and ideas so that one was like ‘this is going to be a big surprise to people.’ When I first heard that song years ago I thought ‘Wow, that sounds so much like a gospel tune like asking God to lay his hands on ya,’ and I grew up in an a Pentecostal church. We believed in healing and layin’ your hands on and ya know praying for people that were sick and all that. That I think was the ‘Aha moment’ like people are going to be shocked when they hear this one.

What is your routine in writing songs?

Actually, I write all kinds a way. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write something down, something I’ve dreamed or if I’m taking a bath I always keep a little tape recorder or notepad somewhere. If I’m flying I always carry my notepads of little recorders so I don’t miss a melody. I can write anywhere, anytime, for any reason. My favorite thing to do is to be able to plan in advance a couple of weeks where I say I’m taking off a couple of weeks, I’m doing nothing but writing, don’t write me, don’t call me, I don’t wanna hear nothing, from no body. So I love to go up to my old mountain home or out to my lake house or somewhere and really kinda get in the spirit for a couple of days and then really just let it flow and just write, write, write, write, write until I get tired of it and I come back home. Usually I will have taken off my big set of long acrylic nails so I can really pick the guitar. [When I’m done] I’ll come back to town and I get a new set of phony nails put on and get back at it.

How do you stay relevant?

People are always gonna be people. We’re gonna have the same thoughts, the same heartaches and everybody no matter what’s going on in the world, we have our true feelings, whether it’s our faith in God, our faith in family, our love for one another, for our children and I just love life. I’ve kept a good attitude about it, who knows why we’re really here, so I figure we need to make the most of everything we can while we’re here and I’ve always had just enough power to get out there and make a living out of it. I’ve always said I have more guts than I have talent. So I just wanted to make a career out of doin’ this and I just love people and I’ve kinda always allowed people to know me. I think people know of me more as an aunt or a sister because they’ve grown up with me. One of the reasons I think I have a lot of younger fans is because a lot of the older ones have their children and they play their records around the home, they kinda grow up with me to and then with the little kids with my Imagination Library, where I give books out to children and the fact that ‘Hannah Montana’, I was Hannah Montana’s aunt that very hit show, so that gave me a whole new little audience. I’ve just always managed to be on the job, to be there for everybody. I didn’t want them to forget me so I try to stay out front.

What is touring now compared to thirty years ago?

Well it’s better now because I’ve built and audience and you know you’re gonna have a crowd. I used to worry if anybody was gonna show up. So more than anything that’s a great relief to think ‘Oh yeah they’re tellin’ me tickets are selling really good. It’s fun for me still because I just love the audience. I love to perform, of course I love to write songs better than anything, but then again, I love to go sing ‘em, I love to get out on stage and perform ‘em. So it’s kind of like an all around thing for me. But I still enjoy it as much as I did in the old days.

What’s it like bringing an album that’s close to home to the Carolinas?

I love it, because I know that everybody in the area, we got a lot of local people that do come, they’ll relate to this music and they know me I grew up in those mountains across from North Carolina so we all shared the same type of music, those mountain songs, those songs brought over from the old world, bluegrass and them country flavored things. So hopefully they will enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed recording them and writing them.

How do prepare for tour?

It is a good year-and-half’s work before you actually hit the road. First of all you’ve got to decide if you really want to do the tour. Second you’ve got to decide what want the show to be, you’ve got to figure out what the show needs to be. Then you’ve got to get with your promoters, you’ve got to get with people who have to try and sell it and to see what time of year is the best time to go. Then you’ve gotta get in and work for weeks and weeks and weeks rehearsing the show and it’s only after you hit the road that you can really rest. I always think ‘Oh just let us get on the road so I can get some sleep and get some rest.’ So all you do after your whole show is together is your lighting, your sound, your people. It’s just major, major work to be done by so many people but then after that all we have to do is the sound check in the afternoon and a show at night and the rest of the time we can pretty much rest and read or do whatever you wanna do but the show is together. It’s a lot of work but its joy.

What’s been your highlight at the Grammy’s over the years?

I’m always excited to be nominated and certainly to win so I don’t really, people often ask me what are the highlight moments of your life, I think to be part of that whole show is great and certainly when you get nominated is great but when you win, that’s even, that’s even greater, so I’m always proud. I was always proud of my ‘Grass is Blue’ Grammy.


Who would be your dream collaborator on stage?

I thought the other day, I had a funny thought. I know that in Nashville we have the famous Goo Goo Clusters, you know the chocolate and nut clusters that we’re very famous for and so I represent those well, I send those out to people all the time and I was thinking maybe if me and Lady Gaga got together we could be Gaga and GooGoo. That’s be good on the Grammy’s wouldn’t it?

What would you tell young Dolly?

Well I would tell her I am pretty proud of her. When you get older you really reflect and you think so many things and one of the things I think about is just how fortunate that I have been to have been able to actually see my dreams come true ‘cause I know so many people that can’t say that. I know some people that are far more talented than me and worked just as hard and came to town, some of them, same time round I did and they didn’t, so you wonder and go ‘Why me Lord?’ You just think about all those things. More than anything, I think that little girl that headed out from the Smokey mountains that moved here back in ‘64 to try to make those dreams come true and now here I am 68 years old and I’ve seen so many of them come true and what’s so funny is I still feel like that same little girl. I still got dreams, dreaming big, still few dreams I hope to come true. So I just love the music, love to write, love to perform, and I hope to keep doin’ it ‘til I just keel over dead in about 30 years.

What is your advice for new artists?

I try not to give advice, I just try to pass on some information, you know if I think there is anything I can do. I think it’s true with everything like those old sayings ‘To thine own self be true’ I really think there is so much into that. That people really need to know who they are, what they really want and their strengths and what their talent really is. I think you need to be willing to sacrifice that if you have to. You have to protect it, you have to fight for[it] and if you really are that good and you really have that much faith in it, if you really stand long enough chances are it’ll happen and if it don’t, I’ve always said if you are dreaming that really impossible dream maybe you should know that it’s okay to change dreams in the middle of stream if it’s something that you see is not gonna happen, it’s still good to rework it and rethink it and to apply what you’ve learned from old stuff to a new dream.

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