BLUE SMOKE TOUR – WELCOME BACK DOLLY
“I can talk fast, so we can cover a lot of ground,” said iconic singer, songwriter, musician, actress and global treasure, Dolly Parton, at the get-go of a ten minute interview. She sounded in great form in spite of a car accident she’d been involved in that morning. (“I was in a fender bender this morning, here in Nashville,” she tweeted to fans, “But I am all good. Just a little tired and sore, resting at home.”)
Seven Grammys, Oscars and music industry awards and accolades too numerous to count – one can’t imagine what could remain for Dolly to aspire to, yet she just keeps on doing what she does so magnificently, exceeding all expectations. Announcing a world tour and a February Australian visit Dolly talks about a new album Blue Smoke to be released ahead of the tour.
Dolly touts this to be a return to the style of earlier albums Little Sparrow and 1999’s Grammy-garnering The Grass Is Blue – so look for snappy, rambunctious tunes and soft, honeyed melodies meshed by genius instrumentation and the seamless grace of Dolly’s shimmering vocals.
“This tends to have more of the bluegrass-country flavour. We used all bluegrass instruments. One of the reasons I called it Blue Smoke is that it has a tinge of the bluegrass of the Smoky Mountains — a mountain music flavour. The ‘Blue Smoke’ song is about a heartbreak train called Blue Smoke.”
The majority of the songs are her own, but she’s recorded versions of Bon Jovi’s ‘Lay Your Hands on Me’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’ to round out the collection.
She said of the Bon Jovi addition in an LA Times interview, “I kinda countrified it, the way I do. I did it with more of a gospel flavour and added some new words. When I first heard that, I thought, ‘Man, what a great title.’ It has a great feel, gospel sound and that message of ‘lay your hands on me’ for people who believe in prayer, it’s a good, uplifting song. It’s going to be a nice tune for our concerts. And I did ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,’ which has always been a favourite of mine.”
Anything ‘Smoky’ is a great cue for Dolly to talk up her Smoky Mountains childhood as one of twelve children in a cabin up on Locust Ridge, “Clingin’ together as family and clingin’ to God and that is still how I live my life and keep my sanity all these years on”.
“I always loved singing and I saw early on that just maybe I could combine all that singing and spirituality and I might be able to wrangle that into a living, a business, with God’s help and it must have been what he had in mind for me because I’ve been able to thrive and take my music to the world and have it touch people.”
To what does she attribute her enduring popularity? “Lots of reasons, but I think the main one is that people relate to people being brought up poor without money and having to gain succour from the family circle and home and hearth, and not possessions, and my Cinderella story. And the songs I write talk about the things that the average person deals with every day. I really think they think I’ve been around so long I’m like a family member! People feel like they know me and they’re right, they do! What they see is what they get – with the latest upgrades!”
On the subject of how she manages to keep Dolly looking so good she says “The song ‘Backwoods Barbie’ comes from a very serious foundation. I always wanted to be pretty and I still do and I work on that. I think people expect me to have all the glamour and big hair and shiny clothes. I was not a natural beauty and I think it’s my job to enhance what I have!”
“Others might not be comfortable lookin’ like that themselves but they’re comfortable with me lookin’ like that.”
As head of a massive business empire, Dolly has obviously managed to marry all that femininity with a tough business head brilliantly. “I’ve never felt that I had to use my appearance or womanly charms as a weapon or a tool but I sure as hell don’t think it hurts to have that workin’ for you in negotiations!”
“I’m not an educated person or a genius of any kind, but I’m somebody who lives their life out in the big world and what I know I know. And what I don’t I’ll say ‘I don’t know that; let’s ask somebody that does’. I’m not bashful about that and I don’t try to hide behind any false intelligence and I try to avoid stuff I don’t do so well, and work with what I’m good at. ”
“I’m a very ordinary person in most respects. I’m a very professional ‘Dolly Parton’ let’s put it that way. I know who I am and where Dolly-out and Dolly-in start and end. That is all the smarts I need. I ask God to lead and direct me and I get by smilin’ most of the time.”
“I’m a very well-rounded person. I feel everything to its depth – that’s why I’m a songwriter. I have to keep my heart open so therefore I leave myself open for all sorts of feelings. But I really have a happy heart. I try to have a good attitude. You’ve got to work at being happy like some people work at being miserable.”
Asked about her passionate defence of Mile Cyrus’ provocative and controversial conduct recently, she made it plain she had her feisty god-daughter’s back and was cutting her some slack. “I don’t think people realize yet what a great singer and writer she really is.” In a quote that sounds like lyrics of a country hit, the not-your-average-godmother said of Miley: ‘She’s just trying to find her own place and wings and learn to fly.”
While Parton ‘pardons’ Miley, she told The Standard she has refrained from giving unsolicited advice. “It’s not easy being young.” Dolly added. “It’s hard to know what to do. You’ve almost got to sacrifice your damn soul just to get anything done.”
While Dolly is in Australia, she will also be very involved in rolling out her Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, funded by her Dollywood Foundation, that puts free books into the hands of preschool children. United Way has joined with the program to expand it world-wide, and “They’re doing amazing things,” she said. “Every day, something new happens, and they’re getting more books into the hands of more children.”
Queried about her appearance as herself in the Lifetime movie “A Country Christmas Story,” which premieres in the US in November, Dolly was quick to stay on message, and summed up with a signature squeaky giggle, “Mostly, we’re promoting the new CD and the world tour, and with the Imagination Library and Dollywood,” “that oughta be enough for a simple country girl.”
“I love my fans in that part of the world. You’ve been so very good to me for so many years and we’re gonna have a wonderful time. It’s a long way from home in your part of the world, but I always feel like I’m right at home. So Australia, I’m coming home. Wait up!”
Dolly fans get ready for an extraordinary opportunity! Dolly is about to announce some very exciting news, and she thinks you’ll like what she has in store. New VIP packages are to be offered for this tour that include access to Dolly’s personal wardrobe and instruments, a backstage tour, and an opportunity to meet Dolly. For the latest updates, please visit www.dollypartonmusic.net
By Denise Torenbeek