Dolly Parton remains a down-home treasure

[21 October 2008]

By Jim Abbott

The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Dolly Parton is down home, or so I am told.

Oh, she absolutely looks that way on TV and in concerts. She’s an adorable treasure - and I mean that!

Like any priceless gem, however, she’s encased in a protective setting. At the 2003 opening of her Dixie Stampede in Orlando, it was pretty much impossible to move within 30 feet of her without men in a dark suits and lapel-radios descending secret-service style.

And that was a press event!

The Dolly Machine is just as protective about putting her on the phone. Instead, my questions would be submitted by e-mail, and Dolly would send back an audio disc of answers just for me.

I eagerly checked the mail every day. In the end, my questions were answered in a mass e-mail, along with ones from other writers.

The answers, of course, were down home.

Q: You’ve come a long way from Locust Ridge, Tenn. Can you still claim to be backwoods?

A: Yes, and proud of it. I stay close to my roots and my family. I never want to forget any part of it. I’m still just a hillbilly at heart, thus a Backwoods Barbie.

Q: Congratulations on your new album, “Backwoods Barbie.” You wrote the bulk of the material and it occurs to me that a lot of folks might not realize that you’re such an accomplished songwriter. Tell me how you go about it.

A: It happens every which away. Sometimes I start with a great title or idea, sometimes a great melody will run through my mind; but the higher percentage of the time, the words and music pretty much come at the same time.

Q: I’m impressed with the number of instruments that you play in the course of a concert. Which one is your favorite?

A: Well, it’s just for show. I’m not that great at any of them. The guitar is my favorite and the one, I guess, I’m best at. But I play enough of the different instruments to be able to write with them and to, hopefully, to make myself look impressive on stage.

Q: “Backwoods Barbie” comes after several very-well received recordings of bluegrass-oriented material. Looking back on your albums for the Sugar Hill label, did re-exploring bluegrass and acoustic music help freshen your appreciation and perspective for the more country oriented songs on your new album?

A: I’m very proud of all the bluegrass-oriented albums. It just reminded me and my fans that I should always record acoustic music and country records, along with anything else that I might want to do.

Q: The title song from “Backwoods Barbie” affirms an especially endearing aspect of your career, that you seem to be incredibly in tune with the image of the audience of Dolly Parton. Do you think staying in control and on top of your public image has been one of the keys to the longevity of your career?

A: Well, who’s to say what will or won’t work. I just try to be true to myself and look the way that I’m comfortable looking. Because if I’m comfortable with me, then you’re going to be comfortable with me as well.

Q: You’ve made a few appearances on “Hannah Montana.” Have you gotten any feedback or feel like your appearance on the show has garnered you a few younger fans?

A: Well, yes, I am amazed at the response of my being on the show. Everywhere I go, every young person points at me and says “Hi, Aunt Dolly.” Or “Are you Aunt Dolly?” I love doing the show and I love Miley and Billy Ray (Cyrus). I am proud to be her honorary Godmother.

Q: It seems there isn’t much you haven’t yet done (movies, music, television, running a theme park), but is there still something else you’re really hoping to accomplish?

A: Yes, I’d love to develop and star in my own children’s show, write children’s books, do children’s albums, movies, DVDs, etc.

Q: Who are you listening to?

A: Right now, I’m listening to you. The rest of the time I’m listening to me. Well, I do listen to God for direction, but I really don’t have time to listen to other artists all that much.

Q: What’s on your TIVO?

A: What’s a TIVO? Seriously, the answer to that is the same as the question before.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/dolly-parton-remains-a-down-home-treasure/