My 11 Minutes with Dolly Parton
Queen of Country on inspiring gay family members to come out, her LGBT kinship and ‘queer’ introduction
By Chris Azzopardi
There are no angel wings.
Instead, Dolly Parton scoots into a drab backstage garage on her own two legs like a unicorn dream: knee-length canary yellow dress, rhinestones, more rhinestones, and a glow that can apparently turn even an industrial underground into heaven on earth.
But something’s off. Something is missing. Angel wings, I think.
Which, of course, you expect from a beaming Dolly Parton, even as she literally just stands in front of you. Her presence alone radiates her own healing power as she greets a mishmash of fans one by one, all of them basking in her shine.
Moms, dads, kids. An elderly woman in a wheelchair. Me, a gay man.
This woman – a country queen, a “backwoods Barbie,” the self-proclaimed fairy godmother – has united us all merely by existing. And if it wasn’t already evident, it certainly is in her midst: Dolly Parton is the only religion we may ever agree on.
For over two transcendent hours during her Pure & Simple tour, in support of her 43rd studio album of the same name, the Goddess of Goodness emerges as something too precious for this world. During her song “Little Sparrow,” the stage goes dark as screened-in birds take to the sky alongside Dolly’s silhouette – or, in this case, the Grand Rapids, Michigan arena she was setting aglow. Add “bird whisperer” to the long list of Dolly’s accomplishments, which is seemingly endless: 100 million albums sold worldwide; 25 certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards; 25 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Country charts, a record for a female artist; seven Grammy awards and 10 Country Music Association awards; one of only five female artists to win the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year Award; two Oscar nominations for songwriting (the title song to one of her many films, 9 to 5, plus “Travelin’ Thru” from the 2005 trans-themed movie Transamerica); and obviously, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
An angel, though?
Parton demurs. “I don’t know if I’d go that far! I don’t think I’m all that!” she says, as humbly as you’d expect, laughing the squeakiest of laughs.
Our 11-minute chat is peppered with that trademark Dolly charm (I conclude the interview by thanking her for bringing joy to my life and she responds like my mother: “Love you too!”). And yes, 11 minutes. “I don’t know where you got that odd number,” she squeaks again in her godly Southern accent, acknowledging the bonus minute her manager, Danny Nozell, has graciously given us. “He’s saying you’re getting a li’l something extra!”
Read on as Dolly blesses us with an extra 60 seconds of divinity, along with a look back on her introduction to the gay community, that time she may have gotten a contact buzz from Willie Nelson’s grass and, like any paragon of virtue, helping her own family members come to terms with their sexuality.
Growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains, did you know any gay people?
If I did, I didn’t know they were at the time! (Laughs) We were just mountain people, and I did not know at that time – I sure did not.
What was your introduction to the gay community then?
As I started to be a teenager there were a couple of guys downtown that everybody was sayin’ were queer, ya know? I know they often said that about anybody who was odd or different – “they’re just queer, just strange and odd” – but the way they would talk about these two guys they would say, “Well, they’re sissies, they’re girls.” I was a teenager then. But in my early days we did not know (what gay was). It didn’t take me long to know that people were different and that was always fine with me ’cause I was different too, and I embraced and accepted them and I knew them. I knew them well. But no, in my early days I did not know. But I know a lot of them now! I have a huge gay and lesbian following and I’m proud of ’em, I love ’em and I think everybody should be themselves and be allowed to be themselves whoever they are, whatever they are.
How big is your gay circle these days?
You know what, I have so many (gay) people in my companies. And later on, I did find out I have many gays and lesbians in my own family. We accept them, we embrace them. Oh, there are some in the mountains who still don’t know quite what to make of it or how they should feel about it, but they’re ours and they’re who they are and we know they’re wonderful and they’re like us. We love the fact that they are who they are and we nurture that. We don’t try to make them feel separate or different. We embrace it.
Because you’ve always been so LGBT-affirming, are you a safe place for them to open up about their sexuality?
Yes! Actually, I’ve had many people through the years who I have helped to feel good about themselves. I say, “You need to let people know who you are and you need to come on out. You don’t need to live your life in darkness – what’s the point in that? You’re never gonna be happy; you’re gonna be sick. You’re not gonna be healthy if you try to suppress your feelings and who you are.”
I have a couple of transgender people in my company who are on salary with me, so I am totally open for that. And a lot of people feel like they can come to me… and they do! Whether it’s about being gay or whatever, a lot of people do me like they used to do my mama and come to talk to me about things. Hopefully I’m able to help. I think I have.
When were you first aware of transgender people?
I remember watching the news when I was a girl and they (were talking about the) first operation that somebody had. That’s the first time I ever heard about that, and so that was many, many years ago. But yeah, I’ve known a lot since then, though.
Throughout your career, gay people have leaned on you for musical moral support while also absorbing your sage wisdom. But what have you learned from the gay people in your life?
I certainly know that the gay people I know are the most sensitive and most caring of all. I think they go through so much that they have to live with their feelings on their sleeve. They’ve had to go through so much that I think they’re very emotional and tenderhearted and more open to feelings, so I’ve just learned the same things I try to learn from everybody. I know they’re good people and I’ve tried to learn from that as well. They’re very creative, most of them. And I think that also comes from just embracing the fact that they’re different. Most of the gays I know just want to make the world a more beautiful place like I do.
After 50 years of marriage, what inspired your new self-proclaimed “friends with benefits” song, “Outside Your Door”?
Well, I’m married, but I’m not dead! I’m a romantic, fantasy person and I’ve felt _all_ of those feelings. I’ve been through everything in my life. And when I don’t write about myself, I write about other people that I know and their relationships, and people I know who don’t know how to express themselves. So I gather my ideas from everything. And hell, you don’t get too old to fantasize!
There’s a 20-minute intermission during your _Pure & Simple_ show. What do you do for those 20 minutes?
It takes every bit of my time! I fly back to my bus right after intermission, and I go back and I change. I take a little breather to cool off for a minute, and then I change clothes – that’s the only change I do (during the show). Then, I change my hair, change my wig, and I touch up my makeup. And by the time I’m done with all that it’s time to go back on.
What if you have to pee?
Oh, I take a pee break and drink a little bit of water. But yeah, it’s just a pee and pray break! (Laughs)
You jokingly mentioned during the show that you should run for president. Say you were elected – what would be your first order of business?
I would just resign! That’d be my first order if I got elected – I’d say, “No, I don’t want it, I don’t want it!” (Laughs) But no, I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t even think on those terms. I’d make this world a better place, I’ll tell you that.
During the show you hysterically joked about how you could get a contact buzz from Willie Nelson’s tour bus. Where do you get your sense of humor and sharp wit?
Oh, that comes from both sides of my family. My mama’s people were hysterical; my daddy’s people were hysterical. They just had a different sense of humor, and that’s how we got through everything, with our sense of humor. And as a writer I just think funny. I try to find things to laugh about and so anyway, I just say whatever I say.
What’s the closest you’ve gotten to Willie and his weed?
Oh, I know Willie really well! I sang with him on my last album. We did a duet together called “From Here to the Moon and Back” and I was singing – well, I was trying to sing and I said, “Willie, I’ll tell you, you’re the worst person I ever tried to sing with. I mean, you’re brazen! I can’t keep up with you! I’mma need a sack of your grass! I’mma need something!” But he laughed so hard. But anyway, I love him, but he’s Willie and that’s OK.
He smoked in the studio with you there is what you’re saying?
Oh, yeah! …Willie smokes at the drop of a hat! I probably had a contact high from that too!
You’ve been singing “I Will Always Love You” since the early ’70s. What does that song mean to you now that it didn’t mean to you when you first wrote it?
Well, you appreciate things more as you get older. That song is just the gift that keeps on giving. It’s always getting licensing in my publishing company; somebody’s recorded it and we’re signing off on that. And so the fact that people are always calling me and always wanting rights for (the song for) a wedding – I actually rewrote it _as_ a wedding song; it makes a beautiful song – it just makes me appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to write something that’s been that meaningful to so many people through the years. So, it does touch me. And it turned out to be the perfect song to sing to my fans – it’s the song I like to dedicate to the fans. Not the sad parts, but the good parts – especially the line of, “I will always love you” for letting me do this.
The Complete Trio Collection, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt
Nowhere in the backstory notes to the The Complete Trio Collection does it say that when Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt finally found time to unify their voices in perfect harmony that lives were healed and Jesus wept. If you’ve heard even pieces of this landmark collaboration, though, you know this to be only a slight exaggeration. After all, we are talking about three singing Supremes working their magic on 21 songs across two glorious albums. And now, in addition to both 1987’s Trio and 1999’s Trio II, Rhino Records has collected an additional 20 songs from the ladies’ Grammy-winning sessions, some unreleased, some alternate takes of already-released Trio tunes. Among them: “Wildflowers,” Parton’s autobiographical outsider anthem split equally among the three singers, with Parton on the first verse, Harris on the second, and, finally, Ronstadt on the third (Dolly takes lead on the original, included here on the first Trio disc). “Calling My Children Home” is transcendent, as their voices unite in splendid harmony for a rich vocal experience on this previously unreleased a cappella track, a gut-wrenching song by bluegrass band The Country Gentlemen. Top to bottom, The Complete Trio Collection is a body of staggering beauty. Ronstadt will break your heart as her voice glides through “The Blue Train.” Emmy’s breathtaking lead on “When We’re Gone, Long Gone” will lighten your load. All their voices in collective grace on the stunning “Farther Along” will have you feeling thankful that this project, despite the years it took to get these gals together, has finally seen the light of day. Grade: A
AMERICAN IDOL Alum David Hernandez “Openly” Accepts Himself with Beautiful
By BeBe Sweetbriar | www.bebesweetbriar.com
In his new single, Beautiful, American Idol Season 7 alum David Hernandez sings about struggling with low self-esteem, a condition that has plagued him all his life. He recalls witnessing all of her ups and downs and says he has experienced them too. “I was down on myself the day I recorded the song,” he shares in a press release. “My skin was breaking out and I remember thinking, real music stars aren’t supposed to have these kinds of problems…. There is so much pressure in this industry to be perfect…. While I know it isn’t reality, a few pitfalls allowed me to give into the negative thoughts in my mind. It wasn’t until I recorded the track and listened to it back that I thought, ‘Well, damn, this song should empower me to realize that I don’t need to be perfect’.” Written by Mark Grilliot, Adrian Newman, Ryan Stewart, and Stephen Werner and produced by Grilliot, Beautiful was released late this summer.
With its uplifting verses and ‘anthemic’ chorus, Beautiful encourages listeners to celebrate their so-called flaws by finding the beauty in their imperfections. The song also promotes unity of people from varying races, religions, body types, and sexual orientations. In the eight years since his appearance on the now the defunct Idol show, Hernandez also came to accept his sexuality. David shared with me that “I was 24 on Idol, and I wasn’t comfortable with myself. My parents didn’t know even though I had a boyfriend at the time which I had been keeping secret for two years…. I’m really glad I lost some disability (from public eye) for a while…. I was able to come to terms with my sexuality, who I am and be proud of that.” Directed by Printz Board from Black Eyed Peas, the song’s music video depicts the spectrum of diversity. It features a deaf man, an athlete with a prosthetic limb, and interracial, gay, and elderly couples. David believes those in the video embody the song’s powerful message.
BeBe: I love Beautiful which along with its music video is so empowering. Knowing that you are such a good songwriter, I was surprised to discover you didn’t write the song.
David Hernandez: When I first heard it I was actually going through a rough time, you know, not feeling cute. And when I went into the studio, it was like a therapy session. I didn’t see it as a love song, but rather saw in my mind different religions, races, sexual orientations, ages, disabilities and everything being reaffirmed with a message like this. Positive messages that reaffirm you change your way of thinking. I didn’t care if I didn’t write it. I just wanted to sing it. A good song is a good song.
BeBe: The music video directed by Printz Board of Black Eyed Peas speaks to that, your interpretation of what the songwriters wrote.
David Hernandez: I interpreted Beautiful the way I felt it and put out a video the way I saw it. I honestly didn’t intend for this to be the way that it has become with such positive response. I’ve gotten nothing but love. But, it’s a testament to what people are feeling right now. They need love and positivity, and I’m willing to give it to them.
BeBe: Beautiful was therapeutic for you. Have you always used music as a means to get through difficult times?
David Hernandez: BeBe, music has literally saved my life. Four years ago I went through a really bad time with a break up. I was drinking a lot and hanging with the wrong crowd. I started to lose myself. My Dad was like what will make you feel better? I said I needed to be in the studio writing. Within 3 months I got back into the studio writing and it was cathartic.
BeBe: Beautiful is your first major release since your EP I Am Who I Am 4 years ago (2012).
David Hernandez: It’s my first major release that I have had with a video and everything. It’s been a game changer for me. It’s my baby. I’m back!
BeBe: Is it safe to say that Beautiful is the statement song for you that pretty much reaffirms the things you have come to terms with over the past 4 years such as your sexuality?
David Hernandez: I’m glad I have been able to share my story because for a number of Yeats I have had a number of LGBT youth share their stories with me and I haven’t been really able to say ‘here’s my story and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.’ That’s really why I came out publicly to use this platform to inspire people. I hope somewhere in a small town some kid can say if David can do it, I can do it too, and not feel stuck and have mental shackles. Our differences make us beautiful.
David Hernandez’ Beautiful is available on iTunes. The music video is on YouTube.
Follow David Hernandez at Facebook: OfficialDavidAnthony
Twitter | Instagram: dhernandezmusic
Visit http://www.davidhernandezofficial.com for tour and new music updates.
Swedish singer/songwriter and 19-year old pop ingénue Wiktoria is already breaking big in her homeland, off the heels of her semi-final placement at Melodifestivalen 2016, the country’s feed into EuroVision Song Contest, where she performed her debut single Save Me (Moon Man Records/PRMD Music) before 4 million Swedish nationals on television.
Save Me has already reached #1 at Swedish radio, climbed to #3 in the Official Swedish Single chart, racked up over 11.6 million streams to date and is certified platinum in Sweden. Following Wiktoria’s mid-August U.S. debut performance in Los Angeles, Save Me Part II featuring remixes by Riddler, DJ Vice and Danny Verde was released with a soon-to be released remix by San Francisco-based Billboard producer/remixer Wayne G from the UK premiering exclusively on GLOSS magazine’s website (www.glossmagazine.net).
BeBe: How personal and true is Save Me, a song you didn’t write, to you?
Wiktoria: As soon as I heard it I said this is my life. I was looking at the songwriters saying ‘I can relate to this song.’ I felt it was made for me. The song represents things I’ve gone through in my life, especially when it comes to boys.
BeBe: You made your U.S. performance debut a month ago at L.A.’s Tigerheat before a big crowd. How was that experience for you?
Wiktoria: It was amazing! They just gave me so much energy. They didn’t know who I was but they were singing along like they knew the song. They were the most incredible audience I’ve ever experienced. They were screaming for me like I was Justin Bieber!
BeBe: Recorded in its original form with emphasis on an acoustic guitar, the upbeat Save Me has since been packaged with remixes in an EP giving it a home on the club dance floors. Do you think there is a permanent home for you in dance music?
Wiktoria: I would say I’m just experimenting. I love dance music, and I love ballads as well. I think I can do both. I just want to sing songs I can relate to. When singing a song live, I want the audience to feel something.
BeBe: When I first heard Save Me I was reminded of Ellie Goulding. Many of her songs were ballads produced as dance songs. Have you ever been compared to her?
Wiktoria: No one has ever said that. I love Ellie Goulding.
BeBe: What’s next for Wiktoria? Are you possibly recording for an album?
Wiktoria: Yes, I’m recording, recording, recording! That’s all I do. I’m sure there will be an album in the future but for now, it’s just for single releases.
BeBe: At 19, this is all happening for you at such a young age.
Wiktoria: I feel it’s the perfect age for me. I’ve been working for this my whole life. It’s the dream I’ve wanted. I feel now I can finally go for it. I can really focus and give 100%. I think I’m prepared for it. This couldn’t be more right for me!
Wiktoria’s Save Me and Save Me: Part II are available on iTunes. The music video is on YouTube.
Follow Wiktoria at Facebook: @WiktoriaMusic Twitter:@WiktoriaVJ Instagram:@wiktoriajohansson
Wiktoria – “Save Me” (Wayne G & Andy Allder Disko Mix)
We love a good comeback or five, don’t we? And since burning out in the mid 2000’s and then blazing back with 2007’s Blackout, the indestructible institution known as Britney Spears has made a career out of comebacks, releasing a rollercoaster of peak- and plummeting-career albums throughout her two-decade reign. Perhaps her biggest music slump came just a few years ago, in 2013, when Britney Jean tanked fast and hard on the charts because her team thought the world needed a “personal” album from someone so aloof that we all breathe a sigh of relief when she actually appears to be having a good time. The reception to “deep” Spears was ill-received, and that’s something her ninth studio album, _Glory_, recognizes and thankfully forgoes… Glory_ delivers almost purely on the basis that Britney is best when she’s merely hawking her brand of elusiveness, writhing over suggestive come-hitters…. There’s actual joy present. And personality! And she’s singing! Work, bitch? This time, you bet she is. Grade B+
– By Chris Azzopardi
Britney baby one more (Life)time – Lifetime, the network that brought you unauthorized biopics of Aaliyah and Brittany Murphy, have found their next subject. The difference this time is that their subject is still very much alive, with a career in similar healthy circumstance. Britney Spears… will be the subject of what is currently known as Britney. Directed by Leslie Libman (Manson’s Los Girls) and starring Natasha Bassett (Hail, Caesar!), the movie will cover the entertainer’s teenage rise to the pop charts, her troubled relationships with men such as Justin Timberlake and Kevin Federline, and her equally troubled relationship with fame.
– By Romeo San Vicente
Wait… didn’t she say she was giving up music just after Art Pop’s release, and that she wanted to focus solely on her acting? Well whatever she looks AMAZING, and is finally giving us the true her, if you don’t know what I mean just watch her video for the debut single off of Joanne – Perfect Illusion.
Six time Grammy award winner Lady Gaga will release her much anticipated fifth studio album, ‘Joanne’ on Friday, October 21st. The first single, “Perfect Illusion” recently debuted at #1 on iTunes in 60 countries. Just a week after its release, “Perfect Illusion” has soared on radio, becoming the #1 most added song on Pop with 170 adds and the #1 most added song on Hot AC with 75 adds. Throughout her career, Lady Gaga has amassed an outstanding 30 million global album sales and 150 million single sales.
Barbra Streisand, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway
Like any legendary singer beyond radio age, Barbra Streisand goes the duets route yet again for Encore. The twist? She’s invited her actor friends along for a pleasant-enough gimmick of an album, singing show tunes you’ve heard a gazillion times with Hollywood stars not all known for their voices, as if to say, “No one is allowed to sing better than me on my album.” And no one does, duh. Not Seth MacFarlane, who at least gives “Pure Imagination” his best shot. Definitely not Melissa McCarthy, who, if anything, sounds like she’d be fun to do karaoke with. But it’s hard not to feel this fluff is a waste of Babs’ precious time. – By Chris Azzopardi
For a chance to win a copy of Barbara Streisand’s Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway visit GlossMagazine.net