With Dolly Parton set to embark on her second Australian tour in as many years, we caught up with the eternally chirpy Nashville superstar to discover what’s really on her tour bus, what to expect from her new album, and what she thinks about her goddaughter Miley Cyrus.
Q: You didn’t tour Australia for 24 years, and now you’re coming back so soon after your 2011 visit! Did you enjoy the last tour?
A: Well, we realised how much we loved it, and how much the fans loved us, so it was a win-win. I thought, why not do it now – I’m not getting any younger! We’ve got a lot of new and different things than what I did last time, so there’s enough in there to keep the fans that saw the last show entertained.
Q: You’ve released well over 40 albums – you must have a hard time choosing what makes it into your shows.
A: When we were in Australia last time we didn’t do a lot of the old songs, and while we were there, I made a point of finding out what old songs people had missed. People missed songs like Love is like a Butterfly, Old Flames Don’t Hold a Candle To You, Bargain Store, Think About Love… we’ve worked up some really nice medleys of those older hits.
Q: We’re guessing alongside those older hits, fans will hear material from your upcoming album Blue Smoke. What can you tell us about the new record?
A: Blue Smoke is actually the name of one of the songs, and I named the album after it because of the Bluegrass element to a lot of the songs, and because of the Smoky Mountains. It seemed like the perfect title. There are a couple of covers on there – I’ve done a gospel remake of Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me, and a bluegrass version of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright. It’s not a bluegrass album, but it has a lot of bluegrass elements in it.
Q: You’ve famously penned more than 3,000 songs in your career – do you ever get writer’s block?
A: I can honestly say I’ve never had writer’s block. I do write all the time, it’s just the way I express myself, but I’ve never felt like I had to write. It’s like therapy for me, it’s a joy. I write something every day – it could be a title, a couple of lines, or two or three songs.
Q: With that amount of songs, are there any you’ve forgotten?
A: There’s songs I forget about – I listen back and I hear things that I could improve, things I could rework. I always say, I’ve written at least 3,000 songs but probably four good ones!
Q: You’ll be bringing the Dolly tour bus back for this tour. What are your essentials on the bus?
A: I have a full kitchen stocked with the kind of foods that I love, which are not as healthy as they should be. There’s a nice bath, a nice bed…we have bunks, but because I don’t travel with many people, we use the bunks for all my wigs.
Q: We couldn’t help but notice your Aussie tour dates coincide neatly with Mardi Gras – any chance we could get you on a float?
A: I don’t know if I’d have time, but I bet you’d have plenty of Dollys in that parade! I did enter a Dolly lookalike competition once in California and lost to a bunch of drag queens. I lived across the street from the bar, so I over-exaggerated my look a bit, came walking over to enter the competition…and I lost. I looked like a little pygmy next to all these big RuPaul drag queens! You gay boys have got it on me.
Q: It’s been a successful – and controversial – year for your goddaughter, Miley Cyrus. Have you given her any advice?
A: I don’t try to give people advice. I think Miley’s gonna be fine. I understand why she had to make an extreme move to break out of the Hannah Montana thing, because we weren’t gonna let her get out of it. We don’t want our kids to grow up sometimes. I’m curious to see what she does next, but it’s not my place to tell her what to do – I’m just her fairy godmother!
Info: Dolly Parton Blue Smoke tour, Feb 11-27. Tickets and dates at www.dollypartonmusic.net