Every once in a while you have to stop and ask yourself, “What’s Dolly Parton up to these days?” Because chances are, she’s up to something, and, furthermore, she’s probably got lots of cute, folksy things to say about whatever it is she’s doing. A recent interview with Billboard does not disappoint.
How did you end up recording the Fine Young Cannibals’ “Drive Me Crazy?”
I had a few people question [it], but I like doing those cover songs because as a singer and a songwriter you listen to all kinds of stuff, and I’m really a sucker for catchy hooks and melodies. My husband’s a big rock and roll fan and he’s always got these records blasting in the den. I’d heard that [song] through the years. I used to babysit one of my little nieces, my namesake, when she was just a tiny little thing, and when that record was hot she’d go around singing “drive me crazy.” And I thought if a little baby would sing it, it must be a hooky thing. So I thought why don’t I do it like I’ve done other covers, like [Collective Soul's] “Shine,” then kind do a little hoedown at the end to Dolly-ize it, countrify it a little bit. Why not? These are songs, they’re meant to be sung.
Everything about this quote is absolutely perfect. I think Dolly has discovered the perfect litmus test for pop songs: “if a little baby would sing it, it must be a hooky thing.” I downloaded the cover. It’s quite good–although it uses an electric guitar for the riff in the chorus, which comes off as a cheap imitation of the original version. But other than that it’s solid, especially the hoedown at the end. I’m glad she’s reached the point in her career where she can have no shame in using the term “Dolly-ize.” In fact, I think it should be a blanket term for improving something, as in, “This soup is a little bland…let’s Dolly-ize it!”
But half the fun in my life is that I’m comfortable looking like this, just like the “Backwoods Barbie” tune. That is me to the letter, and I’ve often been misunderstood, but it has taken me 40 years for people to realize how serious I am about the music. But this is also serious, the way I look, this is how I’m comfortable.
Do you look at yourself as the Dolly Parton brand?
Absolutely. I’m a very professional Dolly Parton. I can’t tell anybody else how to run their life or their business, but I really believe I’ve got a good bead on myself. I know who I am, I know what I can and can’t do. I know what I will and won’t do. I know what I’m capable of and I don’t agree to do things that I don’t think I can pull off. Sometimes I bite off nearly more than I can chew. Sometimes I take a big, big bite hopin’ I can swallow it. I take some chances.
I think Dolly Parton is the only person on earth who can plasticize her face to Joan Rivers proportions and still be a genuine model of self-esteem.
What goals do you still have in music and in life?
I wake up with new dreams every day. One of my big dreams is, again, to be able to have some hit records back on the charts, pop and country. And I’ve just written a Broadway musical, “9 To 5,” where I’ve written all the music for it. “Backwoods Barbie” is included in it.
And I’m going to write my life story as a musical. So I’m going to get more involved in Broadway-type things, more musicals. I’m doing a lot of children’s things. I want to have my own weekly children’s show, like “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” that will also appeal to grownups, and I want to do my children’s books and CDs with children’s music. I want my own cosmetic line, and I want to still produce myself and a few other artists I believe in. TV things, specials, possibly a few more movies if the right things come along. I’m up for grabs, but I’ve got plenty to do and I never intend to retire.
Two things I never do are wear makeup (too lazy) and go to Broadway shows (too cheap), but if these alleged musicals and cosmetic lines ever come to fruition I will be there opening night in full Dolly-brand makeup and a pink, bedazzled one-piece garment. And that’s a promise.
The Billboard Q&A: Dolly Parton [Billboard]