Dolly Parton
Country Weekly
October 14, 1997 Issue
Dolly keeps busy waiting for her country comeback

Even when she's kidding, Dolly Parton isn't kidding.

      "My look is artificial, but my heart is real, my intentions are good and my talent is God-given," she tells COUNTRY WEEKLY.  "I take that very seriously."
      Seriously enough to have another album in the works and a new stage show for her Dollywood theme park.  Seriously enough to plan a limited tour and to even dream of creating a Broadway show.
      And seriously enough that the 51-year-old superstar is looking for ways to connect with a new generation of country fans.
      To much of the world, Dolly Parton is country music.  But without a Top 20 hit on mainstream country radio since 1991, she wondered aloud last year whether she was "wanted in country music anymore."
      Asked about it now, during an interview at her successful theme park, she replies thoughtfully:  "I think my true fans still love me.  I don't know about a lot of the new country fans.  I think a lot of them are not that ware of who I am and what I do musically.  Because we have a whole new generation.
      "I have no resentment toward that.  I'm just proud that country music's doing so well.  I'm just hoping to find a niche for myself where I can fit in somewhere and still be able to have records played and bought to where it would provide me the luxury of always having a reason to write and record."
      Meanwhile, Dolly is finding new ways to fit in.  Her recent dance mix of "Peace Train," for instance, shot to the Top 5 on Billboard's dance chart.
      "Can you believe that?" she blurts out.  "I couldn't believe it!  We took this Cat Stevens song completely apart, kept my voice and added dance music — and now it's one of the biggest dance records in the world!"
      Dolly starts to giggle.  "I've even seen articles that say, 'Dolly the Dance Diva' and 'Disco Dolly.'  I fall over laughing — but it's great to have a hit record, no matter how you get it."
      Dolly's working on her next album, Hungry Again, in a small studio at the Nashville home of her first cousin Richie Owens.
      "He's a wonderful engineer and producer," Dolly says with a smile.  Then she starts to laugh.  "We've been working in his basement.  His little kids come running through, and you can hear kids crying and people hollering and trucks going by outside.  It's an honest, heartfelt, sweet record."  It's also, she promises, more like her earlier music.
      Her 1996 album, Treasures, offered a sampler of Dolly's favorite songs, written by others.  For the new album, she took pen in hand.
      "I have written some of the best songs since 'Coat Of Many Colors' and 'I Will Always Love You,'" she says, sounding satisfied.  "It's more like the early years of Dolly, songs that people seem to still like."  She emphasizes that point in a song she wrote for the album — due this spring on Rising Tide/Blue Eye — called "Let's Love Like We're Hungry Again."
      "I wanted to write like I was hungry again, sing like I was hungry again — hungry just for being back in the business in that way," she says.  "I figured it would be safest to just do what was truly honest and totally from my soul.
      "I would love to have more than just a hit record.  I'd love to always be in the mainstream of music, because my favorite thing is to write and to sing the songs I write.  I would love — even when I'm an old woman — to have a music career and have it respected and appreciated."
      Despite her forays into dance music and acting, the country audience remains closest to her heart.
      "You'd have to be crazy not to know I'm country," she says, dressed in a glittery peach mini-skirted business suit.  "You can hear me talk and know I'm still country," she says with a tickled laugh.  "I'm Dolly — I don't look like Hollywood any more than I look like Frog Alley."
      Nope.  She's Dolly, the girl from Sevier County in the mountains of East Tennessee, who grew beyond its confines without ever leaving it.  As she walks into Dollywood's barn-like Mountain Crafts Market Place, she greets its artists as the friends they often are.  Outside, a covey of fans, many wearing her "Peace, Love, Dollywood" T-shirts, wait anxiously for a glimpse of the legend that Dolly has become.
      This legend is doing a benefit concert for her Dollywood Foundation today — and despite her 30 years of experience, she still gets wound up.
      "It's been a long time since I did a full concert where I did a lot of my own music," says Dolly.  She admits, "I'm a little nervous and a whole lot excited."  Then she flashes one of those safe-at-home grins and adds, "It's always good to do it at home, because if you mess up they'll forgive you."
      Her good deeds at home are about to go national — if all goes well, she will expand her books-for-kids program, the Imagination Library.
      "A lot of people are interested in this program 'cause it's working so well, so we're hoping that we might be able to do it on a larger scale.  But for now, we're happy with the results we've had here.  We send every child in Sevier County a free book every month from the day they're born until they start kindergarten.  That way parents can read with the children, so it's a nice thing for families as well as children."

      For months now, Dolly has watched hundreds of videos of her career.  In April, the best clips will be part of a new stage show at Dollywood.
      "This particular show does have some hints of a Broadway," she says.  "We're putting it together as a musical, like the climb of my life, from songs we've already recorded.  It's my life story from the beginning of my career, with a lot of film footage and videos and comments by people who have helped me through the years."
      She's been involved with almost every phase, including the search for someone to play her.  "I have to find the person to play little Dolly and the teenage Dolly," she says.  Then she snickers.  "I guess I can always be the old Dolly."
      The Dollywood production could be a dry run for yet another of her projects — writing new songs for a real Broadway show.  "When I do a show for Broadway it would be my whole life in song, like different stories and stuff where it would be original, a lot of original music," she says.
      There are, she admits, a lot of powerful moments in her career.  "The first time I performed in front of a live audience on the Cas Walker show when I was like 10 years old in Knoxville.  Then when I first sang on the Grand Ole Opry, and then when I started with the Porter Wagoner show — 1966, I guess it was."
      She's been watching Porter's old shows and thinks they're a hoot.
      "I see them and I just fall over," she says with a big cackle.  "I can't hardly stand to watch myself like that.  I think, 'Oh my God, look at that hair!'  Then I look in the mirror and think, 'Oh Lord, it's still there.'"
      And the dynamic woman beneath the hair is still here.
      "I'm full of energy, full of ideas, full of activity," she says, speaking quickly and emphatically.  "I love to write, love to work, love to be busy.  Can't stand to be bored.
      "If I ain't nothing, I get bored — and if I get bored, I get dangerous.
      She smiles again.  "Best I keep working."