(CSC) 1. It has been 8 years since our last interview, with that said it’s great to be with you again. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do! How are you doing?
Good. I'm a little tired today but all is well.
(CSC) 2. After taking a lengthy hiatus from touring, you’re back and better than ever! With a new band and stage show, what have you missed most about performing?
Well just the audiences, you know the reactions. That’s what I have missed. I didn't miss all the stuff that goes along with it you know! (Laughs) I think I just lost my mo-jo and I didn't really want to do it anymore, all the other stuff. If it was just getting on stage and performing, that’s the easy part; it’s all the other things you have to do.
(CSC) 3. Obviously this isn’t your first rodeo but how have you adjusted to the hectic regimen of returning to life on the road or have you?
Well because we're doing it differently this time. It's completely different than I used to do it. I have new management now and a team that does certain things; each person does certain things. They wear their own kind of hats and everybody does what they're supposed to do, and as long as that goes that way, you know I'm happy! It's when things don't get done or not done correctly, that’s one of the things.
We had a little struggle at first with the band of course it's just a natural thing trying to tweak the band and get them just right. I imagine it’s a continuing process but the band is sounding really good now and they're starting to kind of meld in and we have some exciting shows. I mean every show can't be the greatest show on earth.
I think that we go through the motions sometimes when you're an entertainer you have to and not necessarily when you feel your best. I think the older you get when you talk about people like Haggard and Willie, you know they just pick and choose the things that they want to do, because there is a lot of things to do. It can drive you crazy really!
Just being a little more choosy and picky and careful with my time so I have enough time when I'm away from all this to enjoy life and the many blessings that I have.
If you go through life and work, work, work which is what I normally do, you tend to forget about the little things and the things that really do make you happy.
(CSC) 4. In regards to that are you travelling with pedal steel?
No and I miss it. I really miss that! We've talked about adding that on. Right now we just don't want to; that’s one more guy. I wanted to do it with the least amount of people as possible. I could probably go out with four pieces but I would miss a lot of things. That’s the thing about making records, “I'm like well let's don't put a cello on there if I'm not going to have one on the road.”
So this next record I was aware of a lot of those things but I do have a lot of steel guitar and Dobro on my next record.
In fact I just saw one of my old steel guitar players in Branson. We just played Branson not too long ago and he came up and he's one of my favorite guys, Dean, and he plays in Branson. We tried to hire him at one point but he does so well there just sitting in town. But I do miss steel guitar. That’s so funny that you mentioned that. I miss that!
(CSC) 5. The last time you last released new music was 2009’s “My Turn,” a tribute album to the greats of country. I understand you’re currently recording an album of original material. How’s that project coming along so far and when can fans expect it to be released?
Well I don't know… I've been working on it must be ten years now. When I wasn't on the road I was in the studio quite a bit, not in the last year or two, but before that I was really in the studio a lot and kind of piecing things together.
I've got about ten songs that I really like. I think they're really good. They're all very, each singular. Sometimes I wonder if they're a little too different from one another to put on one record but I think that’s a part of my appeal and versatility, being able to sing different kinds of songs, not just one kind of song in one genre, in one feel.
I pride myself into being versatile and being able to create different sounds, different lyrics that maybe you wouldn't expect.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the fans, the people will think about the new album. The problem with that is there are so many things that have to happen before your record can be successful. You know you can go and cut MacArthur's Park but if nobody gets to hear it than it can't be successful. So I have to be careful whose hands I put my heart into. I used to call it guts on vinyl but it’s not vinyl anymore. Guts on something! On streaming! This whole thing, it’s a different time now. I don't know what's going to happen. So whatever happens I want to be right there.
(CSC) 6. Is there any artist or group in the music scene today that you would you like to collaborate with?
Yeah I've got a whole list of them. Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Steve Miller Band, Merle Haggard. I'd like to do something with Loretta. Maybe something fun with Miranda. I'd love to do something with Tony Bennett too. I did something with Sinatra but I haven't done anything with Tony Bennett. I'd like to do something with him and Tom Jones, too.
(CSC) I love that picture of the two of you (Loretta Lynn) taken from the Opry.
(Tanya Tucker) Where she's kicking her leg up?
(CSC) Yeah! It's so candid.
(Tanya Tucker) Yeah, she's my best friend. I mean her and Tammy were my best friends and of course I lost my other best friend George Jones. I told Loretta when she called me when George died and we talked and I said, “man I'm gonna have to start having to hang onto all of my heroes. I want to grab Merle Haggard by the leg,” and she goes "You grab one leg and I'll grab the other." (Laughs) I could just see him trying to go onstage and both of us hanging off of him like "Please don't go." (Laughs)
(CSC) 7. What factors are important when going into the recording studio to ensure that the right kind of chemistry exists to have a successful experience all around?
Well first of all you want to get the right musicians. That’s very important and of course you know the engineer and the right studio where you're comfortable. It doesn't necessarily have to be a nice studio but it just has to have a certain feel. I don't really know how to explain that except that I just know how I feel and how good it feels.
You have to have the right collaboration of people to make it right. You know all the years I've worked I've gotten to know a lot of the musicians and some of the greats I've worked with like Pig Robbins on piano and Reggie Young, one of the great guitar players. So I get to work with a lot of wonderful musicians and that’s important. Go in there and do it in one take you know.
Several of my songs on my new album were one takes with the whole band. You know you do have certain songs that are going to be that way. The title track off the album was one of those because it's such a mysterious song and it's sort of like a "Man in the Mirror" kind of song, you know Michael Jackson but not that style but as far as the words and about looking at yourself and seeing your own faults. Understanding the mistakes you've made in life. It was such a strong song. Chuck Cannon wrote it. It was just so hard to get it just like I wanted it. I'm really not sure if I've got that yet. I think there's one more little thing I want to do it. It's been keeping me up at night. You think about these little things like I better change that one vocal or I better change that one line or I'll revisit it and say no.
You know that’s the luxury of being able to do an album like I've done it is on my own time and when I felt like doing it I didn’t go in the studio when I didn't feel good. You know when I felt up and ready to do something; it’s just very important.
Having the luxury of having the time because we never had that time in the old days. In the old days it was like I had to learn the song right when the musicians learned it and we did them live. We all recorded live back then. Well when I was sixteen was the first time when I experienced a producer not wanting me in the studio when the basic tracks were laid down and I'm like what? What if you get in the wrong key and he goes well we'll just slow the track down... it was a culture shock. It was in L.A. too and an L.A. producer so I wasn't comfortable with that.
We had two #1 records on that album but I went right back to Nashville and got with Jerry Crutchfield and that started our thirteen album run. We worked together for thirteen albums and I think we're going to work together again because I think we have a good thing going. Both of us are older and it's going to be interesting to see what we come up with in the studio this time.
(CSC) 8. You’ve always remained true to yourself and to country music… what are your thoughts on bro-country and rap-country themed music in the genre? Do you believe it’s just a fading trend?
I enjoy it. I don't take it too seriously. It's just fun music, just fun. It's kind of like a Beach Boys record you know. The words aren't that great but I love the words but the words aren't going to change your life but the music does and the way it feels. You can't sit still (sings “Fun, Fun, Fun) for that.
There's all kinds of music. There can't be just one kind. So maybe that’s good we have a little of that so we really know what we like, you know what's really great. I think that music always changes. It's constantly changing. You know there's classics and there'll be some more classics that will come around the corner. You think wow how many more ideas can we figure, how many more song ideas can we get? But we do come up with them and that’s amazing.
I've been listening to some of the music that my daughter might have that she likes and it introduces me to new music too because I have no idea. When my daughter and I were out running around being gypsies she played me some stuff that I really liked, that I really did like. So I'm getting to learn more about music from my kids, I really am. Because you get in that one little corner and you don't get out of it and I’m now able to stretch my wings and I enjoy other kinds of music.
But I love gut bucket, heart
breaking country music. I do a song (Window Up Above) in my show of George
Jones, I do it ‘cause I love to sing it, I love him and he wrote the song so I
think that’s really cool. I didn't know he was a writer, so I'm constantly
learning new things, even about the old stuff.
Enjoy PART II of the interview!
(CSC) 9. Growing up, your father Beau remained a huge influence on you and your career serving as your longtime manager. My condolences…how have you coped with the loss of your father?
It hasn't been easy and to this day it's still not. At times when I'm on stage or maybe it’s a certain night or I'll be in Walmart or something and I'll hear a song that he wrote and it will either remind me of my mother or my dad and it will be like "Oops someone's crying in aisle three!" You know? It still affects me. I'd give anything to have him bark at me one more time. I guess people that have already been through that know how it is. You're never really prepared, never.
(CSC) 10. What an honor it must have been to witness your entire career on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s exhibit, “Strong Enough To Bend.” Please share your initial feelings from that hallmark in your life!
Well I was flattered. It's very flattering. It's hard to put into a little bit of a room all that I've been through, all the memorabilia. It would have to be huge! It would have to be a 100,000 square foot building to put all my memories into; my clothes and memorabilia and things that were important to me coming up. I was flattered and at the same time I was out being a gypsy and I really didn't want to go back to Nashville but I sort of had to show up for that. I thought it was a little premature but I went ahead and did it and once I got back to Nashville all hell broke loose and I haven't really stopped since. I've seen my horses maybe once or twice. I get to go see them, they’re right down the road from me now. I just moved into a new house so they're real close to me.
(CSC) 11. What first attracted you to Glen Campbell despite the age difference and as of late you’ve made statements expressing regrets of not reconciling years before his diagnosis. With all due respect, after such a tumultuous relationship…why?
I have regrets about that because when I broke up with him, I was still in love with him but I wanted him to try a little harder. I thought he should have tried a little harder to get me back and when he didn't you know, so he came to see me, it's funny cause he actually used Loretta as a way to get to me because Loretta was playing Reno and I was playing John Ascuaga's in Reno and Glen was playing in Tahoe. So he came in and he kept trying to call me but I told everybody not to let him through and nobody in the band was to take any calls or anything.
I get a call one afternoon and it said its Loretta Lynn and I went "Hey Retty, what are you doin?" And he goes (deep voice) "Hello" So he totally fooled me and then he came to see me right before I went on stage and he was a mess. I think if I'd been older and more mature, we’d probably still been together.
If you find the love of your life at too early of an age, it's not good. It's sort of ahead of its time. There will never be anybody else for me that totally got me, totally. We sang so great together and we really enjoyed being together. We had some of the best times I've ever had. I miss those times and it took me thirty years to figure that out, really.
(CSC) 12. What was the exact age difference?
Twenty-two years. He was immature too. He should have handled it better (laughs) He should have handled my immaturity better! We were both immature. When they were the best times they were the greatest times I ever had.
(CSC) 13.You’ve haven't been able to have a formal goodbye?
No not really, no. I would love to do that and the longer it goes the less chance I'm going to have. I was hoping in the beginning that I could see him. I've asked and asked and I've even thought about going in with a burglar’s hat on my head or something and going in saying "I want to see Glen and I want to see him right now!" But of course those things come and go, those fleeting thoughts of just trying to get in and say hey.
(CSC) 14. You were very close to the late George Jones. Tell me about your treasured friendship, what you miss the most and how did you find the strength to give such a captivating performance of “Old Rugged Cross” with The Imperials at his funeral?
Oh thank you… I was scared to death and with the Imperials too. That was so special that they would come and do that with me or for George. The only way I could do that was thank God I was on first. That’s all I can say because I was the very first artist. Yeah I couldn't have sat there through the whole thing. In fact I didn't even see the coffin. You know I was on stage, I just didn't see anything. I was just in this vacuum.
Then I went and sat by Travis (Tritt) and I saw the coffin and then when they took it out I just couldn't control myself. It was just too hard, the cold hard fact that he was gone. It was kind of surreal because it wasn't supposed to be that way. He was supposed to always be around. It was very hard because we almost lost him a few times before that. That was hard going through the wreck and all that.
He was so kind to me and we had some great times together and some that weren't so great but I helped him or he helped me either way. It was always good. Had our backs against the wall a few times and sometimes we were together. He's the greatest, the greatest country singer of all. Him and Haggard. Haggard. Haggard's my other one. George would tell ya, Haggard's his favorite singer and vice versa.
(CSC) 15. On a lighter note, how are all of your children, Presley, Grayson and Layla doing these days and have any of them followed in the musical footsteps of their mother?
Yea, they're all musical, they’re all very musical. My daughter's in a band called Reverie Lane. That’s Presley, my oldest daughter, her and another girl and they have a band. I think they're pretty close to getting a record deal. They should. They should be right on it because they're really great and they've written all their songs and written some great songs. A couple of them I'd like to record. My son works with me right now and he's aspiring to go into the business. My youngest Layla, just turned sixteen. We're trying to concentrate in getting her through school right now. I've got a few meetings with people that develop young acts, young artists for Disney, he develops them for Disney, because they don't listen to me. She's just very different. All my kids are very different from me. They have their talent, they have their music in them, but they don't really sound like me. My daughter Presley probably sounds the most like me but we've already got one me, so they say we've got awful big shoes to fill and I say you can fill them and no problem.
(CSC) 16. Other than music and your passion for horses, what else sparks your interest when you're off the road?
Mostly my horses. I like doing some craft work, I like working with wood and redoing things like that old chest of drawers or I like doing some painting. I like to work around the house. I enjoy gardening in the spring. But my horses I think are probably number one. I enjoy riding my Harley sometimes. That’s a lot of fun.
We just got back from the Ozarks for my birthday week. My friends from Austin came and brought their Harleys and we all met in Branson and then we went riding to the Ozarks. So it was really nice. The weather held up for us and it was a beautiful, beautiful ride. That's the closest thing to freedom I guess!
I have a monastery that I go to. I spend about four or five days there every year. It's right outside of Aspen. It's just twenty monks and the first time we went was two years ago and it's just incredible. You know there's a day of silence, but of course you know I didn't do very good at that! But it's just such a spiritual surrounding environment that all the other stuff falls off, just falls away and you get down to the real thing, with my God and myself. I'm going to do it again this year. It’s about twenty women from all over the country that all have different lives, have different pains, they have different things they're going through in their lives. There may be sickness, or maybe family. It's very powerful when you get a bunch of women from all over the country in one room and it’s amazing how much we have in common. A lot of talk.
(CSC) 17. In closing, besides your children, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment at this stage of your life?
I think just being here, being back and being on the road. Because if anybody would have asked me about four years ago I would have said they were crazy. I would have told them I'm never going back on the road. So that’s probably for better or worse I'm here and it really has been because of the fans and people. One guy told me it was my duty and I didn't even know this guy. You know I'd met him the day before or something and I'm like what? And he said yeah it's your duty to go out and use your God given talent to perform and sing for people that have loved you and invested their love into you. It's your duty to go out, you owe them and I'm like ok! So it was a lot of pressure, you know just general pressure but from the guy at the gas station to the girl at the supermarket to wherever, to my doctor when I go in and says; you need to do this, you need to get back out there.
A lot of people have missed you.
Yeah, it's just amazing! I feel that when I perform. I feel that "theme" of wow we missed you! I know I'm blessed, I'm very blessed but it just felt like maybe I just didn't have enough anymore left inside to offer. So yeah, I guess there is more to me than even I knew about.