Andy Coleman speaks to the Queen of Country for whom life is one big adventure.
She celebrated her 65th birthday in January but Dolly Parton says she is not yet ready to hang up her wigs and pack away the rhinestones.
In fact, the Queen of Country looks set to be busier than ever.
Her new album, Better Day, is released in July, followed by a UK tour that plays Birmingham LG Arena on September 2.
A stage musical, 9 to 5, based on the 1980 movie of the same name and featuring Parton’s songs, is scheduled to open in Britain later in the year.
And Parton is hard at work writing both a stage musical and a movie based on her life.
“I look at those numbers and think, God can I be 65 years old?” she laughs. “But I don’t feel any different than I did when I first went to Nashville.
‘‘Every day I wake up with new dreams and new thoughts and I have new outlets, just like doing this tour, just like all the good things that are happening to me, getting the chance to do movies.
“I love people, I love to write, I love to sing, I love to perform, I love seeing things happen, I love to make things happen, so I’ll be at it till I keel over.”
Even when she’s not singing or writing Parton rarely slows down – on a recent promotional visit to England she conducted 30 interviews in two days.
And then there’s the work on her musical and film based on her life story.
The movie will follow the pattern of Lorretta Lynn’s story, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Johnny Cash’s Walk The Line.
“It won’t be a musical but it will have music in it,” says Parton, adding that she’s composing new songs for the stage show.
“I’ve got nearly half the music written for the stage musical. I’m waiting till I get it all done before I start trying to put it together because I don’t want pressure.”
“Last time I worked with a lot of other people, and you’ve got to work under other people’s rules.
‘‘I don’t do well with that. I like to do it right and not have to feel forced so I will be produc
moting it and be involved in it all the way through.”
But who will play Parton?
“There would probably have to be two or three people because I started so young so there’d be a little Dolly, a mid Dolly and an old one – I might even play that myself!”
Parton has her eye on stage and television actress Kristin Chenoweth, star of Pushing Daisies and a guest star in Glee, as a possible candidate for a role.
‘‘She’s really big on Broadway. She’s a tiny little thing like me but she’s a fantastic singer, she’d just kill it.’’
From her comments about the pressures of working with others I get the impression that 9 to 5: The Musical was not a great experience for Parton.
‘‘It took five years to put that together, it went to Broadway but it wasn’t a big smash there. The music got good reviews, thank God, but it didn’t last a long time, a few months, and then it was on tour across the US.
“It ends in July in the States and then I understand that it’s going to be coming here to England and possibly to Japan and Australia. Hopefully it’s going to be one of those little things that’ll last a long time.”
So everything is not always perfect in Parton’s world.
“I’m a very deep person, I’m a very emotional person,” she says. “When I am sad – and like all people I get sad over many things – I hurt deep. I’m just one of those people that if it’s something to eat I want to eat the whole thing, if I’m gonna be in love I’m gonna love you all the way and if my heart’s shattered it’s broke all to pieces.
“But actually I was born with a happy heart, I look every day for things to be good. When they’re not I set about trying to make them as good as I can.
“But, yeah, I hurt and I cry. I cry when bad things are happening to my family. I have a sister who’s going through a really hard time, possibly even a divorce, she’s so broke up it kills me to see her hurt. Even if I’m not hurt myself, if someone I love is hurting it might as well be me.”
There seems to be several potential Parton song ideas and lyrics in just those few sentences – which is why the singer is always prepared to put her thoughts on paper. I write everywhere I am, I even keep a notebook and a little tape recorder by the bathtub.
‘‘Things come to my mind and I’m afraid I’ll forget it if I don’t write it down. I’ll dream stuff – it’ll be better in my dream than when I wake up but I write it down and think ‘why did I think that was good?’ Almost every day I write an idea or a song, that’s something I’ve been doing all my life.”
She may have some sadness in her life but Parton is determined to offer a brighter outlook through her music.
The album Better Day is full of optimism.
“The songs are very positive and uplifting,” she reveals. “With the economy and all the craziness going on in the world I thought it would be a good time to have some songs that were more uplifting.
“I got inspired to do Better Day because everyone’s talking about the world’s gonna end in May next year.
‘‘Nobody but God knows when the end of time is going to come so one of the songs on the CD is called In The Meantime. We’re so concerned with the fear of dying that the joy of living is lost.
“If time’s going to end what difference is it going to make anyway? We’re all gonna go at the same time but people don’t even live, they’re just waitin’ around for something bad to happen. I think we can make something good happen.”
* Dolly Parton performs at the LG Arena, Birmingham, on September 2. Tickets: 0844 338 8000