“You’re never going to say no to Dolly Parton”
Interview by KATHY MCCABE
It’s been 16 years since Come Away With Me made you a household name, and six years since you last played in Australia. What did we do? It’s just the distance, I’ve got to say. Are you tired of being on the road all the time? Yes. I love it, it’s fun, but right now I want to sort of pick and choose, do a few weeks here and there and go out four times a year instead of all year long. The last time I did a year-long-tour that was fun, too, but by the end of it, everyone was burnt out. I have little kids [a four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter] so it’s easier to do it this way. That’s not the only different thing these days – you’ve been drip-feeding us singles this year instead of releasing an album, and working with different artists. It’s for the same reason we are touring sporadically instead of continuously: I want to maintain my love of music. This is my job and I am one of the few lucky people who get paid for it, so I want to keep that job. I realised I wanted to play with a lot of different people and I don’t want to put anybody out and over-ask for things. It’s a fun way to meet people and play with friends that I already know, and I hope to do it with a lot more people in the future. What surprised you most about doing it this way? That I had so much. It surprised me how completely uninspired you are and have no ideas one week, and the next week you have six songs. It is a relief. I have always felt it comes in waves. I learnt early on when I would feel depressed about not feeling inspired to write that it’s the gig and everybody goes through it. It helps if I don’t put so much pressure on myself and let it flow when it flows. Was there a time when music wasn’t fun? The first few years, when I was playing music I didn’t love at weddings and stuff, when I was in bands. It wasn’t that it was horrible music, [but] it wasn’t what I wanted to do. That’s when I quit and started waiting tables to make extra money. And then after my first and second album, there was a lot of promotion, back to back, and it was just a lot. That took away from the fun part of music. Of course there’s a balance of work and doing something that you love that doesn’t feel like work, and at that time the balance was out of whack. You’re still in demand for the odd wedding – most recently by Zara heiress Marta Ortega. That is definitely a reminder of my early days! It’s hilarious. I have some friends who make a great living doing weddings, and they’re lucky because they do love the music and love the people they are playing with. I think I just didn’t find that and realised I didn’t want to burn out my love of it by doing music I wasn’t connected with. I wanted to find my own sound at the time. You’re also doing big gigs like Joni Mitchell’s 75th birthday this year. And you have a Dolly Parton tribute coming up. I like mixing it up. When I get asked to do those tribute shows, it’s always somebody I love, so it would be hard to say no. And you’re never going to say no to Dolly. I love my Dolly. Will you have any time for play when you’re here? I always try to play a little. It’s always nice to take a minute to check it out. If it’s a long trip, I bring my kids, too. I love the Sydney Aquarium. I’ve been twice, but I want to see some new stuff and get out and explore a little.