Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music About her Rock-N-Roll Era and ‘Rockstar’

Article Contributed by 2b entertainment | Published on Monday, November 20, 2023

On the final episode of What Would Dolly Do? Radio, Dolly and Kelleigh let their hair down and turn the music up, taking listeners through the rock-n-roller-coaster ride that is her new album, Rockstar; Dolly’s first rock album in her celebrated catalog and career. It’s a star-studded-leather affair with a who’s who of heavy hitters from the world of rock, from Sting to Steven Tyler, Joan Jett to John Fogerty.

What Would Dolly Do? Radio is also available on Apple Podcasts. Apple Music subscribers can follow the show on Apple Podcasts to automatically download and get notified of new episodes when they’re available on-demand.

Dolly Parton’s new album 'Rockstar' is out everywhere on Nov 17th. Pre-add it now on Apple Music HERE. Dolly’s new book 'Behind The Seams: My Life In Rhinestones’ is available to read or listen to on Apple Books.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music Why Her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Prompted Her to Create a Rock Album

There are more people out there that spent their whole life in rock and roll that I felt deserved it more than me. I thought, "Well, I didn't understand all the reasons they give it to you," but I still say, "If you're going to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you need to earn it," which is what prompted me to go ahead and do the rock and roll album. I think it's some of my best work, but timing is everything. I've often talked about doing it but, at my age, chances are I would not have done it. When they wanted to put me in the Hall of Fame, I didn't want to go. They put me in anyway, so then I'm like my daddy, I don't want nothing that I don't earn. That's when I thought, "Well, it's now or never.”

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music Why Her Husband, Carl, Doesn’t Accompany Her to Any Events

Carl has never been in the limelight and all, never wanted to be in it. He don't like it. He went to one thing with me early on when we first married to a BMI Song of the Year [event], and he came out there taking off his tuxedo, his tie and all that and said, "Don't ever ask me to go to another one of these damn things because I ain't going." I never asked him and he never did.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music She Doesn’t Ask For Carl’s Opinion If She Doesn’t Want an Honest Answer

I had done a couple of things in the past, just some rock things. He said, "It's okay. It's okay.”… He’s very honest. We have such a great relationship. I know not to ask him if I don't want an honest answer.

Dolly Parton Recalls, to Apple Music, Carl Not Liking Her Cover of “Stairway to Heaven” Years Ago

He loves the song “Stairway to Heaven” [by] Led Zeppelin. That was his favorite group. [It’s] one of Carl's favorites, if not his favorite. Years ago, I was doing covers of some of these rock albums in a more bluegrass country way, and I told him I was doing Stairway to Heaven. He said, "I don't think you need to do that," and I said how I was going to do it. He said, "Honestly, I don't because that's a classic and you don't want to mess with that stuff.” And so, I did it anyway, and then I played it for him and he said, "It's okay." He said, "Are you sure that's Stairway to Heaven or Stairwell to Hell?”

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music About Carl’s Reaction After Hearing ‘Rockstar’ for the First Time

I played him the whole album and he said, which to me was the greatest compliment in the world, he said, "You know, it's pretty good." That would be like anybody else saying, "Oh, that's best I ever heard. That's just so fantastic." But for Carl to really say, "You know, that's pretty good.”

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music About Writing and Performing “Rockin’” for Her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction

I'm not a fool. I'm not a hard person. I just honestly didn't think I deserved it… But I thought, "Well, I've got to do something to make this right," so I wrote a song about the whole thing. I wrote a song about being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and so I thought, "Well, if I can do it my way because what am I going to sing? I don't have a rock and roll song to sing." I thought, "Well, I'm going to have to write one." I think that's the first time anybody's been allowed to do an original song on the Hall of Fame. But that was my deal. If I'm going to come, I've got to do the song to make myself feel worthy.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music About Recording “Long as I Can See the Light” with John Fogerty

I always loved his writing so when he came down, we did it like the old days, and it was such a thrill. We got the band in that day and he said, "We're going to do this live.” He was in his booth right there. I was in my booth right here, so we could literally hear, through the headphones, each other breathing. And so, we sang the song… boy, you talk about a thrill. It was like the old days when you could do a whole album in a day.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music She “Busted [Her] Gut” Singing Notes While Recording Songs for ‘Rockstar’

I didn't really know how I was going to sing all those songs… I live by my gut and I think I busted my gut on some of them, but I have a good range… I’m such a stylist that everybody just knows my voice and you don't know if I can sing or not because I just sing different. You don't know if I'm a real singer. But then, when you sing a song that other people know and you can reach some of the notes that you didn't think anybody but that person could reach, it was fun for me. It was a challenge and I wanted to do good.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music Why She Used Her Country Producer, Kent Wells, for Her Rock Album

He’s been with me for 30 some years. He's been my country producer, and I knew he was a closet rocker. And so, when I started to do the rock album, different people were saying, "Oh no, you've got to get the biggest rock person. Anybody would want to [produce] this album." I said, "Well, I'm going to get the biggest rock person that I know. I'm going to give Kent the opportunity," because I knew in my heart that he was the one and, boy, he did a great job.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music She Loves Hearing How People Cover and Interpret Her Songs

I really kind of like it because everybody knows what the original is. They know, for instance, say, “I Will Always Love You.” They know my version. And then, to hear Whitney's version, it makes it almost like two different songs. It's the same song. But, for me, to hear my little country heartbreaking song to be done in the way that she did it makes me proud. But by the same token, I hear other people's version of “Jolene” or “I Will Always Love You,” and I love how they interpret it. Because I don't have to worry about whether or not they're going to make me money. The song's already in the catalogue and it's already done stuff. But I find it fascinating all the different ways that you can take the same song and make it your own, because a good song is still going to be a good song no matter how you do it.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music Why She Called the Album ‘Rockstar’

I did that totally tongue in cheek. I thought, "Now, what am I going to call this album?" I thought, "Here I am, 77 years old, I'm going to be a rockstar," just being funny and silly and stupid. I thought, "Well, that is what I'm going to call it. I'm going to call it ‘Rockstar,’” so I just did it to be fun.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music How She Chose Songs and Artists to Collaborate with on ‘Rockstar’

I just picked the songs that I knew Carl loved and some songs that I loved that I thought I could sing well. And then, some of it, I wanted certain artists to be on it. For instance, I love Elton John. Every time we've ever done anything together or been on the same show, we are backstage singing old-timey country songs. He loves country music, and I love “Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” And so, I was going to record that. I didn't even know when I recorded the album that I was going to have all these artists. I pretty much had recorded and picked the songs before I thought, "I could get so-and-so. What if I did this? What if I did that?”… And so, I just thought maybe I'd get, if anything, one or two people. Then, all of a sudden, it just kept growing.

Dolly Parton Tells Apple Music She Wants to Record a Gospel-Inspired Album Next

One of the things I want to do next and to leave for my legacy is that ultimate great gospel album, and done up in the same way that I've done this rock album. Really great productions, whether they be small or large, and to bring in some of the great people that have grown up in the gospel field or some of the people that are famous in the gospel field. To do that great uplifting album… gospel might not be the right word, although we will do gospel in it, but more uplifting, inspirational songs. I want to leave that behind. Well, who knows if it'll be the last one, but I definitely want to have that one as one of the last things that I do. In fact, I may start on that one before I do anything else