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GRAMMY TALK:
DOLLY PARTON

On Dumplin', Dream and More

Fifty years into her career, Dolly Parton has been a poet, a sex bomb, a good fairy, an activist, a superstar, an actress, an award-winner and a beacon for all those yearning for some- thing more. When Jennifer Aniston optioned the YA novel Dumplin’, about an overweight teen whose aunt helps her find confidence through the Smokey Mountain songwriter’s music, it was inevitable they would license many of Parton’s classics.

Sure enough, the Netflix release boasts six originals and six reimaginings of Parton classics with a coterie of today’s most intriguing women artists, all produced by Linda Perry. Mavis Staples, Miranda Lambert, Sia, Elle King, bluegrass queens Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent, Macy Gray and the 14-year-old Perry protégé Willa Amai were all part of the mix. As strong as the duets are, the solo “Girl in the Movies” stands out as a tour de force of dreams delivering a massive life.



Tell me about working with Linda Perry.
We were just natural. I really appreciate great musicians, and she’s got a great ear for music—she has some great melodies. She really got me out of a box. Because I write my own music, and sometimes, you know, you kind of get stale or stuck into where your melodies can only go so far. But she had these great, great melodies, so we really worked great together. And we liked each other. We are so different, and yet we’re almost the same on the creative level. We both get along so well, and we really have a great respect for each other. I’ve never worked with a woman before! I’ve never worked with a female producer; I’d never written with anybody.

Were you aware of her before this?
I wasn’t even familiar with 4 Non Blondes; I live my life in another world. There was a vague memory of hearing the name, but I didn’t know anything about her. When they asked me to write a theme song for the movie, it all started; I was just going to write one additional song. And they were using all the old original stuff. And so they asked me if I would write a theme song for it, and I said yes. And so then they said, “Would you be willing to write that song with Linda Perry and have her produce it?” And I said, “Well, I guess…” You know. If that’s what they want. [laughs]

It turned out pretty great. You’re simpatico.
I think it’s great that women can show their talent and their strengths and be respected and appreciated for it. I’ve been doing it all my life. And I’ve fought that battle since the early days. But I’ve been luckier than most. But working with Linda, it’s been a great joy, and we will always be friends, whether we work together after this or not. She’ll probably send me a melody and say, “You want to write something?” So I can tell we’ll always be compatible musically and that we’ll always be friends.

And then there’s “Girl in the Movies.”
One of my favorites. Linda had that title, and she had a little melody and she was singing it really dark. I said, “No, we gotta make that into something positive. So let me take it and see…” So I’d say, “Do you love this?” and she’d say, “Oh I love this!” But to me, I thought that was like the little girl.

It says so much.
But there’s just something about that, how many of us go to the movies. Like when you’re a kid, you go to the movies, you look up on this screen, you see all these people living their lives with confidence.

There’s the power to dream?
Absolutely, my whole life has been built on positive thinking and on dreams, believing that I could do it. But that goes back to [the conviction that] through God all things are possible and all things are possible to those who believe. You can have it if you can believe it.

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