Interview: Dolly Parton Talks Hard Work, Success, Faith and Her Future
There's very little that Dolly Parton hasn't done. More than 100 million albums sold worldwide? Check. Over 110 charting singles? Check. A successful business empire, a 150-acre theme park and an acting career on Broadway, in movies and on TV? Check, check, check and check.
To Dolly Parton, it's all just another day at the office.
"I’ve always felt more like a working girl than anything else," Parton tells The Boot. "I can see that I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ll look sometimes and I’ll see a documentary on my life, and I’m like, ‘How in the hell did I have the time to do all that? Good Lord. Did I do that? Did I do all that?’
"But I guess, through the years, I’ve always worked, and I always do what I love to do. I'm just thankful that I’ve had the chance to be successful at it," she adds. "But then, when I hear all these young girls and young people say that I’ve been an inspiration, that makes me feel good, like maybe I’ve done something right.
"In ways, it makes me feel like I’m 100 years old, which I ain’t that far from," Parton quips. "It makes me feel old in a way. But it certainly makes me feel proud and humble."
Parton, now 70 and the most recent winner of the CMA's Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, is executive producing and appearing in the upcoming TV film Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. The movie is the sequel to 2015's Coat of Many Colors and will continue to tell the story of Parton's childhood. Her modest beginnings -- Parton was born and raised as one of 12 children in a one-room cabin in the mountains of east Tennessee -- are an unlikely scenario for creating one of the world's biggest superstars, but Parton insists that there really aren't any well-hidden secrets to her success.
"I think a lot of it is hard work, and being blessed with great people who have helped me along the way. Not losing momentum, keeping my eye on the prize, and not losing focus," she shares. "I’ve always loved what I do, and try to just do my best work. I don’t try to outdo somebody else -- I try to outdo me. I try to make and break my own records. I try to do better at something than I was last year.
"I love what I do, and it energizes me. I’ve got a lot of energy, and I’ve got so many thoughts that I’m glad I’ve got something to channel it into," Parton continues. "I’d hate to turn all that onto myself."
When I hear all these young people say that I’ve been an inspiration, that makes me feel good, like maybe I’ve done something right.
Parton, who is currently crossing the country on her Pure & Simple Tour, hasn't slowed down since her debut album, Hello, I'm Dolly, was released in 1967. Although she concedes that she has already done plenty in her lifetime, she isn't ready to rest anytime soon.
"This is a way of life for me," she explains. "This isn’t something I do: ‘Oh, I’m going to work six months, and then I’m taking off six months.’ I work all the time, but I love it. I find my rest spots in between.
"I don’t have to do anything," Parton admits. "I mean, if I commit, I have to finish the project, but I make space if I need to, and take off, I do; if you’re sick, certainly then I take off. Sometimes I’ll think, ‘I have to take off because I should, to do something else,' but I love my work, and I don’t ever plan to retire, unless my husband is so sick that I need to be with him, or if I’m so sick I can’t do it -- that would be the only two things that would keep me out of working until the day I fall over."
And there's plenty more that Parton would like to achieve as well.
"I’d love to create a bunch of things for television and the audience," she reveals. "Those are some of thoughts that I’ve had; that would be entertaining. I want to have a cosmetic and wig line, which I think is so right on the money for me. And even some clothes, that kind of thing -- a unique line of my own, of hair and makeup.
"I’ve got a lot of dreams like that yet to fulfill," Parton adds. "I’m still working on my Broadway musical, my life story as a Broadway musical. And then just more TV, and do some more touring now and then."
As for 2017, Parton already has her New Year's resolutions planned out; they will hopefully keep her both behind a camera and in front of a microphone throughout the year.
"Next year, I’m spending all year working on TV shows," Parton notes. "I’ve sold some shows to other stations, other outlets, whether it’s Netflix or CW or CMT or other networks that want certain things that we’re doing. I’m going to spend a lot of time as producer and creator of other shows, but I’m not necessarily in them all; I’m in some of them ... I’ll do a Christmas album.
"If we’re lucky enough, if Christmas of Many Colors is as big a rating as the one last year, then we’re considering seriously doing a series," she continues, "and I would be in that some too, as a memory or past or present."
I pray every day that God will lead me and direct me and bring all the good things in, take all the bad things out.
Parton might be one of the hardest-working people around, but it's at least partly because of her gratitude and faith that she defied the odds and became the singer she always dreamed of becoming.
"I think God meant for me to do exactly what I’m doing. I think God’s had His hand in all of that," she confesses. "I pray every day that God will let me shine and radiate with His love and light -- let me do something to glorify Him and uplift people, and do something that might make somebody else’s life a little bit better. I always want God to work through me, to be a light and a help. I enjoy it, and I want to be a blessing, and I get many blessings from getting to just do this.
"We’re supposed to care about each other, and I try my best to do that," she adds. "I pray every day that God will lead me and direct me and bring all the right, the good, things in, take all the wrong, the bad, things out."
Christmas of Many Colors will air on ABC on Nov. 30 at 9PM ET and will be available in DVD on Dec. 20. A list of all of Parton's upcoming shows is available on her website.
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