Things They Told Me #1: Dolly Parton

News this week that Dolly Parton - all-round legend, amazing musician and inspiration for my blog title - donated $1m to coronavirus vaccine research only makes me love her more.

I got to interview the great lady herself in 2011, though sadly it was over the phone from her Nashville home rather than in person. Beforehand a friend remarked: ‘When you do a phone interview, how do you know it’s actually the celeb in question talking rather than an assistant hired because they can do a spot-on impersonation?’

I’d never considered that before, but when the phone rang and I was greeted with ‘Is that Simon Button?’ there was so much Deep South bonhomie coming down the wires I thought ‘If it’s an imposter then man, she’s good’.

Then when I said that it was indeed me and the caller cooed ‘I love your name! I bet you’re as cute as a Button!’ in an unmistakable Tennessee twang I knew it was definitely Dolly.

My response to being labelled cute: ‘Er, not really.’ Dolly’s reply: ‘I bet you are!’

It was only 8.25am in Dollyland when the call came through bang on time, with this busiest of bees quipping about her then-new album Better Day and forthcoming UK tour: ‘They get my butt up early to get me started on all the projects I’ve got going on.’

We had such a lovely chinwag and here, in the first of my Things They Told Me postings where I’ll be reflecting on my most memorable interviews, are some of her best quotes.

On being a living legend…

‘I guess it just means you’re older than God and people are used to having you around.’

On her success…

‘I remember my original dream of becoming a star when I was a little girl and I still think of myself as a working girl that had a talent and has just done the best with it that I could.’

On her work ethic…

‘I thank God for all the opportunities I’ve had and when I hear people talk about stuff I’ve done sometimes I think “When did I have time to do all that?” Every day I just get up and do whatever that day holds. I’m so busy working I don’t have time to get old. Maybe when I’m on my deathbed I might look back and think “Wow, that was amazing!” I’m just thankful I saw my dreams come true. Not many people live to see that happen.’

On being a glamour gal…

‘Everybody slobs around to some degree and you can’t always be prettied-up, but for the most part when I get up in the morning I put on a little make-up and fix my hair a little bit, even if I’m going to stay indoors all day. You never know who is going to come to your hotel door or drop by your house, and even if it’s just your sister or your friends you don’t want to look like a dog.’

On always seeming perky…

‘I try to be in a good mood especially when I’m talking to people. They expect me to be “up” but I’m not happy all the time. I have my sad days, my hard times, my sorrows and heartaches and burdens, just like everybody else. I just have a good attitude about it and I try to not wallow in my sorrow any longer than I have to, but I’m a very sensitive and tender-hearted little person and I live with my feelings out on my shoulders and my sleeves because I’m a songwriter. I need to feel all those emotions in order to be able to write.’

On what gets her down…

‘Any number of things will get you down. Family problems and sorrows, sicknesses, their health… I just love my family – my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews – and that’s a heavy burden for me. I love them more than anything but I’m also the one they have to turn to at times, not just financially but also emotionally.’

On touring…

‘To me touring is like a paid vacation. I get to sightsee and shop and have security if I need it and people to help with my suitcases. And I still love the audiences and the performing. It’s a lot of work but it keeps me alive and it keeps me excited, and it reminds me what this was all about to start with. The music has always been number one for me. I’ve been lucky enough to do the movies and have the theme parks and the other business things, but nothing will ever take the place of my music. I still get the butterflies before I go on stage and it’s a mixture of adrenaline, excitement and a little bit of nerves. I’m like a racehorse in its stall and I just wanna get out there.’

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