To call Dolly Parton a musical marvel is a monumental understatement. In fact, the country music legend who’s been writing songs since before she could talk loves spending time surrounded by monuments. That’s just one of the revelations she makes in a revealing feature for Bustle, highlighting her new coffee table book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, available just in time for Christmas for the special Dolly fan on your Christmas list.
Through the pages, Dolly Parton probes 175 of her best-loved songs, and as it turns out, she doesn’t need the best of pens, paper, or a scenic vista to be inspired. A song can come to the prolific composer anywhere, and she’s ready to capture every jot or note as it arises, even if she’s in a McDonald’s drive-through. She does thrive on a certain crunchy, salty treat when it’s time for singing, too.
There’s peace among the deceased for Dolly Parton
“I love graveyards,” Dolly Parton puts forth. “I like to look at the gravestones and names and try to imagine what their lives were like.”
Many of the Americana “roots music” standards from the old world, like “Long Black Veil” or “Poor Ellen Smith,” for example, reflected on the choices in life and often, the life or death consequences. Dolly Parton sang a song that her mother often sang, “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” to Stephen Colbert during a visit a few weeks ago. It wasn’t long until the sharp-tongued host was shedding tears in front of his national audience.
Dolly Parton found a peaceful refuge in her local graveyard as a child, seeking solace from the farm life that consumed the hours for her parents and 11 siblings in Sevier County, Tennessee. The peace within the final resting place allows her to “feel the energies, the lives, and the memories.” It’s no wonder why the songwriter who writes from her heart and soul has found such inspiration there.
Even at McDonald’s, Dolly Parton is prepared for musical inspiration
“You have to be on the job when you’re a writer,” Dolly Parton reminds, “because you don’t want to lose any great lines.” The lyrical wizard confesses that she has wanted to “smack myself” many times for not capturing something wonderful right then and there.
Her advice even applies when she is in the McDonald’s drive-through lane for her favorite fast food. “I keep a pad and a Dictaphone with me” she assures, just in case an unforgettable phrase comes. If, by chance, she doesn’t have electronic ability available, Dolly Parton will dive into her pocketbook and write on something “even if it’s the last receipt I got from the drive-through at McDonald’s.” Parton must have a light touch with her pen, because she’s even printed precious words on a Kleenex.
Like many other customers, potato-lover Dolly Parton probably loves McDonald’s famous fries. When she’s in the mood for singing, though, she raves about the perfect salty treat.
Potato chips are a perfect treat for Dolly Parton song
Dolly Parton has always been very open with her millions of fans and followers. In her most recent “Dollyism” from her social media series of wisdom, the country music queen declares: “I’m a self-made woman, and I’ve got the doctor bills to prove it!”
When she has time for herself, Dolly Parton enjoys fasting periods for both health and spiritual reasons. She will refrain from partaking of favorite snacks, even potatoes, and give herself a juice cleanse at her lake house or another retreat. “That’s my personal God time,” the superstar elaborates. She writes, sleeps, wakes up, and writes again. “I’ve written for 24 hours straight,” Dolly reveals. “That’s my favorite thing ever.” She has crafted a legacy in songwriting that is untouchable by most of today’s biggest artists, and that 74, she’s not slowing down for a second.
Dolly describes her house clothes as “baby clothes.” They are something of a cross between “teddies” and a comfortable nightgown– with nothing that pinches, binds, or rubs. Everyone likes to be comfortable in their own home, and Dolly Parton loves to enjoy forensic crime dramas in her downtime. The singer calls it “amazing” how a single leaf or drop of blood can solve a crime.
When Dolly Parton is ready to sing, though, she loves to be in glamorous white with plenty of sparkle, like in her new Netflix TV musical, Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, out November 22. Dolly portrays an intervening angel for the woman about to evict an entire small town. It’s not the first time Parton has played an angel, and surely won’t be the last.
Something salty to sing for
You may not see a canister or open bag on the screen, but Dolly Parton professes that potato chips are her perfect food for reaching the high notes.
“When I sing, all I do is eat potato chips,” she divulges. “The salt makes you feel like you’re getting something more to eat. It’s satisfying.”
Dolly Parton fans would say that any one of her songs is more satisfying to the soul than any treat could ever be for the body. Whatever works for Dolly is certainly fine by them, no matter what feeds her creativity.