Back to Rockville

A Q&A with Dolly Parton, who performs Friday at the Sprint Center

Dolly Parton will play the Sprint Center on Friday, July 29. Her current Pure and Simple tour is the simplest one she’s ever done, she says, featuring “just me and three guys on stage.”
Dolly Parton will play the Sprint Center on Friday, July 29. Her current Pure and Simple tour is the simplest one she’s ever done, she says, featuring “just me and three guys on stage.” Invision/AP

She turned 70 in January, but Dolly Parton isn’t slowing down.

In August she will release “Pure and Simple,” her 43rd studio album, and in March she announced her first major North American tour in 25 years, which comes Friday to the Sprint Center.

This month Parton held a teleconference, answering questions from more than a dozen music journalists. These excerpts are from that session.

Q: What are the chances of you and Jack White working together?

A: I love him to death. They (the White Stripes) did one of the greatest versions ever of “Jolene.” I had a chance to have dinner with Jack in L.A. not long ago, and we talked about the possibilities that someday down the road we might get together and do something.

I think his work is wonderful. I just haven’t had the time to actually sit down and really focus that much with someone else on an album. But he would be someone wonderful, and I think we could make some beautiful music together.

Q: Is there a difference between Dolly the artist and Dolly the image we all see?

A: No, I think I’m pretty much the same behind the scenes as I am out on stage. I just kind of wear my heart on my sleeve, and I just kind of say what’s in my heart and what’s on my mind, and people have come to know me over the past 50-some years like that. I don’t think I have too many big secrets, or people would know by now.

I do love people. I think that comes from being brought up in a big family. I work harder on some things than others, but my personality is the same.

Q: What surprises do you have for fans on your tour and new album?

A: Every time I put a tour together I try to come up with things I think will be entertaining. I try to revamp it a little bit for the fans that have seen me over the years. We, of course, always do our big hits, and I do a segment about family. I try to involve some gospel music and some stories.

We don’t have as big a band on this tour as I have in the past. It’s called “Pure and Simple” and it basically is that. It’s just me and three guys on stage, and they do a lot of vocal harmonies, and we just have a good time. It’s basically kind of stripped-down.

I thought that would be a good way to do this tour. Through the years, people have seen me do all kinds of shows, but this one is the simplest one I’ve ever done.

Q: What’s next after this tour is over?

A: I want to get more involved in television and more producing of some film and television and being more involved in that and, of course, continue with my business in Dollywood and other business things.

Q: Talk about your status as a role model and a feminist. Why do so many kinds of people relate to you?

A: I think a lot of people were brought up kind of hard. … I think a lot of people have related to me because they know I came from a very humble beginning, with a lot of faith and a lot of grit and a lot of guts. And being a girl on top of that, you kind of have to be strong.

I grew up in a family of six brothers and uncles and my dad, so I always had a great respect and understanding of men. But I also had … my five sisters, mother and grandmother, so I feel like I’m a pretty rounded-out person, so people kind of relate to me as almost like another family member.

And I think people know I’m kind of different myself, and I’ve kind of fought for the right to be allowed to be myself, and I think that’s one of the reasons the gays and lesbians relate to me. They know I appreciate everybody for who they are. I think we all should accept each other for exactly who and what we are. We are who we are, and we should be allowed to be that.

Q: What drives you every day to be Dolly Parton?

A: I have to get up and go to work because I’ve kind of worked myself into a corner. I made all these dreams come true, and now I have to be responsible for them. I have to think of myself as a working girl. You don’t just have a dream come true and then let it go. You have to get out and work it and decide how you can rework it. I just love what I do and I love to work, and I’ve got new dreams every day.

Q: What are some of your favorite songs you have written?

A: “Coat of Many Colors” is the song closest to my heart. It means more to me for so many different reasons. It’s about attitude and a philosophy and it covers a lot of territory, even bullying.

I love songs from my old albums. “Down From Dover” has always been a favorite, though it never was a single and never was a hit, but it’s one of those story songs that I love. As a songwriter, you definitely do have your favorites.

Q: What’s the best career advice you got as a girl that you can share with girls who want to do what you do?

A: It was a different day and age back then. We didn’t have all the technology they do now. But we all did sit in our rooms dreaming of being a star. I was lucky to have an uncle, Uncle Bill Owens, who took an interest in me and took me around, but I would have done it either way.

I think you have to be true to who you are. You got to have faith in your talent and faith in yourself and be willing to sacrifice.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain


Dolly Parton will perform at the Sprint Center on Friday, July 29. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $49-$129 through