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Dolly Parton has been in show business for five decades, but she remains as authentic a person as ever

Country music legend Dolly Parton performs at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp., Pa. during her Pure and Simple Tour on Wednesday, June 22, 2016.

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / THE CITIZENS VOICE VIA AP

Country music legend Dolly Parton performs at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp., Pa. during her Pure and Simple Tour on Wednesday, June 22, 2016.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/9/2016 (863 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Country legend Dolly Parton is known for a lot of things — her big hair and sparkly wardrobe, her stellar songwriting skills (I Will Always Love You, anyone?); her iconic appearances in film classics such as 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias; and, perhaps most importantly, for being one of the kindest, most authentic people in entertainment today.

Parton was a ball of energy as she fielded questions from journalists from all over North America during a teleconference last month while her Pure and Simple tour was on break, her sweet Tennessee twang getting stronger the longer she stayed on the line and her signature giggle, squeaky and genuine, making more than one appearance.

Pure and Simple is Parton’s 43rd studio album — that’s right, 43rd — in her more than 50-year career. As its name suggests, the album is a stripped-down collection of 10 songs Parton says weren’t “overdone or overly produced” and that harken back to the beginning of her career.

“I wrote all these love songs, and I wanted purposefully to do it kinda like how it was in my early days. Of course, with new sounds and new technology, it sounds really good, but we really captured that feeling I think of what my early sessions were. It had that realness, that honesty, just pure and basic, simple stuff done in a pure and simple way,” she says.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/9/2016 (863 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Country legend Dolly Parton is known for a lot of things — her big hair and sparkly wardrobe, her stellar songwriting skills (I Will Always Love You, anyone?); her iconic appearances in film classics such as 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias; and, perhaps most importantly, for being one of the kindest, most authentic people in entertainment today.

Parton was a ball of energy as she fielded questions from journalists from all over North America during a teleconference last month while her Pure and Simple tour was on break, her sweet Tennessee twang getting stronger the longer she stayed on the line and her signature giggle, squeaky and genuine, making more than one appearance.

Pure and Simple is Parton’s 43rd studio album — that’s right, 43rd — in her more than 50-year career. As its name suggests, the album is a stripped-down collection of 10 songs Parton says weren’t "overdone or overly produced" and that harken back to the beginning of her career.

"I wrote all these love songs, and I wanted purposefully to do it kinda like how it was in my early days. Of course, with new sounds and new technology, it sounds really good, but we really captured that feeling I think of what my early sessions were. It had that realness, that honesty, just pure and basic, simple stuff done in a pure and simple way," she says.

"Everybody seems to be enjoying it; I hope they’re not just saying that to be nice!" she says with a laugh.

Love is the major throughline of the album — true love, angry love, new love, the end of love, or, as Parton says, "all the colours of love." The singer is a self-described hopeless romantic and celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, Carl Dean, earlier this year. Her marriage provided a lot of the inspiration for both her newly penned songs and two songs she wrote when she and Dean first got hitched — Tomorrow is Forever and Say Forever You’ll be Mine — that also made it on the album.

Forever is an oft-repeated concept on Pure and Simple, and though Parton admits that was mostly a coincidence, she adds the idea of "forever" is something that resonates strongly with her.

"I think that that must be embedded in my soul, in my psyche, in my heart," she says. "I’m one of those hopeless romantics. I believe in that fairy-tale love and you can live happily ever after; even though you have problems, you work through it."

Parton was asked what advice she would give to her young self navigating the entertainment industry, and her response, while accurately summarizing her own career, retains relevance for anyone who works in a field that demands a similarly large time commitment and emotional and mental expenditure — don’t burn yourself out.

"I really think you need to pace yourself; I would say brace yourself and pace yourself, and don’t wear yourself out," she says. "Do what you know you should do, and do as much as you can but don’t try to do more than that... You don’t want to burn the candle down before other people get to see the glow."

In Parton’s song I’m Sixteen from Pure and Simple, she sings "It goes to show you’re never old unless you choose to be" — a line the 70-year-old performer embodies to its fullest. Despite the fact Parton has been on the road since June and still has three months to go on her 63-date North American tour, her enthusiasm for live performances hasn’t waned in the slightest. In fact, at 70, she’s even more intent on putting on the best show, every show, than she was before.

"I really can’t tell you how I love to do it now and how important it is," says Parton. "I want to do this forever and I recognize the number of my age, and so I think, ‘Well I ain’t got as much time as I used to have,’ so I want to make the most out of every single minute... I’ll never retire, I hope I drop dead right in the middle of a song or on stage one of these days in the future.

"But I do love it, and I love it even more because time is precious and I’ve accomplished so much and I’ve got to be responsible for the dreams I dreamed of accomplishing," she continues. "I don’t ever want to be slack or take that for granted, and I’m so appreciative of the fans and so grateful to God for that opportunity."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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