LORETTA LYNN: ‘I’M AS COUNTRY AS CORNBREAD’
Few legends are as candid as Loretta Lynn.
Many are so robotically polished that they’ll dodge a question or spout a rote answer rather than go off script.
Not Lynn. She has no script. Her frankness and sass haven’t diminished a whit in 80 years and, as a bonus, she’s an accommodating and cheerful subject.
With a repertoire of more than 50 albums and almost 90 singles (16 that went No. 1), Lynn’s pioneer status as a female country music singer-songwriter is unparalleled.
She’s also still on the road several times a month – Friday she hits Chastain Park Amphitheatre – and her life story is being turned into a Broadway show starring a hand-picked Zooey Deschanel.
Last week, Lynn chatted from her ranch in Tennessee about the play, her life and her love of Alan Jackson.
We’ll just get out of the way now and let her do the rest.
Q. What keeps you touring, especially outside in these hot summer months??
A.It’s just one of them things. When somebody needs you, you just go. Am I playing outside there?
Q. Yes, very much so.
A. Well, I’m glad you told me that! Then I’ll come in my blue jeans. That’s my everyday dress, anyway.
Q. Are there any songs you feel you have to play, but would rather not?
A. You have to do ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter.’ They’re hollering right off the bat for that one. I tell ‘em, ‘Just wait a minute!’ Not everything I’ve recorded has been a hit, and you just get to where you do some songs because [the audience] is gonna make you do them. They paid their admission.
Q. Do you ever get tired of singing a staple like “Coal Miner’s Daughter”?
A. Sometimes I’ll get wrapped around it. If I start thinking about it, I go back to the hills of Kentucky in my mind.
Q. Do you still keep in touch with Sissy Spacek?
A. We were together not too long ago. If anything happens for me, she’ll be there. We got real close making that movie.
Q. Your life story is headed to Broadway and you picked Zooey Deschanel to portray you. What was it about her that appealed to you?
A. Back in the day, her and I were about the same size. We had the same color eyes. I told her that I was with Sissy for a year before ‘Coal Miners’ so if you need me, let me know. I said, ‘Don’t feel bad callin’ me.’”
Q. Has she yet?
A. Not yet, but she knows I’m working.
Q. Your last album was almost a decade ago…
A. Was it, really? With Jack [White]?
Q. Well, it was 2004, so almost a decade ago.
A. Whew. Well, I’ve got 60-something things cut already. I’ve got a Christmas album, two religious albums. I’m gonna put ‘em out and get ‘em on the radio.
Q. Do you think you’ll do another collaboration, like you did in the ‘90s with Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton?
A. Me and my sisters were supposed to record together, but Crystal Gayle [her youngest sister] is so doggone slow! It takes her 10 years to walk across town. If they want to record with me, they know where I’m at.
Q. Who do you still want to record with?
A. Me and Merle Haggard are going to do a record. He hasn’t lost one note of his voice. I want to record a song with him that he wrote, ‘Today I Started Loving You Again.’ And Alan Jackson, I do love him.
Q. Should we tell him to give you a call?
A. He’s so bashful, he don’t give nobody a call. But if he was to change, I wouldn’t like him. Alan, he’s a good old country boy. I love Garth [Brooks], too. Now Garth, he’ll call me, but Alan doesn’t do stuff like that.
Q. Working with Jack White turned out to be a success. Are there any other young artists you admire creatively?
A. Carrie Underwood. I think she is one of the best girl singers today. She can sing anything.
Q. What do you think about the current Nashville scene?
A. Country today is like pop music was 40 years ago, that’s the way I see it. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I like the polished sound of country, even though I’m as country as cornbread.
Q. Do you consider yourself a feminist, considering your songs such as “The Pill” and “Don’t Come Home a-Drinkin’”?
A. I think I do. But that’s what no one could understand, that I could think that way and be so country. But you can be country and speak up. I had my opinions and I let everybody know it.
Q. Your third book came out earlier this year [“Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics”]. Do you really feel your lyrics are the best depiction of who you are?
A. I think I thought myself into my songs. There will be a line that nobody will ever know it’s about me except me. I haven’t had anybody figure it out. But I need to start getting into writing. I feel it. There are a lot of songs I ain’t wrote that I need to do.
Q. What do you still want to accomplish?
A. I want to have more hits. Giving up is for quitters! No one says anything anymore [in songs]. They need me out there.