When I announced my plan to relocate from NYC to Nashville a year ago, some of the most common responses among my New York friends were: “Do you have to start listening to country music now?” and “Are you going to, like, run into Dolly Parton on the street?” Apparently the answers are: sort of, and sort of.
I didn’t “run into” her, but I was able to catch up with dear Dolly during her visit to Nashville’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where she recently celebrated the release of her first children’s album (I know, how have we all made it this far without one?) with a performance and a whopping $1 million donation to support the kids.
CMT called Parton’s children’s hospital visit “the medicine the country music community needed following the tragedy at the Route 91 Harvest music festival,” and even I — a Dolly/Willie/Hank fan for sure, but hardly a country music junkie in general — would have to agree. For one thing, Parton introduced us and the young patients to her niece, Hannah, who as a teen was treated for leukemia at that very same hospital; Hannah’s 29 now and doing great.
Everything about Parton’s Vanderbilt visit brightened the days of countless kids who are struggling with cancer and receiving treatment there: her music, her hugs, her rainbow-sequined attire, her sheer Parton-ness. She’s bubbly and big-hearted, and although she refused to spill on whether she was a co-conspirator in her co-stars’ Trump comments at the Emmys (sorry gang, I tried), she says everything with such a twinkle in her eye, it’s hard to believe she’s not conspiring in… something. Something we mere mortals will be lucky if we ever learn.
Parton’s new children’s album, I Believe in You, isn’t only filled with catchy songs about rainbows (although that’s a draw in and of itself); it also includes songs like “Brave Little Soldier,” which Dolly explains is in honor of Hannah, the kids at the hospital and every other kid in the world who is struggling or being made to feel “less than” because they’re simply different. “Whether they’re crippled children, whether they’re sick children… gay children or transgender children,” Dolly explained to Rolling Stone. “All those things where you don’t even know what you’re going through, but you’re different and you’re going through something. I wanted ‘Brave Little Soldier’ to mean ‘you’re not the only one that’s ever felt this way.'”
In the midst of Dolly’s busy day of performing, speaking, cajoling Dr. Oz into singing a duet (it was somewhat frightening) and hugging adorable children dressed as blue butterflies in honor of the I Believe in You album art, we sat down to ask her a few pressing questions that have been on our minds, such as: Why a kids’ album, and why now? What would Baby Dolly think of the dumpster fire that is 2017? And will there ever be a 9 to 5 reboot pretty, pretty please?
Watch Dolly’s answers and more in the video below, and get ready for a whole new appreciation for rainbow turtlenecks.