At a young 60 years old, Tanya Tucker is already regarded as a country music legend. She was 13 when she scored her first huge hit with “Delta Dawn,” and for years she delighted America with her Southern twang and country-rock sound. After a 17-year career hiatus, she’s returned, and it’s being dubbed a rebrand, not a comeback, notes Brandi Carlile, of Tanya’s preferred nomenclature.
Tanya’s newest album was primarily written by Brandi, as well as Tanya’s two daughters and Tanya herself. It tells the stories of her life and its many ups and downs. She’s made an incredible impact on the women of country music and beyond, and we’re honored to introduce her as our newest FACE of the South. Here’s Tanya Tucker!
You’ve just put out your first album in quite a few years. What have you been up to during that time?
We’ve been on the road touring nonstop for a few years now. I took a break after my parents passed away. That’s when Merle Haggard called me up and said, “It’s a crime that you’re not out on the road and entertaining your fans.” He was right. The fans have always kept me going, and I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them. I personally feel like I never went away, but it’s been 17 years since we released a record of new music, and we’re having a blast — with Brandi (Carlile) and Shooter (Jennings) — promoting it.
While I’m Livin’ is earning great reviews and being called the “return of a legend” and the “best record in your career.” What do YOU think of the album?
I love it more and more every day. Social media has been a game-changer in how we get the music to the fans, so that’s been really refreshing. Back in the day, we released songs and videos over a year. Now, it’s more immediate, and I love how fans are reacting to it.
The album was produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. Tell us about that experience. What were the highs? Lows? Any surprise or poignant moments?
I truly believe Brandi was sent down from God. And I call Shooter “Little Waylon.” I’ve known him since he was a baby. Everything about this record is different. It’s amazing how Brandi and the twins wrote all these songs about my life, and we didn’t even meet until I was in the recording studio. That’s remarkable. I could never do that. And then, I told Brandi about a song title I mentioned to Loretta Lynn back in the ’70s: “Bring my flowers now, while I’m livin’.” Brandi immediately said, “Let’s write it.” I wasn’t so sure. But after I thought about it, I came back and there she was at the piano with the twins. We wrote “Bring My Flowers Now” in 15 minutes. And we titled the record after the chorus in the song. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time because it honors my mom, dad, family, friends and my beloved horse, Jesse Ray, that passed away.
You’re quoted as saying “This album is me as a singer, not as an entertainer.” Can you explain what you mean by that and how the two differ?
Well, there’s no fixing on this record — no Pro Tools manipulation or auto-tuning. What you hear is what you get. It’s how I sounded in the studio right there with Brandi.
You’ve credited country legends such as Patsy and Loretta and Tammy with blazing the trail for you as a woman in country music. And YOU are credited with continuing those efforts for women who have come behind you in the industry. Who are some current women in country music who you see as trailblazers for the next generation?
Well, Brandi Carlile has it goin’ for her. She’s the real deal and is talented beyond belief. I’m just in awe when I see her perform live. It’s like an out of body experience. She’s blazing the trail for so many in this industry. I also truly believe the world is going to hear from my girls, Presley and Layla. They have their own music careers and are individually talented in their own right. Presley is in a duo called Reverie Lane, and Layla is a solo artist, so keep your ears out for them!
Cracker Barrel’s “Five Decades, One Voice” is exactly what we need in music right now. Women lifting up women. We are stronger together. It’s about damn time these emerging artists get some love. I must say, Tenille Townes is such a doll. She nailed it on “Delta Dawn!” So much fun singing with her and Brandi.
How has the music industry changed the most from the time you began your career?
Everything. But there’s something that’ll never change, and that’s getting out there, singing and working your butt off. With social media now, you can showcase yourself 24/7. That’s a great tool for an artist. Practice makes perfect, so get out there to every gig you can, perform live and interact with those fans online.
What is the one thing that you are most proud of?
Well, the one thing I’m most proud of, above all, is my kids. Presley, Grayson and Layla. They’re my everything, and I couldn’t do all this today without their love and support.
What is the best advice you can offer those who are looking to break into the music industry?
Like I said, get out there and perform everywhere you can. You never know who’s listening or paying attention.
What’s next? Any projects on the horizon?
Oh, I come up with a new to-do list every day. I’m recording new music right now. I want to tour the world again. I want to open a coffee shop where dogs are up for adoption. I want to save the elephants from being killed for their tusks. Don’t get me started!
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Music, sleep and tequila
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