An Interview with Stella Parton
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Stella Parton at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, TN this year. Described as a "multi-faceted, consummate entertainer and a true song stylist," Stella touches audiences worldwide not only through her music, but through her stage, television and film presence, as well.
[Cindy Gordon] It's great to meet you, Stella. Sounds like you're doing a lot of exciting projects. Could you fill us in on what some of your current projects are?
Stella. Well, currently - tomorrow we're going to Lexington, Kentucky to tape a thirteen week radio show called "Up in the Holler," named after my song for the Christian Appalachian project. This is a show that will be syndicated. I can't even tell you how many radio stations as we speak, but we'll be talking about the different projects that are going on in the Appalachian region. There are 13 Appalachian states and I serve as their national spokesperson for that organization, so we're excited about that. We have a lot of different people who are going to be on the show, Crystal Gayle, Larry Cordle, Paul Overstreet and a whole gang of people, so that will be fun.
Also, our CD, Appalachian Gospel, is coming out this Spring. It's at the manufacturer right now. I'm real excited about it, because it's the second CD in our Appalachian series. We're doing four CDs in that Appalachian series of music. I'm so excited about that. I've never been one to have a lot of people sing on my CDs, but on this particular project I had some friends come in. Linda Davis is singing on it with me, Holly Dunn, Tim Hauser (Manhattan Transfer) and David Peel from the Kingston Trio, and a whole bunch of people are going to be on it.
[Cindy Gordon] Where did you record it?
Stella. We recorded here in town in a little studio I like to work in called Samurai Studios.
[Cindy Gordon] Do you usually work with the same producer or different producers?
Stella. Well, actually I produced it myself. But I worked with Sam Weedman on the arrangements. He and I arranged the music together. I do the rhythm arrangements and then he'll do the tracks and work with me on the arrangements. I usually do the vocal arrangements.
[Cindy Gordon] Are there any other projects in the works that you'd like to talk about?
Stella. Well, I'm working on an inspirational book this past year. And we're looking for a publisher as we speak.
[Cindy Gordon] What's the book about?
Stella. It's an inspirational book, but it has a lot of humor in it. And it's kind of quasi-autobiographical at the same time. I guess I was inspired by all the things going on in the world, especially since 9/11. I feel like we need more inspiration and we need to look at life more as a miracle than just a trial. In our trials, we should be able to see the blessings. That's what the book is about.
[Cindy Gordon] I live near NYC, so that hits close to home.
Stella. Yes, it's sad but we can look for the silver lining in our lives if we just choose to do so.
[Cindy Gordon] I read you've also written cookbooks?
Stella. Actually last year we finished them. We haven't published them yet, but they're ready for publication. We also do a workshop for battered women, so we've been really working on a book to go along with that. Eventually we'll publish a book that will go with that workshop.
[Cindy Gordon] How did you get involved in that?
Stella. I know so many people who have experienced spousal abuse or date abuse or whatever. I've worked a lot with women from crisis centers that have been through rapes. I've had friends who have experienced that and I myself have gone through some abuse, so it's kind of a personal statement. I feel like more people need to speak out about it. It's not one of those popular issues that people are comfortable talking about. But what I want people to realize is that any face you look into could possibly have gone through something just as bad or worse than you may have gone through and how we have to try to heal ourselves, because I've been through it myself.
[Cindy Gordon] Sounds like a good project that you're doing.
Stella. I just want to help somebody. If we help one person, then our efforts have not been in vain on any project that we work on if one person is blessed, then we've done a good thing.
[Cindy Gordon] What are some of your favorite songs and what inspired them?
Stella. "Up in the Holler" is the song I wrote about my parents.
[Cindy Gordon] That's a great song. Are your parents still living?
Stella. My dad died a couple of years ago. But he was personally able to hear that song before he passed, actually six weeks before he had his stroke and passed away. It's about reminiscing about our childhood and the love that cradles us as we grow up.
The song "Child of My Body," I wrote that song for my son a few years ago, after he left home and rented his first apartment. I went to visit him one weekend and I was struck by the fact that I no longer was going to be able to play the same role that I always had. I was in his home as a guest. It was kind of sad, but beautiful at the same time. It's kind of an Appalachian lullaby.
[Cindy Gordon] I really like your song, "I Draw from the Well." What inspired that song?
Stella. "I Draw from the Well" is a song about prayer and how we all can tap into that same place of hope and faith and belief that today will be a better day than tomorrow, if we can just focus on what our real, true purpose is.
[Cindy Gordon] You wrote all the songs on the CD?
Stella. Yes, all but “Wayfaring Stranger.” I love that song and I wanted to do it in a little bit different way than most people have always done it. I think we're all pilgrims, and since we all are pilgrims we all get weary sometimes. But at the same time, we can look at the journey in a hopeful way. I hope that I was able to convey that in the arrangement that I did on this.
[Cindy Gordon] And how did your CD come to be?
Stella. Well, actually that one there is a compilation of six of the songs off the Appalachian Blues CD. We're using this particular CD to promote awareness for Christian Appalachian Project. CAP, as we call it, is the 7th largest interdenominational non-profit organization in the United States. Last year we were able to help over one million people from the different programs that are in place in CAP as we speak - from housing projects to early childhood development to women and children shelter's to helping the seniors with housing and prescriptions. I basically donated the use of these songs from that project for them to use as a fundraising effort, and so that's what that's about.
[Cindy Gordon] That sounds like a wonderful project. I wish you much success with that, your soon to be released CD, Appalachian Gospel, and all of your different projects. It was great to talk with you.
Stella. Thank you for your time.
For more information on Stella Parton check out her website at www.stellaparton.com .