Music

Dolly Parton on Hosting the ACM Awards and Her Five


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Dolly Parton is the ultimate multi-tasker. When she hosts the ACM Awards on Monday (March 7), she will also be celebrating that day’s release of Run, Rose, Run, the mystery she co-wrote with bestselling author James Patterson.

Her accompanying soundtrack comes out today (Friday) and Parton will sing “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans” from the album on the show.

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A few days in advance of the show, Parton told Billboard she’s looking forward to co-hosting with Gabby Barrett and Jimmie Allen and making history with the first major music awards show that will be streamed. The ACM Awards move from CBS to Amazon’s Prime Video and will run commercial free for a fast-paced two hour show starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

What made you say yes to hosting? Was it because the award show is timed with Run, Rose, Run?

It was a lot to do with that. I get asked often to host the shows because I do that and I like doing it, but we had the Run Rose Run album and the Run Rose Run Book coming out at the same time, so we were trying to find all the wonderful ways that we could promote it properly. The ACM had asked me before — I did it 22 years ago for the first time and had a good time doing it. But when they asked [this time], I thought, “Yeah, this would be a good time. There’s a lot of firsts on this: Our album and our book, and we’re going to be streaming on Amazon Prime Video all over the world. So it’s kind of a new thing they’re doing. And so I was excited about that being kind of out there on the cutting edge of things, they say at my age. I love being able to feel like that I can be part of something that’s bigger and younger than me.

What do you like best about hosting? Is there anything about it that scares you?

No, it doesn’t scare me. I like doing that because I like the audience, and I know that somebody needs to keep the show running, and I feel like I’m OK at that kind of thing. I’ve been on stage for all my life and so I’m never scared of that part. You just hope you get your cues. And I’ve also made as much success out of my failures because if I mess up, there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t break down and cry about it. You just kind of make that part of the show. And so I’m never really scared like that. You always get butterflies. You want to do good. It’s a nice honor to be asked to host. If I should mess up too bad, that’s what’s good about having co-hosts. They can take over while I get unmessed up, whatever that may be (laughs).

This is a very fast paced, two-hour show with no commercials. How involved are you in the script and the planning?

I’m always very involved in anything that I’m going to host. If there’s something that I don’t want to deal with, I just say, “No, we’re not saying that” or “We could do this”: and I work with the writers. With the streaming [and] no commercials, that’s kind of scary. But the good news is I’m supposed to have five changes of clothes, so hopefully there’s enough entertainment to allow that. I’m depending on my wardrobe people to be very aware of that. So I don’t want to have to go out with the pants on from the last [segment] and  a shirt that don’t match for the other one because I didn’t have time to do it. There’s a lot of planning that goes into hosting a show when you’ve got to be on that much and do that many things.

You’re performing “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans.” There’s a line in the song, “My desire is always greater than my fear.” That seems like your credo, even though you were writing for a character.

I just know what I want and I just weigh how bad I want it and how much I’m willing to sacrifice for it. I have said that line different times in my lifetime and so I when I was writing the song, it just seemed to fall right in that little spot. So it was kind of one of those Dollyisms, as they say. And so it just worked so well in the song. The Annie Lee character in the book, she’s kind of like that. She’s kind of afraid, but she’s still just going to go do it because it’s got to get done. And that’s how I feel about anything I do. Even if you are scared, what’s the worst that can happen? You just try again some other time. But that’s a good line and I think it’s a good lesson, too.

You have won 13 ACM Awards, including entertainer of the year. Is there one that means more to you?

Well, all awards matter, but I was very, very proud of winning the entertainer of the year at the ACMs years ago. I’ve been nominated for 40 some [ACM] awards through the years, I’ve won 13. But I think it’s always great when you get entertainer. I was always touched when I got in the Songwriters Hall of Fame — the [Nashville] Songwriters Hall of Fame and the big one, because I take my songwriting… all of the things matter. All the awards are important to you, but there are some that just stand out.

You’re one of eight solo women or female groups that has won entertainer of the year for the ACM Awards. There are two women nominated this year. Do you think women are getting their due in the entertainer of the year category or maybe they aren’t yet?

One of the songs in my album from the book is called “Woman Up (And Take It Like a Man)” (quoting lyrics:) “Be as good as or better than.” I know it has been like that in the past. I like to think that we’ve changed some, but it seems to be, you know, that every now and then I think they kind of let some of us good old gals fall through the cracks. But maybe that will all change and get better and better through the years. We just have to work harder. Woman up and take it like a man.

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