Singer, songwriter, and Rockstar Dolly Parton has never been shy about how creating and offering her songs to the world has proven to be truly therapeutic, even at times when being a woman and an open book at the same time was considered taboo.
"Well, I'm in the business; I wanted to be a star," Dolly admits about the unabashed vulnerability that came along with her rise to fame. "I was one of those people, I wanted to leave myself wide open and my heart wide open. I think when you're a writer, you can't really close that off. The kind of writer I am, I live off of emotion; I'm very sensitive and I feel the sensitivity in other people," she clarifies.
"When I don't write about myself or something I've been through, I write about the people that I might love or people that I see that are suffering, and I can write their sorrow, or their joy, in a song because I'm able to rhyme," Parton continues. "It's a skill, to that degree, to be able to just put something down and rhyme it, but I really get involved in it when I get myself in what I call my 'God Zone,' to where I really am getting deep with it."
"That's when I say it's like therapy for me," Dolly says of her creative process. "I write about my own sorrows, I write about my own joys, but I think that we all suffer and feel the same emotions. My emotions are everybody's and everybody's are mine, so I can write about that."
Parton reveals she still gets taken aback when certain reactions to songs she's penned find their way back to her. "A good example of that was even in my earliest days when I put out 'Coat of Many Colors.' I got so much mail, so many people reaching out to say that song had healed them of hurts that they had carried around forever. So many people that had been hurt, or laughed at, or made fun of for one reason or another -- or had been snubbed or bullied -- that little song in itself was really like a prayer cloth, so to speak. It was a rag of many colors but in a way was healing to many people."
For Dolly, who grep up as a preacher's grandkid, relying on her favorite scriptures has always helped guide her through the toughest times in her life. "I still do my meditations every day, my readings and all that," Parton says. "I read the Bible -- I have certain things that I'll go to... I pray a lot and I just throw it out there and expect Him to handle it."
Audacy's I’m Listening initiative aims to encourage those who are dealing with mental health issues to understand they are not alone. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, know that someone is always there. Additionally, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 988. Find a full list of additional resources here.
Words by Joe Cingrana Interview by Katie Neal