[Q&A] Daily Mail (UK) - 26 January

By Jon Wilde
Daily Mail

She’s a chart-topping solo artist, but says she was happiest being on stage with the legend. Could that be anything to do with the fact that this God-fearing, nail-biting party girl forgets the lyrics to her own hit songs

What is your earliest memory?

I must have been two. I remember lying in an old crib at my grandmother’s house. I could hear my mum, my grandma and my two aunts in the kitchen laughing their heads off. I was wide awake and I kept wondering when they were coming to get me. But everything was fine with the world at that moment because the house was full of laughter. You can’t beat the sound of genuine laughter, knowing people around you are having a great time.

What sort of child were you?

I grew up in Missouri, in a strong God-fearing community. There was always music around me. My dad played trumpet. My mum played piano and sang. I was a big reader. I loved books and thought I might become a novelist but music always drew me back. I was very driven. That came out of being a real people-pleaser. I figured that, if I excelled, people would like me more.

When were you last really happy?

Being Michael Jackson’s backing singer on his Bad tour from 1987 to 1989. I was in my mid-20s. I hadn’t released any records. I didn’t even own a passport when I landed the job. And there I was, travelling the world with the biggest pop star on the planet. Walking out in front of full stadiums every night was exhilarating enough. To be performing alongside Jackson was something else altogether. Seeing him dance a few feet away from me was an other-worldly experience. It was the happiest of times.

What are you best at?

I throw a good party. I have a barn with a bar on my property in Nashville, a perfect party venue.

What would you like to be better at?

I come from an artistic family but I seem to be the only one who is useless at drawing. Ask me to draw a person and you’ll get something that resembles a stick insect.

Who would your dream dinner date be?

I’d be torn between Mahatma Gandhi and Ricky Gervais. I often wonder what it would have been like to sit in Gandhi’s presence and listen to him talk about how he changed the world through entirely peaceful means. And I’ve been a huge Ricky Gervais fan since The Office. He never fails to make me laugh. Gervais and Gandhi together would be an interesting combination.

What is your best character trait?

I never get bored.

What is your worst character trait?

I’m a compulsive cuticle-biter. I’m forever gnawing away at my fingernails and I’m completely aware that it’s far from being the most attractive thing about me.

What is your most treasured possession?

My 1964 Gibson Country Western. It was one of the first guitars I ever bought, in 1990, just after I’d come off tour with Jackson. I call that guitar the old money-maker, because all the hits I’ve ever had were written on it. One time I dropped it and broke the neck off it. I cried my eyes out until I found a guy who could fix it.

Tell us a secret about yourself

Not many people know that I’m a collector of weird junk. If you come to my house you’ll more than likely trip over piles of antique devices used in eye surgery, innumerable doll heads, bizarre examples of folk art and some of the world’s strangest advertising signs. It makes for a very intriguing house.

What was your best night out?

I’ve had so many memorable nights but the evening of December 19, 1997, would be hard to beat. That night I stood on stage at a theatre in Los Angeles and sang Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door with Bob Dylan. There was another night 15 years ago when I went to see Bob at The Palladium in LA. He spotted me in the balcony and called me to the stage where I sang Highway 51 Blues with him. Both those events were great ‘pinch me’ moments.

What is your biggest fear?

In 2006 I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. In 2011 I discovered I had a meningioma, a kind of brain tumour. Having come through those traumas, there is a fear I might have to go through more of that at some time.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

For any singer, there’s nothing much more embarrassing than forgetting lyrics. That’s happened to me a whole bunch of times. The last occasion was at a gig in Florida in 2012. I was halfway through Soak Up The Sun, one of my biggest hits, and my brain just emptied. At least no one can accuse me of lip-syncing.

Who – or what – do you dream about?

I have a recurring dream about a house. It’s ancient, with hundreds of rooms, all packed with antiques. I have no idea why I keep visiting it. Maybe I lived there in a previous life.

Who do you most admire?

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks is an extraordinary woman and it was one of the great privileges of my life to record with her. Also, on my new album I’ve ventured properly into country music. My chief inspiration was the great country star Loretta Lynn who, through the 1960s and 70s, raised the bar in terms of what was acceptable subject matter within the genre. She sang about birth control, sexism and Vietnam, encouraging other female singers to write about stuff that was personal to them. I admire her greatly.

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