Dolly Parton launches ambitious world tour

Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:13am EDT
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By Ray Waddell

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - It's only 8 a.m. at Camp Dolly, the expansive, Spanish villa-styled compound just off Music Row in Nashville, but Dolly Parton is most definitely put together.

And on the cusp of an ambitious world tour, she has established a game plan to reach the box-office heights realized by her peers in the one-name iconic diva class. At the same time, the Parton brain trust endeavors to familiarize this iconic artist to a new generation of fans, an effort vitalized by a recent appearance on "American Idol."

Clearly invigorated by her new album, "Backwoods Barbie" on her own Dolly Records, Parton outshines even her bigger-than-life persona on this early spring morning. The back problems that delayed the start of the tour are behind her. Her voice is slightly hoarse due to exhaustive tour rehearsals, but Parton is quick with a laugh or a joke, and doesn't hesitate to break into song to make her point.

It's apparent that being Dolly Parton, even curled up on a sofa sipping a bottle of water, doing maybe her 10,000th career interview, is a full-time gig and one she happily embraces.

"I'm a very professional Dolly Parton," she says without a trace of sarcasm. "I can't tell anybody else how to run their life or their business, but I really believe I've got a good bead on myself. I know who I am, I know what I can and can't do, I know what I will and won't do, I know what I'm capable of."

Parton, 62, whose tour begins Tuesday in Pittsburgh, is living proof that it is possible to be a "backwoods Barbie" (to use her term), as well as a respected singer/songwriter, a multimedia icon and a savvy businesswoman.

Amid these talents, her priorities are clear. "I am a songwriter first, and a singer second, and an entertainer," she says. "I enjoy all of that and I take it all so seriously."

That's not to say the message can't sometimes be overwhelmed by the presentation. "I've often been misunderstood, and it has taken 40 years for people to realize how serious I am about the music," Parton says. "But this is also serious, the way I look. This is how I'm comfortable."   Continued...

<p>U.S. singer Dolly Parton speaks at the launch of her Imagination Library book project at the Magna Centre in Sheffield, northern England December 5, 2007. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis</p>