Tanya Tucker’s new album While I’m Livin’ was a triumphant return for the living country legend, whose last studio album came way back in 2003. Tucker joined fellow outlaw artist Elizabeth Cook at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday for a special AmericanaFest interview and performance, where the two swapped stories and Tucker performed a handful of tracks from her new LP.
The interview will air on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country channel, for whom Cook hosts her own long-running radio show, from September 27th through 29th (Friday at 10 pm; Saturday at 8 am and 5 pm; Sunday at noon and 9 pm). In the meantime, here are six things we learned from Tucker and Cook’s humorous, enlightening conversation.
Working with Billy Sherrill got Tucker comfortable in the recording studio.
Cook asked Tucker what it was like to record While I’m Livin’ with producers Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, and Tucker shared that her early experiences working with Billy Sherrill (who produced Tucker’s first three albums) gave her confidence in her skills in the recording studio. “We recorded all of those songs live, with the band,” she said. “I didn’t know what a cappella meant. So [Sherrill] explained that. I didn’t have any headphones. He wouldn’t give me headphones… I had two monitors, one on each side of my head, and we did these songs live. This album with Brandi — without that experience with Billy, I don’t think I could ever have done it. Because it was the same way. But I got me some headphones.”
She doesn’t care if you call her a “bad girl.”
Cook asked Tucker, who has famously bucked country conventions for the majority of her career, what it was like to be labeled a “bad girl” in an industry that, particularly when Tucker was younger, had strict ideas of how women artists should sound and behave. “I don’t really know how I got that [label],” she said. “I really don’t. I search for answers all the time to these kinds of questions… I think what it is, is the girls just stood so still.” Later in the conversation, Tucker quipped, “I’m not a bad girl. I’m pretty damn good. I care about people.”
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She feels more comfortable onstage if she can dance.
In the earlier days of Tucker’s career, she drew criticism for dancing on stage (sometimes suggestively) while performing her music. But, as she explained to Cook and the Hall of Fame audience, moving around on stage made her feel more at ease. “I was 14 and I was singing ‘Blood Red and Going Down’ and I was like this,” she said, mimicking a statue and singing a snippet of the song. “It just wasn’t comfortable being that way.”
Getting to know Elvis Presley was a highlight of Tucker’s career.
Tucker’s love and admiration for Elvis is no secret (she named one of her daughters Presley, after all), but it was touching to hear her speak on his influence on her career. “I met him and I think God just made it that way because he knew how important it was for me to meet him,” she said. “There are a lot of people I really admire who I met and didn’t think too much of. But Elvis was everything. And he’s the one that gave me that ‘female Elvis’ name. He started that whole thing. And I liked it.”
She considers TNT one of her “worst albums.”
Tucker released her ninth album TNT in 1978, when she was just 20 years old. The album found Tucker exploring rock & roll and features an iconic cover image of her wearing black leather pants and posing with a microphone. The album was Grammy-nominated, but Tucker now admits she doesn’t consider TNT to be her best work. “[TNT] was probably one of the worst album’s I’ve ever done,” she said. “The hype was great. The hype was better than the record. And everybody remembers that. But the record was not the best.”
She hopes to release a song about the men she worked with as an outlaw country artist.
In various interviews throughout the press cycle for While I’m Livin‘, Tucker has shared that she has more new music in the can. While speaking with Cook, she mentioned a new song called “One of the Boys” that purportedly details her friendships with country luminaries like George Jones and Waylon Jennings. “I have a whole two albums that I have been working on,” she said. “It’s not like I’ve been twiddlin’ my thumbs. Nobody’s really interested in them. One of the songs is called ‘One of the Boys.” I talk about hanging out with Willie and Waylon and Johnny [Cash], you know. That’s what I did when I was a kid. I’d feel so blessed [to hang out] with them.”