Country music artists Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile on their friendship: NPR

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It can be hard to get a side note when trying to interview Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile together. They are so busy telling stories, laughing, singing.

TANYA TUCKER: You know, (singing) I don’t mind keeping an image. So…

BRANDI CARLILE: (singing) I don’t wear those shoes anymore.

TUCKER: That’s it. Come on, my daughter.

KELLY: Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker are queens of American music, and now they’re doing it together. In the first part of this conversation, which aired on Friday, we talked about the album they came together to make, which won Best Country Album at the Grammys in 2020. Today we’re going to hear about the friendship that developed during this collaboration. .

TUCKER: One of the things she said to me once, she said, Tanya, T, we’re just magical together. That’s who we are. And I thought it was like, wow.

CARLILE: I think so. I do.

TUCKER: Yeah, well, I know we are now.

CARLILE: We’re an unlikely couple.

TUCKER: You mean it now – that means I know it now.

KELLY: These two women are from different generations. Brandi Carlile is 41 compared to 64 for Tanya Tucker. And when they first met three years ago, Brandi’s star was on the rise. For Tanya, it’s been 25 years since her last Grammy nomination. People who could sing you every word of a Dolly Parton song might have had a hard time naming a Tanya Tucker song. Brandi told me she started wondering if Tanya was ripe for a comeback when she was chatting one day with her producer, Shooter Jennings.

CARLILE: He heard something in my voice, and he made a comment. I said, oh, you know, he’s my hero. I’ve loved Tanya Tucker since I was little. I was like, what is she doing? And there goes, you know, she’s still singing. Great.

KELLY: It was true. Long story short, Brandi went to meet Tanya and helped write and produce this Grammy-winning album. They did a movie together about the process called “The Return of Tanya Tucker,” which made me wonder – after all those years in the spotlight, how did Tanya feel about a comeback?

Was there a time, Tanya, when you wondered if I still had it? Like, do I have another album in me?

TUCKER: Every day.

CARLILE: She always does.

TUCKER: Every day – constantly – every day. I mean, every time I – before I go on stage, I have this thought. Because every show is different. There’s – this challenge is to get them out of their – especially when they’re a bit older – to get them out of their seats and onto their feet. But it’s still a thing where I think, I don’t think I’m probably going to – I don’t think I’m going to be good enough. I have to do something, you know, because there’s always – when you can’t sing, you have to dance, you know?

CARLILE: And you’re a good dancer.

TUCKER: And I had – yeah, learned to dance. But I said, you know – I said, if a cowboy asked me if he – if I wanted to dance, I said, I’ll dance with you if I can direct.

(LAUGH)

KELLY: Here’s a taste of what these two are up to together. Meet Tanya – her new single, just released, co-written with Brandi. It’s called “Ready as I’ll Never Be”.

(SONG SOUND CLIP, “READY AS I’LL NEVER BE”)

TUCKER: (singing) And watch those doves fly faster than me, I guess I’m ready, ready like I’ll never be.

KELLY: That voice – you don’t sing like that unless you’ve seen stuff on this Earth. And as I listened, I wanted to ask Brandi Carlile the same question that you’ve heard me ask Tanya before. Has Brandi ever asked if her friend wants another round of fame and all the pressure that comes with it?

CARLILE: I regularly checked in with myself, with her to find out if she shared our desire for her to regain that recognition or whether or not it was borderline exploitative. There were days when she woke up, and she didn’t get out of her bus. And I would go, I have to check in. I have to make sure that it’s okay and that it’s not me forcing a desire that I have for this person, you know?

TUCKER: Oh, yeah. I understand that.

CARLILE: But it’s not…

TUCKER: But when we were recording – is that what you were talking about?

CARLILE: Yeah. But when the lights go down, when your shoulders roll back, and you become Tanya Tucker, it becomes so clear to me that basically, that’s what you love. It’s who you are.

TUKER: Yeah. And Willie, I think, said it best. The only time I’m free and no one can tell me what to do or say, I like this outfit or I don’t like it or give their opinion is when I’m on stage. So maybe that’s kind of what I’m doing.

CARLILE: I feel it too. I feel really safe on stage. I feel like that’s where I’m most understood.

TUCKER: Yes, exactly.

KELLY: So what makes Brandi Carlile nervous? Well, that would be Tanya Tucker’s visit.

CARLILE: I was worried my house wasn’t fancy enough for her, you know, because she’s a contradiction.

TUCKER: Oh, my God, I love your house.

CARLILE: She’s a contradiction – like, an in – on the one hand, she, like, rodeos, and she’s totally rugged.

TUCKER: Cutting horses.

CARLILE: Cutting horses, sorry. But on the other hand, like, she’s whimsical. It’s country music royalty, you know? So I was like, I don’t know if my house is fancy enough for Tanya Tucker. But she’ll understand, like, you know, I’ve lived in this log cabin all my adult life.

TUCKER: And I love this house.

CARLILE: And she’s going to love it because I love it, you know? So I’m waiting for her to come out, and she calls me to find out where to go, which is on a long, long dirt road, and she’s on the phone.

TUCKER: From the airport – I’m from the airport.

CARLILE: Yes, with an Uber driver.

TUKER: Yeah.

CARLILE: And she’s leaving, oh, [expletive]baby.

TUCKER: (Laughs).

CARLILE: He’s stuck.

TUCKER: We’re stuck.

CARLILE: I have to call you back. I’ll get us out of here. She calls me, fires the Uber driver from headquarters…

TUCKER: Yeah, I’ll show you how to get out of it.

CARLILE: …gets in the truck, gets his vehicle out of the mud and drives the rest of the way to my house in mud…

TUCKER: That’s right.

CARLILE: …all over her tracksuit and showing up, and I was like, yeah, I think I’m pretty chic for Tanya Tucker.

TUCKER: Yeah, but I loved your house.

CARLILE: Yeah.

TUCKER: And she makes the best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had.

CARLILE: Oh, yeah, I did it for you.

TUCKER: That was awesome.

CARLILE: It was with the shrimp and stuff like that.

TUCKER: I don’t know what – it was just awesome.

CARLILE: I woke up in the morning. She’d be standing there in her boxers…

TUKER: Yeah.

CARLILE: …Baking bacon with a fork.

TUCKER: Yeah, those little muffins you made – they were so awesome.

KELLY: You know what I mean it’s hard to get a side note? But I was curious about another thing.

Talk to me, you two, about the timing.

TUCKER: That’s it (laughs).

KELLY: Tanya Tucker released her first country hit at age 13 – 13. Brandi Carlile didn’t make it big – like, really big – until her late 30s. And I had read a recent interview where she attributed her success in part to the fact that he came when he arrived.

CARLILE: Because, you know, you only have a limited number of shots left. And if you’re not ready for that – like, musically ready, emotionally ready, physically ready and just mentally ready to, like, seize this moment, really take the bull by the horns, and go for it, that’s my suddenly, I’m going to – I don’t think you can do it on purpose in your twenties. But, you know, when it comes to, like, making it a term…

TUKER: Yeah.

CARLILE: …People like me – and I’m also very interested in what you think.

TUCKER: Oh, no. I say, like, when is this going to happen?

CARLILE: Yeah.

TUCKER: I don’t know when that happens.

CARLILE: Well, quite the opposite for me.

TUCKER: I don’t feel that.

CARLILE: I always felt like I was successful, even when I won a karaoke contest. So I recognize that they all have different levels of success, you know? Everything comes from within.

TUCKER: Do it – your idea about it…

KELLY: What matters.

TUCKER: …I think the changes…

CARLILE: Yeah.

TUCKER: …As it goes.

CARLILE: What do you think?

TUCKER: Well, I agree with you.

CARLILE: Yeah.

TUCKER: But I think the next person who says I’m an icon or a legend or a superstar, I’m going to punch them.

CARLILE: You don’t like it?

TUCKER: Oh, no because I’m looking – trying to pack and (inaudible) – where’s my – OK – if they could just see me right now…

CARLILE: Yeah.

TUCKER: … They wouldn’t call me such a – an icon or anything.

CARLILE: Yeah. When you wash your hair in the sink of a gas station?

TUKER: Exactly.

CARLILE: Yeah. No, because we all still do.

TUCKER: But I’m getting ready.

KELLY: But winning a few Grammys in my 60s – that must feel like, hey, I made it, yeah?

TUCKER: Oh, no, it was like…

CARLILE: Winning Grammys in her 60s.

TUCKER: I was so comfortable losing that, you know, I was happy about that. No pressure, you know? But winning is like, oh, OK, now here we are, and we have to get – the next one has to be better, you know?

CARLILE: Yeah.

TUCKER: It’s just constant…

CARLILE: Next one is better.

TUCKER: …Better, better, better, better – how far can you go?

KELLY: And you still feel that way?

TUCKER: I have a long way to go, let me tell you.

KELLY: Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile – singers, songwriters, friends. Their movie, “The Return of Tanya Tucker,” is currently in theaters.

Thanks a lot.

TUCKER: It was a real pleasure.

CARLILE: Thank you for having us.

TUCKER: And that’s really true.

CARLILE: What a pleasure.

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