Sunday’s ‘Hot Dolly’ show at Stubbs is the latest tribute to Dolly put on by our live music producer, Deidre Gott
By Jeff McCord
For our live music producer, Deidre Gott, ‘Hot Dolly” (Purchase Tickets HERE!) is round three in her series of tribute concerts to the country music superstar. It’s an extravagant lineup of local talent, encompassing everyone from Sabrina Ellis to Tomar Williams, Daniel Sahad to Leslie Sission, all gathering to pay homage to a beloved entertainer with no ties to Austin and a persona that can be more than a bit, err, hokey. Which, begs the question: Just what is Deidre’s deal with Dolly Parton anyway?
Q: Just what is your deal with Dolly Parton anyway?
DG: I was a singer and dancer at Dolly’s Theme Park in East Tennessee, Dollywood. The show was called Country Treasures, which to me at the time was kinda funny because I was not really into country music. I was studying musical theater. I just saw on TV that they were having auditions and thought I should get some professional experience because I’m going to go to Broadway! Right? I showed up and auditioned with a tune from Guys and Dolls and some obscure musical. And they said, “we want you in the country show!” It was a 50-minute show, a country revue. The first half was contemporary country from the late 90s, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, stuff like that. The middle part was a Grand Ole Opry star. So I got to work with some legends like George Hamilton IV, Johnny Russell, and I sang with Jean Shepherd. I went to school in East Tennessee. Dolly actually has a guest doctorate degree from my college. You know, she’s an inspiring person. The big hair, the big personality, all the big things.
Q: Um, ok. So you partied with Dolly all the time at Dollywood?
DG: I wish. I never got to meet Dolly. I worked there the summer of ’98 and ’99 and was told that she would visit and take cast pictures with all the shows, but she stopped doing that the year I started.
Q: But you say yourself you were not into country music. Dolly couldn’t be more country. Something seems missing on the road to your zealousness.
DG: It wasn’t until her box set came out, around 2009. That was when I started getting back into it. “Oh yeah, I remember Dollywood. That was really fun.” I started listening to more of her music. I read the liner notes. There are just so many amazing stories. I got her autobiography one year for Christmas, and that made her more endearing to me, just her stories and the fact that she gives back to her community. The reason that Dollywood is there is that she wanted to bring some living and sustainability to people in East Tennessee where there weren’t really any jobs. So, yeah, it’s her business savvy, it’s her giving back, all of the decisions she’s made across her long career that have been really smart. She is now seventy-five and one of the best in the business.
Q: All admirable. But you don’t think she can be a real diva?
DG: No way! No one has anything bad to say about Dolly. Everybody that’s ever worked with her has incredible stories of how she goes above and beyond and how she treats people. She is genuine and she gives back. She says she’s not a feminist. She’s a fucking feminist! I mean, you can just tell in her music and in the way she, you know, has kind of given the middle finger to the patriarchy all the time with Porter Wagner and even with Elvis Presley when he wanted to cover “I Will Always Love You”. Being a woman in a male-dominated field really speaks to me, obviously.
Q: You’re in the music business. Why haven’t you tried to meet her?
DG: I have!! When I first started working at KUTX, I saw that she was coming to town and I put in a request, I even sent pictures of me singing at Dollywood. I was like, can we just have you in for a little interview? I guess I’ve tried a little bit. I think I’m also just intimidated.
Q: Your first Dolly show was in 2019. When you called up these bands and singers to participate in this show, did you have trouble translating your Dolly enthusiasm?
DG: Definitely some people did not get it the first year. I reached out to people that I thought would, be easy, no problem. But they’d be like, “I don’t know any Dolly Parton.” So what I ended up doing was just making a big giant playlist of all these awesome rad songs that you might not have heard of. And that’s what really got people into it, you know, like especially some of the early stuff.
Q: I know the planning of this show has been stressful for you, coming at a time when you’ve been forced to find a new place to live in an insane real estate market. What is most exciting for you about the new show?
DG: Well, yeah, I’m terrified about stuff. I’ve played on almost all of the stages in town with various bands but the outside Stubbs stage is one I haven’t been on. So that’s intimidating, but also awesome and really exciting. With these COVID rates on the rise again, I’m even more grateful that the show is outdoors in a large space. There will be plenty of room to socially distance. What am I most excited about? I mean, I haven’t seen a lot of these people in so long. So I think I’m mostly excited about seeing my friends again and doing something together and collaborating and celebrating and, you know, having a good time for a great cause. And there’s an after-party at Green Jay (the old Beerland) where we will have karaoke so everyone can sing!
Q: Have you invited Dolly?
DG: No, I haven’t, because I’m scared.
Q: But you should ask her anyway.
DG: I know. Everybody keeps begging me to ask her do a video or something and just say hi to the audience. But can I even ask?
Q: What would you do if the doorbell rang right now and it was Dolly?
DG: Oh, my God. I would cry. I would burst out in tears and just have nothing to say.
Get to Know KUTX’s New Weekday Morning Host, Taylor Wallace
Photos by David Brendan Hall
There’s an old scout song that goes: make new friends, but keep the old / one is silver and the other’s gold.
After 50 years on the air, Austin gold John Aielli, who is recovering from a stroke, has retired the name of his show, “Eklektikos,” and passed the morning torch to host Taylor Wallace.
However, Taylor’s not exactly a new friend at KUTX 98.9. In addition to formerly hosting weekday evenings, Taylor also worked as John’s producer for three years. As your new morning pal from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays, Taylor brings her own love of music and quirkiness to the time slot.
We posed a few questions to Taylor about how she got her start, what inspires her and why you should tune in. And if that’s not enough for you, get to know Taylor even better in this September 18 Austin Chronicle story “Taylor Wallace Takes Over KUTX Morning Show” and by following her on Twitter @TDubonNothing and Instagram @pineladyofmetropolitanorlando (Bob Vance bought her perfume too).
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I’ve always been a want-to-do-it-all person (a true ENFP). I remember listening to Kidd Kradick with my mom on the way to elementary school, then Jagger and Julie (morning co-hosts on the now-dissolved DFW alt-rock station the Edge) during middle and high school, and I always thought, “this would be such a cool job! You just get to gab, talk about music, and interview artists. Who wouldn’t want to do that?!”
Literally being a radio host was the first career I wanted as a kid. But, through my childhood, I went through phases where I wanted to be a detective, vet, writer, professional musician, doctor, and probably a dozen other things I don’t remember any more.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
I’m alternating between novels and music history, or people’s history non-fiction, exploring and mastering new recipes, catering to my very affectionate cat, spending as much time on my porch or walking around my neighborhood as possible, gorging on my daily menu of podcasts, and – my true guilty pleasure and escape from reality – watching “90 Day Fiancé” and listening to … several … podcasts that cover it.
Oh! And listening to music and collecting records, but I think that goes without saying. Really anything that involves learning. Learning is my favorite hobby.
When did you start working at KUTX?
I started as a KUT intern back in the summer of 2012 (before KUT moved its music service to KUTX 98.9 in 2013) when we migrated the music library to digital. I was on a team of interns who hung out in the music library ripping CDs into the new system and getting to nerd out with some of the music hosts. It’s where I met John Aielli, Jay Trachtenberg, Susan Castle, and Jeff McCord. John and I even saw Idina Menzel together that summer.
What inspires your programming?
Inclusion. I don’t believe in the “a certain percentage of your show needs to be this” philosophy. It needs to be all-around diverse and inclusive across race, gender and sexual orientation. As a pansexual person, it irks me when people forget about queerness in programming. But this isn’t limited to the person holding the mic. Broken Bells is one-half Danger Mouse. Brix Smith, Poison Ivy and Kim Deal wrote plenty of songs in bands where a dude was behind the mic – and they shouldn’t be discredited because of that. When you’re being mindful, percentages don’t matter.
Why should people tune in to KUTX between 6-9 am?
Hey, if we all have to be up that early, we may as well have fun and get down!
What can listeners expect when they tune into 98.9 weekday mornings?
Absolute buffoonery channeled into a morning of music that I hope is fun for everyone.
Why work in public radio vs. commercial radio?
Well, for one, I don’t have to worry about format flipping, random management changeover or being erroneously fired as a result. And no one’s making me play Imagine Dragons.
Back in the before times (is this what we’re calling it?) a multitude of things were different. On November 23rd, 2019, the KUTX crew headed to the Paramount Theater to capture an intimate soundcheck and a chat between old friends Rufus Wainwright and Jody Denberg ahead of his Oh Solo Wainwright performance that evening.
These songs were to be on the newly announced album prepping for release in April. Wainwright backed by E.B. the Younger – an indie folk-rock band from North Texas with members of Midlake and The Texas Gentleman included Eric Pulido (Vox/Guitar), Mckenzie Smith (Drums), Joey Mclellan (guitar/bgv), Daniel Creamer (Keys/bgv), and Scott Lee (Bass) – ran through each song twice and at one point during the dark pop of “Hatred” the tiny hairs on my arm stood up and yes, I was moved to tears.
For obvious reasons the release was pushed to July 10, 2020, requiring us to keep these beautiful videos under wraps. Today is that day. Unfollow the Rules release day.
It’s been eight years since the yacht-poppy Mark Ronson-produced album, Out of the Game. Pitchfork declared Rufus will never be cool or popular (while also admitting that was the point of the album) and gave it a 6.9. Rufus doesn’t care. Since then he wrote two operas and put out an album of Shakespearean Sonnets, Take All My Loves, featuring a swath of notable guests like Helena Carter Bonham, Carrie Fisher, and Florence Welch.
About his temporary departure from his usual pop he says, “I highly recommend to any musician or artist to have a kind of dual art form or parallel track that they can skip over to because inevitably they end up informing each other. You start to miss the other one when you’re away with a certain lover you’re with at the time. But I think strategically it actually ended up being a wise move because I didn’t get sick of either.”
With Unfollow the Rules, Rufus brings it back to his Californian pop roots for an album of all the things I love about Rufus – piano, harmonies, sweeping strings, and OMG that voice!
“I made the new album in Los Angeles at some of the same studios that I recorded my first album [1998’s self-titled album] and with some of the same musicians. My intention with this was to bookend my first album and, you know, return to the source, which is California for me, for my career for sure.”
Unfollow the Rules, Rufus Wainwright’s eighth album of original works, is out July 10 on BMG.
Listen to Jody Denberg’s full interview and enjoy the four performance videos below.
-Deidre Gott, Live Music producer
Cameras: Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, Ashley Landis
Edit: Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Audio Mix: Chris Sorem
Audio Post Production: Jake Perlman
Producer: Deidre Gott
We know it will be a minute before we can be live in Studio 1A once again. Until that time, we’ll be staying at home and checking in with our favorite musicians to see how they’re staying busy during this weird time.
Kevin Russell of Shinyribs chats with KUTX host Jody Denberg to clue us in on The Gourds “reunion” and share a special Sam Cooke song that’s been helping him through.
Support KUTX’s ability to bring you closer to the music by donating today.
Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez for KUTX
Migration Stories marks M. Ward‘s 10th studio album, released last week on Anti- Records. On April 8 at 1p, in place of his scheduled world tour with a six piece band, the singer/songwriter will perform the songs live, the way he originally wrote them, stripped down with just his voice and acoustic guitar.
M. Ward joins KUTX host Jody Denberg from his home in Glendale, California to talk album inspiration, his grandfather’s immigration and why he thanks Leonard Cohen in his album notes.
-Deidre Gott, Live Music Producer
Listen to Jody Denberg’s interview with M. Ward
Jody Denberg: It’s a real pleasure to chat with M. Ward. He just released his 10th studio album. It’s called Migration Stories. You know him from his own records, from his great series of releases with Zooey Deschanel as She and Him, as a member of Monsters of Folk, and is the luckiest man on earth because he has worked with the greatest women on the planet – Mavis Staples, Beth Orton, Neko Case, Norah Jones, Jenny Lewis.
The new album, Migration Stories, has such a great vibe. And I’m sure there’s a lot of things that contributed to this peaceful, hushed vibe. Would one of them be the fact that you recorded in Montreal?
M. Ward: Yes, definitely. I worked with some musicians I’d never worked with before, and their expertise with keyboard textures, synthesizer and mixing the old with the new in as far as these textures go, was really inspiring. We knew ahead of time that we wanted a lot of space on the record and not to fill it up with too many notes or words or licks or ideas. I feel really happy with the balance that we found.
Jody Denberg: You created this spaciousness, but at the same time, there’s strings, there’s perhaps more keyboards than on other records of yours, there’s these amazing backing vocals. So how did you create that spaciousness when you had all of these elements to juggle?
M. Ward: It’s a good question. So much of it is hard to measure. We are just constantly experimenting. And it’s – I guess a good analogy would be – nobody wants to watch a film about hundreds of characters. It’s much more interesting and emotional if you can follow the path of one individual or one lyrical idea and give it room to breathe. And that was what we tried to do in speaking obliquely.
Jody Denberg: Well, you achieved it.
Migration Stories, that’s a title that for me evokes several things – and maybe you don’t want to tie it down to a specific meaning – but where were one or two of the places you were coming from with the title Migration Stories?
M. Ward: Well, I was discovering my grandfather’s migration, which started in Mexico. He was born in 1900 and migrated to the USA via El Paso, Texas in the 1920s. I’ve always been curious about his passage, but especially curious over the last few years in what’s happening with the migration crisis in North America and the migration crisis in Europe. I’ve just been reading tons of articles about the situation. And, you know, I definitely don’t have any great grand political solutions to dealing with millions of people, but I have an emotional reaction when I read these stories about these specific individuals – how some of them might be living this modern version of what my grandfather went through.
There was a lot to be inspired by, there’s a lot to have anxiety for, there’s a lot of things to be fearful for, but with music – with my music – I try to find a hopeful place out of whatever bad news I’m reading or anxiety or fear that I’m feeling. I feel like music is good therapy for me in that way.
Jody Denberg: Amen, brother.
Jody Denberg: From the migration stories – which you just kind of told us a little bit about the background of the album title – to the song “Migration of Souls” – to me, that connotes something different than what you were just talking about – the immigration of citizens. How about for you, migration of souls?
M. Ward: Well, yeah, I think there’s a spiritual element to migration and that goes beyond life and death. I like the idea that there’s no force that can stop the reunification of generations on one level – if we are thinking outside of the body. I realize it’s an abstract thing to think about, but because I work with music and I’m not a politician, I feel the invitation is there to go into that place and illustrate it in whatever way I feel can mirror what I’m thinking about these subjects that are kind of hard to talk about.
Jody Denberg: Well, the good thing is everyone can listen to this album. I just did. I’ve been hearing songs – piecemeal – but now I just sat down and listened to the whole Migration Stories by M. Ward, and it’s such a healing record.
And I was reading just a few hours ago, you were talking with NPR Music, and I guess they were asking you about the music that was helping you during this difficult time of isolation. You mentioned that you were listening to McCoy Tyner, and that your favorite record of McCoy – who recently passed – was Ballads by John Coltrane. Now someone who’s listening to M. Ward and not getting beyond the vibe, might not have guessed that these are seminal influences for you.
M. Ward: John Coltrane’s and McCoy Tyner’s instinct of “less is more”, especially on this Ballads record is just like medicine to me. Whatever you’re going through – if you play this record – things seem to be right again. And there’s a lot of records I could’ve picked, but this is the one that I’ve been falling back on lately because you can play it a million times and still find something new inside of it.
And then I learned that they didn’t even rehearse for this record. These four guys just got together and created this masterpiece. And when you think about that, and you think about instincts and inspiration, what happened in these sessions, it’s you know, I listened to it for the rest of my life.
Jody Denberg: Well, thank you for the tip.
My go-to records have been In A Silent Way by Miles Davis and Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. So I think we’re on the same plane.
M. Ward: Yes. Yes!
Jody Denberg: Now I’m gonna go ahead and listen to Ballads by John Coltrane, as suggested by M. Ward, who we’re speaking with about his brand new album, Migration Stories.
Another influence for you – and I guess this is easy for me to say because there’s a couple of instrumental acoustic songs on the album – is John Fahey and what I call avant acoustic music. Tell me what John Fahey means to you and how you incorporated it into the two songs on the album.
M. Ward: Yeah, I discovered his music right out of high school and I remember just being in disbelief that there’s this guy out there who’s made dozens of records using just one steel guitar and no vocal, writing original pieces and sometimes merging ancient melodies with new melodies.
I eventually found out that he based half of his records in alternate tunings and I first discovered alternate tunings when I got into Joni Mitchell and Sonic Youth in high school. After hearing John Fahey’s records, that took me to, I guess, the next level of possibility of the instrument and how you can reinvent it whenever you discover a new tuning. For this new record there’s one tuning that turned into three different songs. That has been a great inspiration.
Jody Denberg: So many wonderful inspirations come together on a great new album, Migration Stories.
We were just talking about John Fahey, McCoy Tyner, and John Coltrane, so it’s sort of like this unwitting collaboration. But of course, you’re no stranger to collaboration. At the outset, I mentioned just a handful of the artists you’ve worked with. I didn’t even mention Bright Eyes or My Morning Jacket, but we’ll be on a first-name basis with Zooey and Mavis and Beth and Nico and Nora and Jenny and Gillian. Do you have to put on a different hat when you’re making your own record as opposed to when you’re collaborating with these other folks, either as a bandleader or producer?
M. Ward: Well, I look at it pretty simplistically, which is just to listen to the demo over and over and try to find out where the demo wants to go. No matter who the singer is or who the band is, everyone wants their song to go to the right finishing points.
Trying to find where somebody’s career should be arcing or where they want to take a record – it’s a little bit too much for me and really just not that interesting for me. My main interest is listening to their demo, trying to find out what inspired the demo and taking the finished product to a place that’s as close as possible to the initial fire, spark or thought that inspired them to write the song. So that’s a really simplistic answer, but it’s really the only way I know to do my job.
Jody Denberg: The new album is Migration Stories. I saw in the “thank yous,” you thanked Leonard Cohen and J.J. Cale. What was the nature of that gratitude?
M. Ward: I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to J.J. Cale. Again, talking about the “less is more”, he was one of the masters of that.
For Leonard Cohen, it’s a similar story. I was spending a month in Montreal – where he lived – during the making of this record. I feel like his spirit was all over the city and there’s a daily walk from my tiny Airbnb to the studio every day, and there was a giant mural of his face. And there was a bagel spot that he used to go to all the time that I went to every day, and there again is his photo. Just walking around the city listening to his music on my iPod was just a great inspiration.
Jody Denberg: Well, Matt, thank you for the inspiration for all these years and for this great new album, Migration Stories. I wish you health and sanity during these strange times. And I recommend everyone listen to this record because it’s a healer and that’s what we need.
April 8th, you’re actually doing a livestreamed performance. Have you done that before? Are you comfortable with that?
M. Ward: No and no. [laughs] It’s a really weird thing for me to transfer a world tour of six musicians that was all in the books and ready to go – to stripping it back down to guitar and vocal, which is strange for me. But in a way it’s full circle because that’s how all the songs started out. I never thought I would say this, but I’m moving my promotion of this record to the computer, which is just something I never dreamed that would happen. And now here we are.
Jody Denberg: Well, that just means for us and for the listeners, we’ll get another slant on the songs from the new album.
Matt, best to you in California. And we look forward to seeing you when you return to Austin, Texas.
M. Ward: Nice talking to you. I can’t wait to get back.
Support KUTX’s ability to bring you closer to the music. Donate today.