Encore: Tanya Tucker Is Back NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with country musician Tanya Tucker about putting out her first solo album in more than 10 years. It's called While I'm Livin'. She won two Grammys for it Sunday night.
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Encore: Tanya Tucker Is Back

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Encore: Tanya Tucker Is Back

Encore: Tanya Tucker Is Back

Encore: Tanya Tucker Is Back

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NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with country musician Tanya Tucker about putting out her first solo album in more than 10 years. It's called While I'm Livin'. She won two Grammys for it Sunday night.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Last night country legend Tanya Tucker won two Grammys, her first time winning in a nearly 50-year career.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TANYA TUCKER: Fourteen nominations - this is the first win. And I...

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER: ...Can't believe it.

SHAPIRO: Her album "While I'm Livin'" won Best Country Album, and she won Best Country Song for "Bring My Flowers Now."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRING MY FLOWERS NOW")

TUCKER: (Singing) Bring my flowers now while I'm living. I won't need your love when I'm gone.

SHAPIRO: I spoke to Tanya Tucker about the album last year. It was produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, a new generation of country stars. Those fresh ears and fresh ideas helped Tucker finish "Bring My Flowers Now," a song she told me she'd been thinking about for decades.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TUCKER: It was a song that I've had an idea for I'm thinking about 40 years maybe, and it took us about 20 minutes to write it, to finish it. And so I say, well, it took me 40 years and 20 minutes to write the song (laughter).

SHAPIRO: What was the core of this that was rattling around in your brain for 40 years?

TUCKER: Well, I had the chorus, but I just couldn't come up with the verses and tried many times to do it and just never was successful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRING MY FLOWERS NOW")

TUCKER: (Singing) I wish I'd been a better friend, a better daughter to my mother. There's no going back when your back's against the wind.

SHAPIRO: The first time I heard this song, it reminded me of something my father said to me while my grandmother was in her last days. And he said, if you've got a choice between flying out here while she's alive and coming out for the funeral, come see her now.

TUCKER: Exactly.

SHAPIRO: You know?

TUCKER: That's exactly right because I've always wondered even since I was a kid why they sent flowers. And people, that's the only time they get together or see each other - is at a funeral. That didn't make sense to me - just kind of had it back-asswards (ph) to me. And I'd like to share and being with someone when I can. Of course, you know, our schedules these days makes it difficult. But do the things and see the people that you really need to see and - because you sure can't do it when they're gone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRING MY FLOWERS NOW")

TUCKER: (Singing) If your heart is in them flowers, bring them home.

SHAPIRO: When you listen to these songs and then you listen to albums that you recorded in the '70s, what kind of an evolution do you hear? Or do you think this is just a very clear straight through line?

TUCKER: In those days, we recorded all those records or those tracks "Delta Dawn" on up to - probably the first MCA album was the only time - the first time I ever did an overdub or ever had a set of headphones.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying you recorded them as though it was live. Everybody was in the room. They were doing a take beginning to end.

TUCKER: Exactly. And if somebody messed up, we had to do it all over again.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

TUCKER: So, you know, that was the way, and I thank the good Lord for that because this situation with Brandi and Shooter - we did all this live.

SHAPIRO: Oh, so this is kind of like a throwback for you.

TUCKER: It's like going back to the beginning.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

TUCKER: I don't think I could have done this album that way if I hadn't had that experience in the very, very beginning of my career.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WHEELS OF LAREDO")

TUCKER: (Singing) And if I was a white-crowned sparrow, well, I would float upon the Southern skies of blue. But I'm stuck inside the wheels of Laredo, wishing I was rolling back to you.

SHAPIRO: I hesitate to ask you to point out your flaws, but imperfections can create beauty, right? So is there somewhere on this album that you can point to something that you might have wanted to smooth over but, because it is a little rougher, it actually works better?

TUCKER: Yeah, I can tell you a lot of things.

SHAPIRO: Give me one.

TUCKER: You know, well, one - the one is on "Laredo" at the very end. I wanted to - the very last (singing) wish I was rolling back to you, wish I was rolling...

I wanted to go way up on it, and I didn't.

SHAPIRO: I just got goose bumps.

TUCKER: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WHEELS OF LAREDO")

TUCKER: (Singing) Wish I was rolling back to you. Wish I was rolling back to you.

SHAPIRO: You've always been associated with the country outlaw movement. Do you identify with that label? What does that mean to you?

TUCKER: Well, I think maybe it was that in country music, especially most of the gals, they didn't move around much. They pretty much stood there and sang and sang great, I might add. I can't do that. I can't stand still.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MUSTANG RIDGE")

TUCKER: (Singing) Now I'm flying like an angel on Dead Man's Run. I got the devil riding on my tail.

I think that might have got it started. Plus, I dressed a lot different than most of the gals in country music. You know, I had leather on and them tight pants. And when I moved, I moved because I felt it, you know? And I think they took it and kind of went to the outlaw side of things.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MUSTANG RIDGE")

TUCKER: (Singing) I ain't never going back to Mustang Ridge.

SHAPIRO: Let me ask you about the song "Hard Luck" because I know it's actually an old tune, but it seems almost autobiographical.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HARD LUCK")

TUCKER: (Singing) Now, look at my life and all the trouble I've had - shows what you get when you got to be bad. Hard luck - I keep trucking, born to a hard luck world.

Well, we changed a lot of the lines because at first, when I first heard the song, I didn't like it at all.

SHAPIRO: Really?

TUCKER: The lyrics just - no. It wasn't a really great demo in my mind, you know? I tried to hear through a lot of things, but I couldn't even hear through that one. But when we started working on it, we changed the lyric, and it works. And everybody's singing on it. I mean, I got my lawyer. I got my managers. Dennis Quaid's on it. My...

SHAPIRO: What?

TUCKER: ...Friend Norman Howell and Tricia - he's a stunt man that actually got me the horse for the album cover. And just so many different people were singing on it. It was a lot of fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HARD LUCK")

TUCKER: (Singing) Oh, my story's so sad.

SHAPIRO: I'm just picturing everybody crowded into the studio around the microphone.

TUCKER: It was really cute.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HARD LUCK")

TUCKER: (Singing) Oh, so bad - listen up, y'all.

SHAPIRO: So you now have been making music professionally for almost 50 years.

TUCKER: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: What do you think you understand about making music now that you did not understand when you were that mega-famous teenager?

TUCKER: You know, I just kind of let go, let God. I think that's the name I choose to call my higher power. And I let him rock through me because, you know, I - the one thing I do know after all these years is that I'm not doing it by myself. It's coming through me, and there's a reason for that. I don't know what it is, but I just know that it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T OWE YOU ANYTHING")

TUCKER: I got something to say.

SHAPIRO: Well, Tanya Tucker, it has been so great to talk with you. Thank you for joining us today.

TUCKER: Well, thank you so much. I've really enjoyed talking to you.

SHAPIRO: Tanya Tucker - she won two Grammys last night for her album "While I'm Livin'."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T OWE YOU ANYTHING")

TUCKER: (Singing) It might be easier than you think. Now, you can keep my tears and my good years and your Sears and Roebuck ring, and I'll take this show on down the road. I don't owe you anything. Well, I made your bed, and I made your lunch. And for the last time, your clothes are out to dry. I know you like my own reflection. I see her in your eyes.

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