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On March 13, the Alzheimer’s Association began rolling out Music Moments, an all-star series honoring the connection between music and life’s cherished memories, in an effort to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Among the multi-genre project’s 10 recordings is Lee Ann Womack’s gorgeous cover of Waylon Jennings’s “Dreaming My Dreams With You,” and as Yahoo Entertainment premieres the track, the country star opens up about why she chose this particular tune.
“My dad worked at a radio station [Texas’s KEVE], so we had a lot of records around the house. As a small child, you might not understand all the lyrics, but you catch on to the feeling,” Womack says in a behind-the-scenes video about Music Moments. “I remember thinking about my dad when I was little and asking him about Waylon; he loved Waylon and loved listening to his records. I just remember this was a song that we both agreed on, and I just have always loved it.”
Womack tells Yahoo Entertainment that when she was a little girl in the ‘70s, she used to accompany her father, a disc jockey, to KEVE and even help him choose records to play on the air. “Well, he might've let me think that I was making those decisions!” she clarifies with a chuckle. “But I did get to pick some of my favorites when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time at the radio station, and I loved it. There was something about it that just seemed exciting and electric to me. The place seemed to be alive.”
Along with Jennings, Womack’s other favorite acts were Ray Stevens, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, and Bob Wills, as well as iconic female artists to whom she’d later be compared once she launched her own career in the ‘90s. “Dolly [Parton], of course — she's probably my first memory of a female artist. And then around that same time, Loretta [Lynn] and Tammy [Wynette]. They were the main female stars of the day; a lot of the things that they said, that they wrote about, their musical styles and everything, were a big influence on me.”
The lack of airplay for female artists at country radio has become an increasingly hot topic in the last few years. So it’s understandable that Womack — who grew up enamored with the radio world, and now has two daughters (29-year-old rising “garage country” star Aubrie Sellers and 21-year-old musician/singer Annalise Liddell) pursuing country careers — is especially vexed by this discrimination.
“It’s absolutely infuriating. It's disgusting that we're in the situation that we're in,” Womack asserts. “I have two daughters that are in the music business. It's ridiculous, the things that are said to them, the things that they have to consider that a male artist wouldn't. I don't have any answers for the problem, except that I do think that this generation has just had enough. And I love to see them demanding some respect. But we've all been through it in one way or another — and it's not just in the music business, either.
“I'm so tired of talking about it,” Womack admits wearily. “I mean, you get to the point where you're just tired of it being a thing. And I am. So, I hope that it's changing. I mean, it has to change. It's going to have to, because I feel this group of [young female country artists] is going to demand it.”
It’s easy to look at the era in which Womack first came to fame — she released her debut album in 1997, around the same time as blockbusters like Shania Twain’s The Woman in Me and Come on Over, Faith Hill’s Faith and Breathe, and the Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces — and assume this is a relatively recent problem. But Womack says that’s not the case.
“I think one of the things that's so frustrating is that people didn't even realize it. They've been going on so long, and it's like people are just now waking up to it,” she gripes. “Yes, some things were better for a short time, but I mean, there were still very few female headliners. More often than not for the same gig, male artists would get paid more, and they still dominated the charts. So it was never, never equal. Looking back over the years, there may have been some times when females did a little better than they're doing now, but it was never equal.”
Womack says she tries not to offer much music business advice to her daughters —“I don't think it's fair for their mom to direct them. ... If I'm directing their careers, I'm not taking care of ‘mom stuff’” — though she does collaborate with both of Aubrie and Annalise. In fact, a song that Annalise wrote will appear on Womack’s near-finished 10th studio album, out later this year. But Womack has carved out a rare path for herself in country. Her first single, “Never Again, Again,” was “very, very hardcore traditional country, so country that it wasn't really commercial Nashville anymore”; she had a massive pop-crossover smash with 2000’s “I Hope You Dance”; and her most recent LP, The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone, scored Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song Grammy nominations. So while her career has not been typical, she does have a unique vantage point from which to sagely advise young female artists navigating this world.
“I think you have to be honest about who you are, and I think also you have to be willing to fail,” she says. “You have to be willing to say, ‘You know what? I don't care. I don't want to be on that television show that doesn't reflect who I am as an artist.’ You have to be willing to just say, ‘No thanks, I'd rather not do that.’ You just have to go with your gut, I guess.” She adds with a hearty laugh: “Oh my gosh, there's some things [in my career] that I thought, ‘Whew, I'm glad I was not a part of that s***!’”
Womack is a huge fan of fellow East Texan Kacey Musgraves, who’s managed to enjoy a similarly diverse career (and has been one of the most outspoken young protesters of sexism at country radio). And when Womack reflects on her girlhood spent listening to her dad’s Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton LPs, she’s proud and humbled that Musgraves grew up making “music memories” to Lee Ann Womack CDs.
“Kacey said she did listen to me, yeah. I have artists that come up to me and say that sort of thing all the time. I love it. I remember sitting in my bedroom as a kid listening to records of my heroes, and to think that I was that for somebody, that's a nice thing to think about when you're looking back on all the things you've done in your career.”
Music Moments, which is produced by the Alzheimer’s Association and Grammy-winning music supervisor Randall, also features Sting doing Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Jason Isbell doing John Prine’s “Hello in There,” Nile Rodgers & Chic doing the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” Anthony Hamilton singing Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” and Joan Jett contributing a new acoustic version of her own track “Hard to Grow Up.” Other participating artists include Sharon Van Etten, Band of Horses, the Head and the Heart, and Brett Eldredge. For more information about Music Moments, go to alz.org/MusicMoments.
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