Editor’s note: Tanya Tucker won her first Grammys on Sunday night for Best Country Album (While I’m Livin’) and Best Country Song (“Bring My Flowers Now”). “After 14 nominations, this is the first win and I can’t believe it,” she said during her acceptance speech. “No matter how young or old you are, never stop following your dreams. Keep going.”
When Tanya Tucker shot to stardom at 13 on the strength of her hit “Delta Dawn,” she had no way of knowing how far she’d go in country music — notching a passel of hits — how revered she would become by her peers and that she’d be making some of the best music of her career nearly 50 years later.
In 2019, the 61-year-old Texas native released the watershed album While I’m Livin’, produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. It was her first album of all original material in 17 years and its stark honesty, tasteful production, and Tucker’s lived-in vocals led to widespread acclaim. It also earned her four Grammy nominations at this year’s ceremony, the most for any country artist, including a nod in the all-genre Song of the Year category for the poignantly declarative “Bring My Flowers Now,” which reminds us all to appreciate those we love while they are still with us.
With this quartet of nods, Tucker’s overall Grammy nomination score stands at 14 nods and zero wins. We recently chatted with Tucker — who possesses one of the heartiest, most infectious laughs in music — about how she likes her chances, the response to While I’m Livin’ and what’s in store for her next.
With 14 nominations over the years, it’s not your first time at the Grammy rodeo, but do these feel different?
TANYA TUCKER: I’m still in shock. It’s all a dream. I’ve never been nominated for four at one time. Two was my limit, so that’s one thing, but to be nominated for the song I wrote? That’s the cherry on top of all the cakes. I have absolutely no vision of me even taking home that award. But I feel like I’ve won so much already.
When your producers Shooter Jennings and Brandi Carlile proposed making this album, you were hesitant. What made you finally trust them?
I keep trying to figure that answer out and I just don’t have one. I think it was predestined. I was just trying to do the best I could at the moment. And I, of course, never think it’s good enough. And Brandi said, “This is not what this record’s about. It’s about your voice and all the flaws and the greatness about it, so it’s real.” I didn’t really relate to that too much at that time, but I relate more to it now than ever. But I don’t have an answer for that. I just know it worked. I’m so glad that Shooter dropped me into it, and I went out to LA and pretty much changed my life
I had a chance to talk to Miranda Lambert about your cover of “The House That Built Me” and she was so thrilled that you did it, just bowled over since you are one of her heroes. But I understand you were hesitant about that as well?
Well, that makes me feel great because I didn’t even want to get anywhere near it, and Brandi talked me into that one big time. It took her a while, too, maybe three days. I just was adamant. I didn’t think I could ever bring anything more to that song.
But since you clearly were able to bring something to it do you think the next time you’re in this position you might be more trusting and agree to do things sooner or is it just part of your process that you need to resist at first?
Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. (Laughs) Que sera sera, the future’s not ours to see. It certainly worked out for the best for me.
Starting in February you’ll be headlining the CMT Next Women of Country tour with a group of younger female artists, many of whom look up to you. Do you feel a responsibility to offer them advice?
Well, I’m very honored to be asked. I really enjoy helping others, whether it’s a singer or whether it’s a guy on the street begging for money. I just really think it’s important to help others out and to be a part of a young woman’s life as a teacher, it’s well… I can’t find the words for it really. I’m very proud of that.
And that will also put you in front of new audiences possibly.
I need all the audience I can get because I’ve got two other albums that wouldn’t take much to have them ready to go to release and I’m hoping that [the success of While I’m Livin’] will afford me the opportunity to do some other things. I’ve done a lot of stuff. I’ve got a lot of music in my soul and I just really want to get it out before my days are up. I’d like to do so many things and different kinds of music. Everybody knows country’s the one that brought me and I’m faithful to it, but I’d love to strip down a little bit and do some other things and maybe this’ll give me that chance.
While you never stopped touring, this feels like a comeback. Can you sense the goodwill that longtime fans are feeling for you with this return and recognition?
I do. It’s just overwhelming. I mean [after getting the nominations] I spent a couple of hours just trying to clean out my voicemail and I didn’t get it done and I got a crick in my neck. My boyfriend had to rub my neck for about 30 minutes! It’s hard to absorb because it’s a whirlwind, but I do feel the goodwill. I feel it so strong when I walk on the stage. I’ve grown up in front of the public and they’ve seen me through my ups and downs, but I’ve always been pretty much myself, and this record has really brought me to that point where I don’t feel like I have to be anybody else. I think myself is good enough.