Kristin Chenoweth talks collaborations with Dolly Parton and Ariana Grande originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com
You may know Kristin Chenoweth as the accomplished actress who played Glinda in the Broadway smash "Wicked."
But did you know she's also an Oklahoma native and a lifelong country music fan who performed at Nashville's now-defunct Opryland USA theme park?
Just this week, the Emmy and Tony winner came to Music City for ABC's annual CMA Country Christmas special. And on Friday, her "female-empowered record" "For the Girls" comes out, with her country roots on full display.
Both Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire duet with Chenoweth on the album.
"My original path was ... country and gospel," Chenoweth tells ABC Audio. "And then I went another way, with New York, and I've always come back. As long as Nashville has me, I come back."
"I feel like it's a huge part of my roots. It's what I grew up with," she continues. "Though I'm operatically trained, why shouldn't I get to sing what is my soul? I asked Dolly and Reba because they're my favorite."
Though schedules made it impossible for Chenoweth to be face-to-face with her heroes, they still managed to be together while recording.
"Thank goodness for FaceTime!" she laughs. "Because we were both in different places. And thank goodness for FaceTime with Reba... [on] 'I'm A Woman.'"
For the female-centered covers record, Chenoweth and Parton do Parton's biggest hit, "I Will Always Love You."
"It made me feel good," Chenoweth explains. "Dolly was like, 'Oh I like that lick you did. Now I'm gonna do that lick.' It's like, 'Oh man! She's excited about singing this song.'"
"[When] I got the final cut, I videoed her crying, and then she videoed me back," she continues. "She said, "Are you crying 'cause you love it or hate it?' I said, 'I love it.'"
The singer also teamed up with Ariana Grande for a smoldering rendition of Lesley Gore's early-'60s pop hit "You Don't Own Me" for the album.
"Well I've known her since she was eight so I had to ask my baby," Kristin says on getting Grande involved. "I wanted to bring old school/new school together. Lesley Gore, I wanted to tip my hat to her and 'You Don't Own Me'...and I've always felt like Ari's voice would lend itself very well to Lesley's style, and that's how I came up with the tune. And then she said yes."
Chenoweth says that the first time she met Grande was when Grande's grandmother took her to see "Wicked."
"Her grandma said, 'She wants to be a singer,'" Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda in the hit Broadway musical, recalls. "And I said, 'Oh that's sweet,' you know, 'Good luck.' And I gave her a little wand and she kept it."
They kept in touch over the years and eventually worked together on NBC's "Hairspray Live!" Chenoweth says she feels like a mentor to Grande.
"I am a mentor in her life but also I want to mentor life, not just music, with her," Chenoweth says. "Like Carol Burnett has done for me."
"For the Girls" also features Chenoweth's interpretations of songs by Carole King, Linda Ronstadt and Barbra Streisand. It also includes a collaboration with Jennifer Hudson.