She was named the Christian Country Music Association's Female Vocalist and Mainstream Country Artist Of The Year, the Alabama Country Music Hall Of Fame's Entertainer Of The Year, Most Promising International Act by the CMA / GB, Honorary Ambassador Of Country Music in Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and New Zealand, not to mention being inducted into the American Country Music Hall Of Fame.
She's had a string of Top 20 Billboard singles and albums and toured extensively in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., South America and Australia. She's performed alongside Chet Atkins, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, Ronnie Milsap, Joan Rivers, Johnny Cash, Rebe McEntire, The Judds, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Kenny Rogers. On January 19th, 2016, she released a CD titled "Mountain Songbird: A Sister's Tribute". In support of that CD she will tour the U.K. in February and March of this year (2016).
We are talking about Stella Parton, "Country Music's Tina Turner."
Q - This may sound odd, but I never realized Dolly Parton had a sister.
A - Well, I've had over thirty-one albums out up 'til now. I had my very first hit record in 1975, a song that I wrote, produced, recorded and had to put on my own label. You know, Dolly's shadow is pretty big, but I have just been prevailing and doing my own thing all these years in spite of her light that burns pretty bright.
Q - Having the last name Parton, have you ever gotten tired of people asking you, "Are you any relation to Dolly Parton?"
A - I just have to accept that like being a female. I was born Dolly's little sister. I'll die being Dolly's little sister, so I've accepted it and I'm very proud of her, so it's not something that's an irritant to me. That could really make my life miserable if I thought that way. I'm proud of my sister.
Q - Did anyone, like a manager ever say, "Stella, you should consider changing your name to Parsons."?
A - Oh, I've done all that. I've tried all that. First time I was on the Grand Ole Opry they called me Stella Stevens. I've been through all that. Trust me, I've been through it all. I understand the pitfalls of it and I also understand it is my journey. I was born Stella Parton and that's who I'm going to be.
Q - Your sister is busy, how did you get her to help you with this latest CD of yours?
A - Well, she actually didn't do much except come in and sing on the one we wrote together. I produced the CD myself.
Q - You're touring the U.K. in support of "Mountain Songbird: A Sister's Tribute". Why the U.K.?
A - Actually, because I've had so much success over there myself. Back in the '70s I had a Pop hit over there, a song called "Danger Of A Stranger", and over the years I have worked over there. In 1978 I was Most Promising International Act at The Great Britain Awards in the U.K. at the Wembley Festival. So, I've toured over there quite a bit. It seems like a natural fit.
Q - Country Music is popular in South America?
A - It probably wasn't, but I was on the very first Country music tour taken there. My music has always been kind of a variety. It's not real traditional. I do real traditional. I do Folk and Gospel and Bluegrass, but my music in the '70s and '80s was more Pop oriented, but I've always done all brands of Country music.
Q - Has Country music gained in popularity since you've been there?
A - To some degree, yes.
Q - In South America and beyond?
A - Yes. If it's good music, people want to hear it and it'll resonate with people.
Q - The country you want to be most successful is still the United States, isn't it?
A - Not for me. I've never had that much success in Country music in the U.S. and I think it's because of my family connection. The success I've had has mostly been in Scandinavia and Europe. In other countries they really appreciate Country music as the true art form just like they do Jazz.
Q - You're a singer, songwriter, author, chef, entrepreneur. You've done it all, haven't you?
A - I think if you have a dream and you are working, if you sit around and wait for somebody to discover how good you are at something, you may be waiting a long time. So if I have an idea or a project I just go to work and try to make it happen. I don't wait around for somebody to do it for me. I just go ahead and do it.
Q - At one point you were signed with Elektra Records?
A - Yeah. In 1976 I signed with them after the success of "I Want To Hold You (In My Dreams Tonight)", which was a song I put out on my own label. Then I signed with Elektra the next year after I had a Top Ten Billboard hit on my own label and then did three albums for Elektra. Then I went into theatre and did theatre for about ten years. Still I was working with a band. I've had a band on the road for thirty years.
Q - How good of a job did Elektra do for you?
A - I was happy to be on that label 'cause it was one of the labels under Warner Brothers. Warner, Elektra, Asylum. It was one of the umbrella, boutique labels under Warner. So that was great. They were just kind of delving into the Country music thing back then, so they did a better job than you could do yourself because you were under such a big umbrella. To answer your question, they did a pretty good job for the three albums I did for them. Then my contract was up and they had a big regime change.
Q - Stella, Country music today sounds like Rock music. Would you agree?
A - Well, I don't like to criticize the trends of music. Country music has been a proving ground for a lot of experimental artists, a lot of artists who maybe their careers have gone down hill a little bit in whatever genre they were working in. That goes all the way back to Conway Twitty. He was a Rock 'n' Roll artist and then went into Country music and had his tremendous success. So, Country music has always kind of spawned that type of experimentation which I found to be okay. I'm not one of these older artists that's going to criticize younger people or the trend of the market because that's just wasting my valuable time that I need to be creative on my own.
Q - Do I refer to you as a Country singer or a singer? I don't really like labels?
A - That's just like I don't like being referred to as Dolly's little sister even though that's one of my titles. I'm Tina's mother and I am Robert and Avie's little girl. I'm a creative artist. I'm not just a singer. I'm not just a songwriter. I'm not just a producer or an actor. I do all these things and I just choose to live a creative life. I'm just a creative person. I don't even like to be referred to as a female. I'm a human being. (laughs) I think labels really limit people in their journey through life and I'm like you, I don't really prefer that.
Q - Besides you and Dolly, did anyone else in the family go on to have a musical career?
A - Well, we all sing and write. Dolly and I have been the ones full-time at it. I have a brother that's been on RCA and had another little sister that was on Bearstown Records. She was a Rock 'n' Roll singer. We've all delved into it in some way and worked in it and around it because that's what we know.