By any measure, Lee Ann Womack has had a career year with a career song, “I Hope You Dance.” The song itself has won a Country Music Association award for song of the year and a Grammy for country song of the year, and Womack owns the Country Music Association award for single of the year, an honor she received in October 2000. You sent in your questions, and we selected 20 to pose to Womack. She talked about her favorite food, about the possibility of recording a duet with George Strait and about whether or not she likes to dance herself.
1. Where was the video for “I Hope You Dance” filmed?
It was filmed in a studio here in Nashville; I don’t remember the name of the studio.
2. What made you decide to put your daughters in that video?
The song made me think of them when I first heard it and every time I sang it. I wanted the country music fans to know that and see what the song meant to me. I wanted it to be personal, and that’s why I included them.
3. Are you planning to do another video with your family?
I don’t know! At this point I don’t have any plans to do any videos, but since Frank [Lee Ann’s husband] wasn’t in that one, I’d like to something with Frank at some point, if I could talk him into it.
4. A year ago I was scared to start dating my now boyfriend because of possible problems that could arise. He told me, ‘remember when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.’ Now I’m so glad I chose to dance with him … what’s the sweetest story you’ve heard about the effect “I Hope You Dance” has had in people’s lives?
You just wouldn’t believe the number of stories I’ve heard. I don’t think there’s any way I could pick one. It varies, from everything from births to deaths, to relationships, to graduations. It would be too hard to pick one. But I do love hearing the stories, and each one of them is very special to me.
5. I saw you on Oprah; did you ever think the song would touch her like it did — it left her in tears.
I didn’t hear the story about how the song came to Oprah until I was standing there, so it was very touching, because it was obviously very important to her. This is a woman I’ve had a lot of respect for and really looked up to in this industry, so I literally kind of got choked up a little bit. She’s done a lot of things for women in the entertainment business, so it was really important to me that the song meant so much to her. But I had no idea ahead of time.
6. How do you feel about “I Hope You Dance” being played on pop radio stations?
I feel great about it, so glad that there are so many people, new people, hearing the song. It was at the top of the charts for six weeks in country, then when it was over there, it started a whole new life on Adult Contemporary and Top 40 stations. So I was thrilled, and still am every day, to watch the song climb the charts and meet all these new people who are hearing it for the first time. It’s really quite an experience to have your music accepted by such an eclectic mix of music lovers.
7. How do you decide which songs to record? Do you base some of your decisions on the reputation of the songwriter, or do you just like the way it sounds?
I have to just like the way it sounds, even if it’s a songwriter that I respect and love their stuff. If it doesn’t work for me, then I have to pass on it and go to something else. I do have a certain ‘well’ of songwriters that I draw from each time I’m looking for material for a record that I know I can count on and go back to over and over again. Among those, Mark D. Sanders, Buddy and Julie Miller, and now a new one to me, but obviously very successful relationship, has been mine with Tia Sillers … Jamie O’Hara. So these are writers that I go back to over and over again. But when we get ready to listen to songs, it’s Mark Wright, Frank and myself who are the ones that kind of pare it down and listen and listen and finally end up deciding on the 10 or 12 cuts that we do.
8. You’ve been touring with George Strait the last few years; any chance you’ll record a duet with him?
There are so many people I’d like to do duets with. I love to collaborate; I like even getting to go in and sing harmony on people’s records. George is one I’ve gotten to sing a little bit of harmony with, and I’d certainly love to do a duet with him at some point. I got to sing most recently with Willie Nelson, and I was excited about that, because being from Texas, Willie’s really huge and he’s an icon, a legend in this business. So I was very glad to get to do that. Who knows who else I’ll hopefully get to nail down, but George would definitely be at the top of the list.
9. Would you consider making a gospel album?
Yeah, I would. I’m sure I will at some point. I love gospel music. I’d like to do all kinds of different records, and gospel is one that I have no doubt at some point I’ll do.
10. Would you like to see some TV or movie roles in the future? You would do well.
Only if it was some kind of role that allowed me probably to sing and make some kind of music. I’m a musician and that’s what I love to do, but if there was a role that let me go into a different time period and do some music that I couldn’t normally do, or wouldn’t normally make on a record in Nashville, then I’d like to do something like that.
11. What is your favorite food?
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich! That’s what I had for dinner tonight. We were going to cook out tonight and my oldest daughter went to spend the night with a friend of ours, so we decided not to grill out just for us. We were all kind of on our own, so I got to have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
12. What do you do in your free time when you’re not working?
Today has been the first day off I’ve had in forever. When you do what we do, most people have weekends off; they work all day and have weekends off. We work on the weekends and we usually work every day during the week too, so I don’t normally have time off. But I cleaned out a few drawers today, kind of organized some things. I probably just do normal, around-the-house, mom kind of stuff.
13. Are you still actively pursuing your bachelor’s degree? I read an article where you said you were still working on it because you didn’t want your girls to be able to say you never graduated from college.
I’m not actively taking classes this semester. Last year I took a couple of classes and I had time then. But I don’t have time right now, so when I get some more time I will go back and try to finish that. I only need a few hours to finish, so I don’t feel as pressured as I did before. I know that it’s in my future, and I need to be smart about how I spend my time right now. If I do have a couple of days off I want to be able to spend it with my kids, being a wife and mom. I’m not taking classes right now, but I probably will again in a few years.
14. How has the fact that you have a family changed your career goals?
Well, it’s changed why I do what I do. I want to take care of my family. Of course I love music and that’s the main reason I do what I do. But it’s given me new purpose and meaning, in everything that I do, not just in my career, but in everything, life in general. I probably work harder and I keep them in mind in pretty much everything I do. I want to lay some good groundwork for them and build a good company for them in the future. It’s really kind of just given me a different purpose.
15. Would you want your daughters to follow in your footsteps and become country singers?
I would want them to do what I did, and that is to believe in themselves and understand that they can do anything they want to do. Be it this business or any other, I want them to work hard and believe in themselves.
16. I am 32 years old and mother of three. I love your “Ashes” video and have it taped and play it when I exercise. I love it especially at the end of the video when you turn and walk out, you look great. What kind of exercise/diet program do you follow?
I don’t really diet; I’ve always exercised. My exercise of choice is walking, kind of a power walk, not strolling. I walk several miles a day, although in the last four weeks I’ve not had a lot of time. I walked today again for the first time in about a month. That’s the exercise I always come back to. It’s not too hard on your body, you can pretty much always do it, as long as the weather’s okay. Even if you have a treadmill you can do it inside. I can put my music in my headphones and listen to that and kind of do some studying while I’m walking. So that’s my choice.
17. My name is Melissa. I was wondering how you get your blue eyes to stand out? I have blue eyes and everything I’ve tried makes my eyes look dead. Any tips you can give me?
I cannot do makeup very well on my own, and I have a girl who does that for me. She is great at what she does and she’s the one who makes the eyes stand out, or not, whatever she wants to do. I’ll have to check with my Melissa, that’s her name!
18. Who was the first person you ever saw in concert and how old were you?
I think I was in the fifth grade. It was Conway Twitty, in Lufkin, Texas.
19. I’d like to take you to my senior prom. Is that possible?
It wouldn’t be possible this year! I have so much going on. I’ll be very busy. But it’s very flattering, and I hope “I Hope You Dance” is played at the prom!
20. Do you dance?
Of course! If I have the chance to sit it out or dance, I’m gonna dance!