20 Questions With Lee Ann Womack

This Self-Described "Struggling Artist" Is Fond of Dolly, Dino and Carrot Cake

Lee Ann Womack recently issued her Greatest Hits while toting a ton of demos for an upcoming studio album. But in the meantime, she had some free time to answer these 20 questions from fans. Sure, this native of Jacksonville, Texas, still hopes you dance, but she also wouldn’t mind telling you about Mindy Smith, her upcoming African safari and why she cried every day as a child.

1. “Mendocino County Line” has to be one of the Top 10 videos ever made. What was it like working with Willie Nelson?

Outside of my kids, I have to say working with Willie has been my favorite person to make a video with. And who else gets to ride horses down the streets of Austin, Texas? I mean, it doesn’t get any cooler than that.

2. I saw you in the new video from Cross Canadian Ragweed. What is your tie with that band? The first time I heard them I was definitely hooked.

I have known those guys for a couple of years, and I’ve done several shows with them in Texas. And we have some mutual friends. Their manager is a friend of mine, and so every time we get a chance to work together, we do. I like those guys mostly because they make music for the love of making music and not for money or fame or anything else. And that’s kind of hard to find anymore in the music business.

3. If you were to pick out a favorite CD from another female country artist, whose would it be, and why?

I’d say the new Mindy Smith record. I just love her! I’ve gotten her song demos for the last year, and I took her out with me on the road last year. She is so incredibly talented. And not only that, I don’t know if you know her, but she is so funny. She had big major labels chasing her and she said no because she wanted to do her own thing. I just really believe in her, and again, she’s just one of those artists that loves great music, and she can make it.

4. I would love to see you go back to the more traditional sound of your first two albums. Any chance you and your producer might try to recreate some of that magic?

Yeah. Definitely we have some more traditional stuff. I just wrote a song with Dean Dillon [who has written hits for George Strait, Vern Gosdin and George Jones] that we’re going to put on the record, if that gives you any idea of the kind of stuff we’re doing right now. It’s definitely traditional country, which I’ve always done. Even on my last record, I had a couple that were more traditional country, but there may be a little more of that on this record.

5. When did you realize that you had “made it” as a country star?

I still don’t think I have. I mean, certainly not on a level of a George Strait or an Alan Jackson or somebody like that. I haven’t reached that point yet, which is cool for me, because I still consider myself to be a struggling artist. There’s something tragic about that. (laughs) It keeps me going. It keeps me writing. It keeps me practicing and things like that. I think that’s good for me.

6. Do you want to reach the level of a superstar?

You know what? That is a good question, and I don’t know if I do. I mean, I don’t know, there’s something about where I am that’s comfortable to me. I don’t know, I don’t know. I enjoy going out and opening up shows for George and Alan. I don’t know if I’d ever want to be the headliner. There’s a lot that comes with that, and I just don’t know. I guess that’s the reason I like the question because I’ve been going through that in my mind a lot lately, so I just don’t know. I don’t know. I just know that I love music, and I want to make music and whatever that brings with it.

7. How do you keep yourself so beautiful when you have a successful career and also a family to care for?

Well, I don’t think I could be accused of being beautiful, but I think my kids keep me young, and I think having the right hair and makeup people makes a difference. Sometimes I have the right ones, sometimes I don’t. (laughs)

8. How do you determine what kind of cosmetics you use? Your makeup is always so pretty.

I don’t. The fact is, if I’m left on my own, I won’t wear any at all. But when I have hair and makeup people, they all have endorsements, and they use different stuff every time.

9. How do you determine your outfit for an awards show? Do designers line up to dress you?

Sometimes. It depends on the show. Certainly when you’re going to the Grammys, that opens up a lot of doors between artists and designers. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a couple of people like Richard Tyler, who will open up his showroom any time I need something. I’ve gotten lucky in that respect. Sometimes you just go pick out something off the rack and wear it. It depends on how much thought I put into it ahead of time. (laughs)

10. Do you like to cook?

Sometimes I do. Frank [husband Frank Liddell] is really the cook, and I bake. I usually do the desserts. I just recently got a really good recipe for carrot cake, so that’s what I’ve made the last few times I’ve had to make something.

11. If you were asked to be a part of a Reba McEntire tribute album, which song would you like to cover?

Oh, that’s a good idea! That’s a real good idea. I think I’d do “Today All Over Again,” which most people probably have never heard. But what’s funny is, Reba had an entire career before “Whoever’s in New England.” People don’t even know all that stuff she did on Mercury with [producer] Jerry Kennedy, years and years and years ago. Real traditional country stuff, that’s my favorite Reba stuff.

12. What Dolly Parton song would you record if you had the chance?

Well, we do “Jolene” in my live show, and I really like that one a lot. I just recently cut a song, “Just Someone I Used to Know,” that she and Porter did. So I’ve cut one of hers for my new record actually. And I haven’t even told anybody that yet.

13. I notice on a lot of your songs, I think you sound a lot like Dolly Parton. Was she your biggest influence in music, and did you try to pattern yourself after her?

It’s funny because I listened to some people that sound like Dolly, in addition to Dolly. I remember, one of my earliest memories of being alive and breathing was watching the Porter and Dolly show on TV, so I know she influenced me a lot vocally. I also listened to a lot of Sharon White, who is Ricky Skaggs’ wife, and she sounds a lot like that. Both of those women influenced me a lot.

14. What artist have you not worked with that you would really like to work with?

I don’t know. Let’s see. We’ve done Vince and Ricky, George and Alan. I don’t know. I can’t think of one. … I would have like to have worked with Dean Martin, just because he was such a hero of mine when I was a kid. I guess that’s not going to happen. (laughs)

15. What’s in your CD player right now?

Actually it’s a boring answer, but song demos just because I’m making a record. So I’m constantly listening to demos. I have this Rubbermaid tub with tons of CDs dumped in it. I just pull them out when I’m going down the road and pop ’em in and listen.

16. I know you have always wanted to be a country singer, but if that had not been possible, what occupation would you have chosen?

At this point, I would choose to be a stay-at-home mom, but in the beginning, if I had never done it, I probably would have been a songwriter. I would have done something in the music business just because I love it and love being around it.

17. We never hear much about your childhood. What was it like, and what did you do to fuel your imagination?

I spent a lot of time in my room listening to records because I lived in a really, really small town, and there wasn’t really anything to do, especially for an aspiring musician. So I spent a lot of time sitting at the piano and sitting in my room listening to records. … Do you remember Ray Stevens’ “The Streak”? (laughs) That’s when I was really, really little. Then after that, George Strait’s first record Strait Country was one of my favorites.

18. What has been your favorite live performance from another artist?

Oh. That would be hard to pick out one thing. I do remember sitting in the audience at the Grammys when Ricky Martin made his big performance that pushed him over the top and made him such a big superstar. And I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, I am witnessing a superstar being born.” Of course, since then he’s kind of gone away a little bit, but I knew I was watching something that was about to explode. Just a couple of weeks ago, I did a Willie Nelson taping out in L.A. Just sitting out there during a soundcheck and watching Willie perform with all these artists and practice with all these artists was really cool because he would go from Carole King to Los Lonely Boys to Bob Dylan to Rickie Lee Jones. And Willie never was awkward. He fit in with every one of those artists and their musical style. How many artists can do that and fit in? He didn’t ever seem like he was out of his element. I just found that to be fascinating.

19. Did you like school?

I don’t know of anybody I’ve ever met that hated school more than I did. (laughs) I hated it to the point of crying every single morning for having to go. I just knew from an early age exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and school just seemed like such a waste of time. (laughs)

20. If you could go anywhere on vacation where would it be and why?

I have always wanted to go to Africa, and I think I’m going to get to go there this fall. I’m real excited about that. Anywhere that’s unspoiled, that doesn’t have a McDonald’s on every corner. (laughs) [The Africa trip] is strictly vacation. We’re going to Tanzania. I just sat down with the safari guide yesterday. … Now I’m not going hunting but just a photo safari. (laughs) Nobody in my group is going to be killing anything.