With a new studio album, Lonely Runs Both Ways, Alison Krauss & Union Station are returning to the road. In the second part of her interview with CMT.com, she explains her fascination with Dollywood, trying to give her shoes to Chaka Khan and why she’s not nearly as serious as you think she is.
CMT: I know you’re about to go back on tour. Will there be any difference in your show, now that you’ve got a new album?
Krauss: It’s going to be the best we’ve done. We’re starting rehearsals tonight and then technical rehearsals the rest of the week. So we get to see what we’re going to be doing.
Are you going to try to put “Whiskey Lullaby” in there?
Probably won’t. No, I don’t think we’ll probably do that one.
Because that was a huge hit on mainstream radio, does that change the game for you, or do you just look at it as a gift?
It doesn’t change anything we do, musically. A gift, that’s exactly what I would say. It’s amazing that we get to do this at all, and amazing that we get to do a record until we like it and then send it in. Or as much as we’re going to like it and send it in. I feel really lucky.
Are you going to play any bluegrass festivals this year?
We’re going to do MerleFest and Telluride. I think we may be doing some other ones, but I don’t know where they are, right off the bat.
Any European plans?
We’ve talked about going over there, but I haven’t heard for sure yet either. I’m a lot of fun, aren’t I? You ask me a question, it’s like “I don’t know!”
Is there any place that you’d like to play that you haven’t played yet?
I love playing Dollywood, and we’re going back there this year. I love Dollywood. I love it that Dolly’s music is everywhere and Dolly’s picture is everywhere. And they have a little store called Dolly’s Dress Shoppe, and they sell Dolly perfume and Dolly makeup! It’s just awesome. I love it. I love Dollywood.
Do you wear Dolly makeup?
I used to, then they stopped making the one I buy. And Dolly perfume for years. The last time I saw her, I said, “You have any more of that Dolly makeup?”
What are your earliest memories of Dolly, or has she just always been in your consciousness?
I just remember everybody always loving her, like anytime she came on television. It was always, “Oh look, there she is!” I listened to mostly bluegrass growing up, so I didn’t have country records I was studying like my bluegrass records. When I was 19, I sang on her Eagle When She Flies album. To hear her over the headphones … was much different than hearing a record or seeing someone on television, because I had her on the headphones. This was before they mixed it, so it was bare. It was completely bare. And I was like, “Oh, my goodness, there is nothing like that!” I couldn’t believe it, hearing her in the headphones. (looking at the goosebumps on her arms) See I can’t even talk about it, and it’s been a long time ago already. … That blew me away, and ever since then, I’m like, that’s a completely different animal. I should have known that already, but I was in a different form of music and listening to other things at the time. She is just … I mean, duh! You know? It just blew me away to hear her like that. I can’t believe it. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to get to hear this person’s voice like that.
Does it still freak you out to get the phone call to sing with her?
Unbelievable. That would never, ever do anything but shock me. To meet her face to face, I was always just a basket case. It was the most welcoming, loving personality. … She’s just so loving and encouraging just by the way she says hello to you. … I gotta be all right if she’s saying hello to me like that. I’ve never seen her treat anybody but that way. Anybody and everybody, just like that. So amazing and very sweet.
Any bluegrass bands right now that you’re really loving?
Dale Ann Bradley. Have you heard her? (looks at her goosebumps again) I can’t talk about her. She’s really great. She’s a really special singer.
When you’re making the media rounds, have you had the chance to meet any famous people?
Oh, you know who I saw? … Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan. I was a little bit freaked about that. Pretty freaked out about Chaka Khan. And Pink. I just love her. And Prince! I saw Prince, and that was unbelievable. Not at one of those talk shows, but he was in rehearsal. Oh, my gosh, that was really awesome. But Chaka! She’s beautiful…. She’s awesome. … I was wearing this pair of shoes and she goes, “I like your shoes,” and I said, (freaking out) “Oh, what size are you? You can have them! I’ll give them to you right now!” But she had littler feet than I did.
It seems that you’ve been more visible on the red carpet lately. What is that like?
I used to never do that. I always avoided all that. Just in the last two years, there’s been a lady helping with clothes! (laughs) It’s such a struggle to figure out. … I don’t know what I’m doing. I never have. It’s very strange to have anybody to comment on my looks, other than, “Go take a shower. Don’t pick your face.” That kind of thing.
People will ask me, “What is Alison Krauss like? Is she serious?” But they’re surprised when I tell them that you are actually a really funny person.
A lot of people will say, “Oh, you’re not what I thought you’d be like.” I’ve heard that before. I say, “What did you expect me to be like?” and I’ve heard, “Serious.” … That’s funny. Not that I’m not serious, but … I don’t know what I’m trying to say. … We take music pretty seriously. We lose sleep, like everybody does, about something they want to get right. We seriously work, but boy, you’d stay in the hospital if we stayed serious like that all the time. (laughs) You can’t do that.
— Angela Gimlin of CMT Radio contributed to this report.