“I really encourage you to dream more and dream big and certainly to care more,” Dolly Parton told several hundred women attending the inaugural Red Tent Women’s Conference in downtown Nashville on Friday evening (April 18).
“Living in America and, of course, just being women in general, we’ve got more strength than we think we do,” said the iconic singer-songwriter who addressed a giddy crowd in the large ballroom of the DoubleTree Hotel.
Supporting her sister, Stella Parton, who founded the three-day event aimed at emboldening women to live fulfilled and authentic lives, the country music icon helped kickoff the weekend on the right foot … or stiletto.
Dressed in a sparkling red and customary figure-hugging ensemble accompanied by a guitar with twinkling accents, the Country Music Hall of Fame member glimmered onstage as she shared impassioned words and a few fitting tunes.
Beginning with her upbeat and popular early ’80s hit “9 to 5,” the theme song from her first movie by the same name that was later adapted into a Broadway play, she also performed her sassy and appropriate number for the occasion, “PMS Blues.”
“I have a great love and a great respect for women, in general, and I write a lot about the things that move me and touch me,” she said before launching into her empowering song, “Eagle When She Flies.”
“Above everything else I’ve done, I’ve always said I’ve had more guts than I’ve got talent,” Parton told the crowd. “I just had enough talents to carry me through. This is what I always wanted to do, and I’ve been through a lot. It ain’t all glamour — that is certainly true — but it’s been worth it for me. And above everything else, I have always tried.”
Aptly, she then launched into her inspiring tune, “Try.”
The evening began long before Parton took the stage. Her younger sister welcomed the crowd with a few words and songs followed by a performance from accomplished vocalist Mandy Barnett as well as a few tunes from an all-star female band including vocalists and musicians like Anita Cochran, Jonell Mosser, Michelle Poe and Odessa Settles, among others.
For the evening’s finale, the women returned to the stage in front of the red velvet backdrop to sing an encouraging number co-written by the Parton sisters for the special night.
Nearly a dozen women spoke throughout the rest of the weekend, including Vera Bradley founder Patricia Miller, Grammy-winning songwriter Gretchen Peters and Nashville chef Margot McCormack, to name a few.
Parton will release her newest project Blue Smoke — her first album in three years — on May 13. The 12-track album will feature her Grammy-nominated duet with Kenny Rogers, “You Can’t Make Old Friends” as well as a collaboration with Willie Nelson on “From Here to the Moon and Back.”
The second leg of her accompanying Blue Smoke World tour will resume May 22 in Tulsa, Okla.