Jennifer Nettles on Watching Dolly Parton Be Herself

Hosts CMA Country Christmas and Talks Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love

For months now, it has been the most wonderful time of the year for Jennifer Nettles.

Her first holiday collection To Celebrate Christmas landed on Oct. 28 and she appears in two holiday specials airing this week — ABC’s CMA Country Christmas and NBC’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. You’d think she’s part elf because leading up to our she had been working since her feet hit the floor at 5:50 a.m.

“I’m feeling good,” she said. “With this business, there are periods of time that require a lot and there are down times. The balance is in the extremes I guess.”

Backstage at the CMA Country Christmas taping, she said hosting the annual special for seven years helped her pick out the songs for To Celebrate Christmas.

“I like to think that it took me seven years to really audition all this music to find out what I wanted to sing the most,” she said. “And I kind of felt like it was about time. It was the year to do it.”

Dolly Parton also loved Nettles’ version of “Circle of Love” on the album.

“Dolly wrote me an e-mail, and I of course took a picture of it and saved it,” Nettles said. “She just said how much she loved the Christmas album and how proud she was of my performance of ‘Circle of Love’ on the album. Yeah, I was pretty blown away by that.”

On Wednesday (Nov. 30), Nettles reprises her role as Parton’s mother Avie Lee Parton in Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, the sequel to 2015’s Coat of Many Colors. She called working with the living legend one of the greatest gifts of her career.

“She’s hotter now at this point in her career than she was at the hottest point then,” Nettles added. “She continues to have such relevance. She is something to watch. She is so quick, so fun and we actually work very similarly. We both love words. We both love puns very much, and she’s super fast in terms of her humor. She just has a super quick whip smart and I love getting to watch her be herself. She’s so authentic and so funny. We should all be so lucky as to have such a career.”

Annette Brown/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love shares the next chapter of the Parton family as they face an unexpected blizzard and make sacrifices to raise enough money to buy a wedding ring for mother Avie Lee. Parton appears in the special as the local “painted lady.”

“There’s a fun nativity scene that’s craziness at the school,” Nettles said. “There’s a near-death experience in a mine, and there’s a near-death experience in a blizzard. It’s high drama and high laughter.”

She added that the show opener for tonight’s (Nov. 28) CMA Country Christmas is a must-see.

“I don’t really know if it’s the best idea to have started dancing when I was 40,” she said. “At least that’s how I feel the next day as I’m in my Epsom Salt bath. But I do certainly enjoy it. I love everything that the choreographers and the producers put into the show. So I look forward to that especially this year. I think it’s pretty stellar.”

Jason Davis/FilmMagic
Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.