Dolly Parton on Pandemic-Themed Music and Identifying as a "Songteller"

Stephen Colbert and Dolly Parton on 'The Late Show'
Best Possible Screen Grab/CBS 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Stephen Colbert and Dolly Parton on 'The Late Show'

"I really think of myself as a songteller, because I write songs, but I tell stories," said Dolly Parton, explaining the name of her memoir,  Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.

She added that the book contains a number of stories about how she wrote certain songs and what she was feeling at the time. Parton also talked about how she loves to write and perform, but there’s something about writing songs that is her "personal time with God." It’s her "quiet time" where she can express herself, sort of like therapy.

She also loves when different people interpret her songs, because the sound and feelings can change so much depending on their arrangement, how they are produced and performed. Parton specifically talked about Whitney Houston's cover of  "I Will Always Love You." When Parton first heard it, she couldn’t believe it was her song.

Later in the interview, Parton spoke of her mother, who she says was a good singer and would sing songs like "Bury Me Beneath the Willow Tree" acapella at home.

Parton, who has a new album out called A Holly Dolly Christmas, also wrote a pandemic-themed song called "When Life is Good Again." She told Colbert, "I felt really glad to write that," noting that it is uplifting with lyrics like, "When life is good again, I'll be a better friend, a better person."

"I can't wait for this year to be over, can you?" Parton exclaimed.

Colbert wouldn't let Parton leave without naming her top three songs from her own body of work. "The Coat of Many Colors" was Parton's first pick, with the singer noting that it is about her mother and about family, acceptance, tolerance, and also speaks to bullying.

"All singers like to have a song that you can sing tender and then go big," said Parton, naming "I Will Always Love You" as the second choice.

And for the last, she summoned the tune "Down From Dover," a lesser known track about a girl that got pregnant and had to leave home and live on a farm. "Back when they released it [in 1970], they wouldn't put it on the radio," said Parton, joking that now you can practically have a baby on television.

Parton concluded, "Most of the songs I love the best are ones no one has ever heard."