Dolly Parton, the reigning queen of Tennessee and charitable efforts, recently stopped by National Geographic to discuss two of her favorite things about her home state: its music and its nature. Just in time for Earth Day, the country legend spoke with National Geographic Travel’s Amy Alipio about her thoughts on climate change, the music of the Smoky Mountains, and how the state’s landscape played into her tune “My Tennesee Mountain Home” — which was just unanimously voted as Tennessee’s new state song.
“We should pay more attention to how we’re treating our mountains, how we’re treating our world, how we’re just treating everything,” Parton said. “We’re just mistreating Mother Nature. That’s, like, being ugly to your mama, you know? That’s like being disrespectful, you know? Seriously. So, I really think we all need to pay closer attention to taking better care of the things that God gave us freely and that we’re so freely messing up. We need to rethink that and do better.”
Speaking of mountains, the Smoky Mountains region has bred a rich history of country- and bluegrass-inspired music. But as Parton tells it, the micro-genre has a certain aura that withstands the test of time. “We always had our own mountain music in the Smokies, and we still have that, and I think we’ll always have that,” she said. “There’s still a certain feeling by [making music] in the Smokies that you just feel like you’re on sacred ground. So you respect the land, and you respect what you’re doing.”
If you need an example of Smoky Mountain music, look no further than Parton’s own “My Tennessee Mountain Home.” She told National Geographic that it describes “kids being out in the yard catching junebugs, you know, on a string, and all the things that you do here in the Smokies.”
Indeed, the track embodies the simplicity of the great outdoors when she sings, “In my Tennessee mountain home, life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh/ In my Tennessee mountain home, the crickets sing in the fields nearby.” Listen to it below.
You can read Parton explaining more about the music of the Smokies here, and stay tuned to National Geographic Travel for when her full episode airs.
In more Parton news, she’s nominated for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this year despite an admirable attempt to take her name off the ballot. She’s also set to star in a film adaptation of her recently released novel, Run Rose Run, and may or may not be working on a Broadway play about her life, which may or may not star Kristin Chenoweth.