Country star Tanya Tucker on her first album in nearly 20 years

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Tanya Tucker at KCRW. Photo by Christopher Ho/KCRW

Country singer Tanya Tucker was only 13 years old when her first single “Delta Dawn” became a major success.

From her teens onward, Tucker went from playing honky-tonks to performing at the Super Bowl. She sung among contemporaries such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Emmylous Harris, and more.

Now Tucker is out with her first album in nearly 20 years, titled “While I’m Livin.” It’s produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings.

Tucker tells Press Play that the collaboration started coming together when Shooter Jennings was producing a show at the Hall of Fame in Nashville, and he asked her if she would sing “Would You Lay With Me?” as part of the show. 

She recalls that after she did the song, Shooter said, “I'd love to do an album on you." She suggested it was great but didn’t think much more about it. Shooter then mentioned the project to Brandi Carlile, who was a huge fan of Tucker’s (unbeknownst to Tucker herself), and wanted to be involved in the album’s production. 

Carlile chose the title of the album. "Sometimes you get the awards after you die, and people don't really recognize you until you're gone,” Tucker says. “And I think that was part of the reason [Brandi] decided to name it ‘While I'm Livin,’ which is a song that her and I wrote together.”

One track Tucker spent 30 years working on is “Bring My Flowers Now.”

"I never could figure out, even when I was a kid, why people sent flowers after you're gone, you know?,” Tucker says. “And the only people that could really get to see them was maybe the family or people that are at the funeral. So I just sort of felt like that if you bring the flowers, you should bring them while we can enjoy them. And that sort of was my perspective.” 

Looking back on her career, Tucker credits her father with helping her develop her stage presence and vocal style. She recalls that when she was young, he told her there were two problems: she was a girl, and she was a 9-year-old girl. 

She quotes her father, “For people to understand and relate and get into what you're saying, they're not going to believe you at 9 years old. So you're going to have to sing it with more emotion than they did. And they're gonna forget how young you are, and only think about how much feeling you put in that song, even though you don't have the experience."  

Tucker says that was the mindset he instilled in her, and “it still transfers every time I walk on stage."

--Written by Amy Ta and Rosalie Atkinson, produced by Rosalie Atkinson