Interviews

'Still Woman Enough': Loretta Lynn's Daughter Patsy on Co-Writing Her Mom's 'Girl Anthem' & Why She Loves 'Feisty Loretta'

David McClister

With Still Woman Enough, country legend Loretta Lynn celebrates her 50th solo studio album, a career-spanning project, which pairs her with Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood ("Still Woman Enough"), Margo Price ("One's On the Way") and Tanya Tucker ("You Ain't Woman Enough"). But there's still no bigger fan of Loretta Lynn than her daughter, singer-songwriter and producer, Patsy Lynn Russell.

Lynn, who co-produced Still Woman Enough with fellow country music royalty and lifelong friend John Carter Cash, says, when she was growing up, Loretta Lynn, Country Music Superstar, was always just "mom."

"The moment she walked in the door, she wanted to cook dinner for her kids. She wanted to be a mom. She didn't want to be Loretta Lynn, country singer," Russell tells Wide Open Country. "She just wanted to be Loretta Lynn, Mooney Lynn's wife and these kids' mom."

These days, however, Russell says she and her superstar mom have an "expanded" relationship: creative partners.

"Most kids, they don't know what their parents do at work. I'm getting to go along to the job with her," Russell says. "She respects your opinion. She wants to listen to what you have to say creatively as well. I tell everybody I've been so blessed because I get to know my mom on a whole other level through getting to be creative with her in the studio and songwriting."

For Still Woman Enough, the follow up to 2018's Wouldn't It Be Great (also co-produced by Russell and Carter Cash), Lynn recorded at the Cash Cabin, a log cabin built by Johnny Cash. The Cabin, which was a place of peace for Cash and his family, became a hotspot for entertainers over the years, with visitors ranging from Robert Duvall to Tom Petty.

For Lynn and Russell, the Cash Cabin is a trip back in time.

"You go into to the cabin and John Carter has done an unbelievable job because it's all decorated with furniture from June and John's house. My mom walked and she goes, 'Oh, I remember this couch.' So it's kind of like coming home," Russell says. "I think that the beauty of it is it takes [away] all of the expectations because you're relaxed. My mom never really said anything or desired to get back in the studio and keep cutting songs. She was always writing. And I think coming to the homestead there was the opening to that."

Read More: The 15 Best Loretta Lynn Songs

 

I love feisty Loretta.

 

Re-Telling Her Story

In addition to her tributes to Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Family ("Keep on the Sunny Side") and Hank Williams ("I Saw the Light"), Still Woman Enough features reimagined renditions of "I Wanna Be Free," "One's On the Way" and more.

Russell, who previously recorded as part of the country duo The Lynns alongside her twin sister Peggy, said she was initially uncomfortable with new interpretations of her mom's classic songs.

"She wanted to rerecord some of her old hits and I didn't. I was like, 'No, no, we're not touching the Holy Grail," Russell said, laughing. "Because my favorite as an artist -- as somebody listening -- my favorite music of my mom's is 1960 to like 1974. I just think that that those records were just so good that I just didn't want to mess with that -- I didn't want to redo that. But it was important to my mom."

But Russell soon realized that re-recording her songs was a chance for Lynn to look back at her life with a new perspective. The autobiographical "Coal Miner's Daughter" is now an almost spiritual rececitation and "One's On the Way," a collaboration with Margo Price, she looks back with the wisdom of a trailblazer who did it all and inspired a generation.

"She's laying on her vocal on this track. And all of a sudden it was one of those 'I get it' moments. She was smiling ear to ear and so happy to be recreating the music that made her who she was," Russell says. "She was laying her vocal down as an older Loretta Lynn...[She knew] that music was still so relevant and she wanted to keep talking about, keep singing it and make sure that it just kept going. I was like 'Oh man, I get it now.' It's like re-telling your story. It never gets old."

When asked about her favorite Loretta Lynn song, Russell doesn't hesitate.

"It will always be 'Fist City.' It's the first song when I started singing that I wanted to work up," Russell says. "I love feisty Loretta. It's my favorite of her whole catalog."

Still Woman Enough

From a re-recoring of Lynn's first single "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl" to the fiery title track, Still Woman Enough is a "celebration of women in country music." ("We girl singers gotta stick together," Lynn says in a press release.)

Russell co-wrote "Still Woman Enough," which shares a name with Lynn's 2002 autobiography, with Lynn years ago ("My mom is the queen of one-liners," Russell says), but the song found its perfect home as a collaboration with Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.

"I came up with the chorus for 'Still Woman Enough' and then mom pounced right in with those verses," Russell says. "As soon as she started singing those verses -- this was years ago -- she turns around and goes, 'I'm gonna call Reba and have her come in and sing this with me'... It was just a comment she made. Then she's starting her vocals and she goes 'Y'all need to get Reba on the phone because I want her to come in and sing it with me.' It wasn't but a few days later when Carrie Underwood sang 'You Ain't Woman Enough' on the CMAs. Mom calls me and it's like 10 o'clock at night and she goes 'Honey, you need to get Carrie too. Me, Reba and Carrie are going to sing 'Still Woman Enough.'"

In the studio, "Still Woman Enough" became a female empowerment anthem on par with "The Pill."

"All of a sudden it becomes this girlfriend song... After they got the vocals done on it, I was telling mom, 'I feel it's like a bunch of girlfriends, like a girl anthem.' And she said, 'Well, I told ya, that's why we wrote it that way.' I didn't write it that way. I wrote it thinking of mom. But mom heard it in a whole different way. That's why she's Loretta Lynn and I'm not," Russell said, laughing.

The collaboration marks the first time McEntire and Lynn have recorded a song together, a beyond-full-circle moment for both McEntire and Russell.

"They had never recorded together before. Reba said 'I can check this off my list...When I was a little girl, I walked around the house singing 'Don't Come Home A-Drinkin'' and 'You Ain't Woman Enough.' Those have been my go-to songs my entire life.' I started laughing because, when I was a little girl, the very first song I ever sang on a tape recorder with a karaoke track was Reba McEntire's 'How Blue.' So for me it was like, this is more than full circle. This is crazy."

 

Still Woman Enough is available here.

Now Watch: Every Country Music Fan Should Visit Butcher Holler, Kentucky

recommended for you

'Still Woman Enough': Loretta Lynn's Daughter Patsy on Co-Writing Her Mom's 'Girl Anthem' & Why She Loves 'Feisty Loretta'