"She has this way of writing honest songs that draw people in and connect people: her songs relate to everyone": Warren Haynes on working with Dolly Parton

Warren Haynes sitting at a table, plus (inset) Dolly Parton riding a motorcycle
(Image credit: Warren Haynes: Hervin Lainez | Dolly Parton: Butterfly Records)

Known for his work with the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead and Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes is blues-rock royalty. No wonder, then, that the guitarist was one of the musicians asked to appear on Dolly Parton’s Rockstar album.


How did you become involved with Dolly’s rock album? 

I got a call from the producer, Kent Wells, who I’ve known for a few years, asking if I would be interested in playing and possibly singing on Dolly’s record. I immediately responded with: “Absolutely!” Then he said the song was also gonna be with Steven Tyler. I was like, great! I’m a big fan of them both. It was an exciting moment, getting asked to be a part of something that monumental and historic. I heard about Dolly turning down being part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because she wasn’t a rock artist, and saying, well maybe I’ll do a rock record. And then actually doing it! That whole process was fabulous. 

What was it like working on the track? 

I did my part separately, so I was in the studio by myself. I would have preferred to be in the same room as them, but it doesn’t always work out. 

Have you been a fan of Dolly’s for a long time? 

Always. Since I was a kid. I still remember when she had her TV show. She’s one of those people that gets even better with time. Her voice is amazing, her persona as an artist is amazing, but a lot of people overlook the fact that she’s such a tremendous songwriter. She’s written so many great songs through the years, and I think that’s one of the things that justifies her timelessness. I have an enormous amount of respect for her.

What is it about Dolly that appeals to the rock world?

I think it’s honesty. She has this way of writing honest songs that draw people in and connect people: her songs relate to everyone. It’s not like only a certain audience can relate to Dolly’s songs. She reaches across the board. She’s one of those rare artists, like Willie Nelson, that somehow has appeal to people in all different genres because her music is genuine.

What do you think you have in common with Dolly?

I’m from Asheville, North Carolina, and she’s from right across the border in Tennessee, about forty-five minutes away. That region is so powerful in its own way. It’s unique, and people from that region share a bond. And then there’s her perseverance: she paved the way for people to do what they love and get away with it. And I’m one of those people.

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.