Tanya Tucker has done it all. During her four-decade career, the country singer has had 23 top 40 albums, 56 top 40 hit singles, and 10 number 1 songs.
But it hasn’t been easy. The road to her horizon has been paved with addiction, high-profile relationships (many ending in heartbreak) and battles with depression. Ever the survivor, Miss Tucker keeps on, with 2016 finding the original “Delta Dawn” getting the due and respect she deserves with an exhibit at the Nashville Music Hall of Fame Museum, a new album in the works and a tour that will bring her to The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Feb. 15th.
Miss Tucker discussed defeating her demons, the love of her life, Glen Campbell, and paving the way from Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift.
Question: You started your career so young. How did you know you wanted to be a singer?
Answer: When I was a kid I liked to sing. Kind of rolled into doing it more than I thought. [laughs] I had a goal at a young age to be a singer, and I just happened to have a dad who believed in me and helped me to reach my goals.
Q: When was the first time you sang in front of an audience?
A: I was about 8 years old and Mel Tillis came to town. We were living in a little place called Douglas, Arizona, and he was playing the county fair. I went up and asked I could sing for him. I did, and he put me on his show.
Q: You ended up singing professionally in Las Vegas as a teenager. What was that like?
A: I was 14. I had several number one records out and was playing three shows a night. It was hard work. [laughs] I was still trying to go to school.
I would come home from the shows at 2 in the morning and then get up at 7:30 to go to school. Pretty soon it got so hard, I couldn’t do both. From there my career took off.
Q: I hear you are working on a new album.
A: Yes. I did all the work here in Nashville at different studios. Something about Nashville — it just has the music in it. There is still some mixing and mastering to do. I may cut a few more songs.
It’s called “Messes.” It should be playing in every rehab center in the world. [laughs]
Q: Why did you take a four-year break from touring?
A: I was just kind of run down, frustrated and disillusioned. All those things. Had a rough bout with depression. It was time for me to get off the road and live life for a little bit.
Q: You mentioned depression. I know you have struggled with your demons, so how did you finally beat them?
A: Lot of support from my family and friends. I have some great friends. And some doctors, combined with the will to want to get better. Because nobody wants to be depressed. Especially me.
I have always been the life of the party. When I got to the point where I wasn’t anymore, I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was. Once you figure it out, you can start to fix the problem. It’s a day-to-day struggle.
Q: Was Glen Campbell the love of your life?
A: Absolutely. I just found the love of my life too soon in life. I didn’t know how to appreciate it and wasn’t mature enough to handle it. I know that if I would have married him he wouldn’t be in a home. That’s for damn sure. He would be at home, being cared for around the clock, by me and whoever else I needed to take care of him.
I’ve joined forces with Glen’s oldest kids, who have not been allowed to see him. They have no rights. I think something needs to be done about making a law. I don’t think he is as sick as they say. I’ve seen videos of him, and it doesn’t look like he is on his last leg to me. I’m going before the House of Representatives here in Nashville to try and get this law passed that gives kids more rights.
Q: When is last time you saw or talked to him?
A: It’s been years. Years. Years. Years. I’m certainly not allowed to see him. I get that. I don’t know what [Mr. Campbell’s current wife] thinks I’m gonna do, try to steal him away or what? It’s just kinda sad. I think about him all the time.
Q: How did the exhibit at the Nashville Music Hall of Fame come together?
A: They just asked me. I thought it was a little premature but said OK. I was in Colorado, and the exhibit made me end up coming back to Nashville. When I did, the wheels started going, and pretty soon I had a new manager, new band. And we’re going on the road again. All that happened from that exhibit.
I approved all the stuff that went in. I was very flattered, and it got me back to Nashville.
Q: You’ve paved the way for so many young female artists. Have people like Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert ever thanked you?
A: Well, not that I know of. Not that I personally have read. I hear all the time from people that tell me, “Miranda [Lambert] said you were her inspiration.” But I personally haven’t heard or read anything. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I really like Miranda’s music. She’s got my vote.
Q: What is the secret to your longevity?
A: Just perseverance. Wanting to do it.
And the fans. They have been very vocal about me not being on the road. Wherever I go, even in the grocery store, people will be like, “What are you doing? We need you out here! We need you on the road. We miss you!” That’s why I’m back out here.
Tanya Tucker plays The Birchmere, located at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. in Alexandria, Virginia, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15. Tickets are $55 by going to Birchmere.com.