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11 Quick Questions for Wynonna Judd

The country superstar is singing from the heart

spinner image wynonna judd playing guitar surrounded by trees
Caleb Chandler

For country music star Wynonna Judd, 58, her current tour is an emotional labor of love. The Judds: The Final Tour In Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Naomi Judd pays tribute to her beloved mother, who died in April at age 76. Other talented artists joining her onstage include Ashley McBryde, Kelsea Ballerini, Tanya Tucker, Little Big Town and Brandi Carlile.  

How do you prepare for a tour that requires so much of you physically and mentally?

I’m walking every day. I’m drinking lots of water and I’m crying a lot. [January 11 was] my mother’s birthday. She would have been 77, so there’s a lot of emotions around that. I’m just walking through all of the stages of grieving as well as making a new record. In between all these things, I try to be as present and fully awake as I can be in the moment.

Do you have a favorite song of your mother’s?

“My Strongest Weakness.” She wrote it for me and I sing it because it’s just powerful and vulnerable and it makes people cry. It’s a lot.

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Besides your mother, who are your musical inspirations?

The women who experienced a great deal of pain are the singers that I respond to the most: Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner. Women who went through hell and survived it by singing about it and through it.

spinner image wynonna judd playing guitar and singing on stage with daughter naomi who is also singing
Wynonna is touring in honor of her late mother, Naomi Judd, who died last year. The two perfomed for years together as the successful mother-daughter duo, The Judds.
Mindy Small/FilmMagic/Getty Images

What’s on your playlist?

Classic rock. Anything ’60s and ’70s … because it’s back when people were responding to the human condition. There was something so raw and real and so authentic about that music that you just feel the strength and the vulnerability behind that.

You record and tour with amazing musicians. Is there anyone left on your dream list to sing with?

I always have a list. I have so many. Linda Ronstadt, but she’s not singing anymore. Joni Mitchell. The ones that came before me. Joni Mitchell is my “shero.” She’s my absolute go-to number one songwriter, singer, musician. You don’t find that anymore — the ones who can sit down at the piano and play a song and sing it. It comes from their gut, from a deep place. I’m responding to these women because they are queens.

What did your Dancing With the Stars experience teach you?

I learned that I can do anything. I have neuropathy, and I can’t really feel the bottom of my feet, so yeah let’s sign up for Dancing With the Stars. … I picked it because I have a thing that I pick something that scares me to death once a year and I do it. I’m known for that, whether it’s bungee jumping or signing up for some class that terrifies me. Speaking terrifies me, so I signed up for speaking engagements during that time. It’s important to come out of your comfort zone. I learn more from my failures than my successes.

Do you have something scary picked out for 2023?

I have no idea what it is yet. This tour has been really both heaven and hell at times. I’m doing a documentary, and they’ve been following me through the tour, and there are moments I’m in tears and I said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” And then there are moments where I stand on stage in victory — and a standing ovation is occurring — and I’m just standing there in the light literally and figuratively, and I’m just amazed at how holy that moment is. So I go through the heaven and hell scenario quite often just because I put myself out there.

If you didn’t have your glorious voice, what would you be doing?

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I’m a farmer. I’m literally a farmer. I would go into farming full time. I raise my garden and I cook. I’m a chef in my spare time. I’m working on a cookbook. I cooked for 40 people over Thanksgiving. Also, perhaps, produce other artists. I would start a company, mentorships, about teaching the next generation of greatness. I’m mentoring several different singers that are in their 20s, and I take great pride in teaching them.

You’ve done some acting as well. Did your sister [actress Ashley Judd] give you any acting advice?

She did. I loved what she said so much. She said: “You read the words like you’re learning a song.” You don’t try to put emotion in it at first. You just say the words over and over, and before you know it, you have memorized it. That’s the way you learn them authentically. Then, when they say “action,” you punch with emotion. It’s really good because it’s very similar [to] the way I learn songs, so Ashley and I do something very similar. We learn words and we learn how to emote and how to project and how to share with other people our feelings.

Is your life outlook different in your 50s than it was in your 40s?

Big freaking time. I am so different at 58½. … I am so convinced that I talk too much that I’m learning to listen more. I squeeze my butt together when I start to talk too much and it reminds me to stop talking. I wiggle my toes and I remind myself, Be quiet. I have a big table in the kitchen where you can sit 14, and when the kids are around the table, it’s important to listen and not tell them how smart they are because they don’t care.

Have you thought about what your 60th birthday will look like?

I’m going to go to Italy and rent a house for a month and just experience life in another country and do something completely different than I’ve ever done in my life. My mother’s death has taught me to do things like that.

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