There’s an argument to be made that no other living artist has been so universally beloved and respected as long as Dolly Parton has. The country crooner has placed more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts over the past half century; she has also recorded over 40 Top 10 country albums and earned nearly 50 Grammy nominations.
Why even up in hipster Brooklyn, we love Dolly earnestly with all our hearts. If you’re looking for proof, you can find it in the rising popularity of Parton cover band Doll Parts. Julia Sirna-Frest, one of the band’s lead vocalists, tells me, “I like to say that Doll Parts is not a tribute band; we’re a rock band that just happens to play Dolly Parton songs. We love the glamour of Dolly, but we don’t do wigs or stuffed bras. We’re all about honoring her artistry as a composer and singer.”
In advance of Doll Parts’s headline show, Dollylujah (Amen!), on July 19 at Industry City’s Courtyard, we spoke with the band about Parton’s lasting influence, the best songs from her formidable back catalog, and how the artist manages to be so many things to so many people.
What Should We Do?!: How does one start a Dolly Parton cover band? Do you just get up one day and take the plunge?
Julia Sirna-Frest (vocals and ukelele): More or less! As it happens, back in 2011, my husband, William, woke me up in the middle of the night and said that I should start a Dolly Parton cover band and name it Doll Parts! I guess dreams do come true.
WSWD: Were you all rabid fans as kids?
Maggie Katz (vocals and keys): Surprisingly, none of us grew up with Dolly…our loss! As the band started gigging around and evolving, we’ve been diving deeper into her work and discovering just how deep and wide her catalog truly is. Dolly has composed more than 3,000 songs, and her career intersects so many genres, that we are always finding new gems to play live.
WSWD: How do you approach reorchestrating and making a song your own?
Shane Chapman (vocals and guitar): We stick to the book pretty closely; Dolly puts so much thought into her compositions. We try to keep it rock-and-roll, so some of her bluegrass songs get a more rhythmic treatment from us. Sometimes we perform with a full horn section, which is our favorite way to play. We are always adding harmonies and switching up who is singing lead. The truth is that it takes the whole lot of us to be just one Dolly.
We’ve been diving deeper into her work and discovering just how deep and wide her catalog truly is. The truth is that it takes the whole lot of us to be just one Dolly.
WSWD: Outside of Ms. Parton, who are the band’s other inspirations?
Katz: Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Kate Bush. When we play live, we’ll throw in a random Fleetwood Mac/Miss Saigon mashup track just to keep people guessing.
WSWD: Parton’s appeal crosses over to the LGBTQ+, punk, and rock communities; what do you think she offers people who wouldn’t otherwise listen to country music?
Sirna-Frest: Dolly is the patron saint of radical acceptance, love, and sequins. She is a strong, self-made woman who followed her dreams to stardom and has paved the road for others to follow. She’s just full of honesty, humor, kindness, and spirit. What’s not to love about Dolly Parton? In our seven years together as a band, I don’t think we ever met a single person who doesn’t love her!
Dolly is the patron saint of radical acceptance, love, and sequins.
WSWD: If I’m visiting from another planet and have never heard a Dolly Parton song, where do you think I should start?
Chapman: If you want a great place to learn about Dolly’s humble beginnings and get a better sense of her quality of songwriting and strength of performance, “Coat of Many Colors” is key. It’s just a beautiful song. Of course, “Jolene” is one of the greatest of all time. “9 to 5” is a classic. “Me and Little Andy” and “Joshua” are great deep cuts.
WSWD: What should we expect to see at a Doll Parts show?
Katz: An epically cathartic, transcendent country performance filled with glitter, horns, and heart. This Thursday, we will be joined by burlesque sensation Darlinda Just Darlinda and What Would Dolly Do? author Lauren Marino, who will be available to sign her book. Plus, we’ve got frosé and cornhole!