Songwriter Linda Perry jumped at the opportunity to work with Dolly Parton on the movie “Dumplin.'” Initially the prolific musician was hired to recreate one of the country legend’s classic tunes and possibly write an original one, “but as soon as I got in the door,” she reveals, “I was like, I’m doing a whole album, baby. I don’t care what you guys want, but this is going to be Dolly Parton’s next album.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Perry above.
Based on the bestselling young adult novel by Julie Murphy, “Dumplin'” centers on Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), a plus-size teenager whose mother (Jennifer Aniston) was a former beauty queen. She enters the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest, which inspires more nontraditional contestants to compete. Parton and Perry composed six original tunes for the film, including the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominated “Girl in the Movies.”
Perry describes Parton as the kind of collaborator who “lifts people up. She doesn’t want to bring anybody down. In fact, she will put herself in the ground before letting someone fall. I can’t believe I’ve gone this whole time without meeting her and creating with her,” considering that they seemed to have “the same creative mind.”
But Perry went into the process with tempered expectations. “Everybody was telling me that Dolly hasn’t written with somebody in a long time,” she recalls. “I was being set up for nothing to happen.” Perry won her over, however, with the initial riff of “Girl in the Movies,” which Parton immediately responded to.
The song is based on Willowdean’s relationship with her mother, who is “distracted by beauty” and believes competing in a pageant makes her “socially amazing.” Her daughter, meanwhile, “is awkward. She starts off wanting to do this pageant to basically teach her mom a lesson, but in the same breath she realizes how insecure she really is. Her life, in her mind, would be easier if she was the girl her mother wanted her to be.”
In addition to her Globe and Critics’ Choice bids this year, Perry has been nominated for three Grammys. She contended for Song of the Year in 2004 for “Beautiful,” which was performed by Christina Aguilera, and this year she’s up for Producer of the Year. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
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