On this special edition of THE INTERVUE, I am at the Salamander Resort, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Middleburg Film Festival. Now, if I say “Delta Dawn” to you, who do you think about? That’s right, the firecracker that is Tanya Tucker. And there is a new documentary from Sony Pictures Classics, “The Return of Tanya Tucker – featuring Brandi Carlisle”. And here to tell us about this amazing documentary is the director Kathlyn Horan.
Welcome to THE INTERVUE, Kathryn!
Thank you. Great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Well, its so wonderful to talk about this amazing documentary. It’s such a wonderful singer. That’s Tanya Tucker. So how did the project pique your interest in the first place?
So, the project began by me getting a text from Brandi Carlisle’s wife, who said, “you want to hear something crazy?” So I answered, “how could I not?” We hopped on the phone and she told me that Brandi said that she was going back going to the studio, and she was going to produce Tanya’s first record. She along with Shooter Jennings, Waylon Jennings’ son, the first record in about 17 years. And she had spoken to Rick Rubin, who had done the Johnny Cash “American Recordings” project and he said to “Brandi, “make sure you document it, whatever you do.”
So, she asked me! She knew that I was from I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. So being from the south, I was a fan of Tanya. And so she asked if I wanted to do it. And I said, “Absolutely, when do we start?” And she said, “Tomorrow?” Well, so I pulled together a crew, as I gave me an hour to see if my people are available. I spoke to my DP Jessica Young and it was miraculous that she was available. My other friend, Denise, came down, and we put a little crew together and started filming the next day. And then what you see is what what’s revealed in the film.
You mentioned moments ago that you’re a fan of Tanya Tucker, when did you first hear her music?
She was kind of everywhere, you know, the music is just part of the world. And so, she was a household name. Of course, “Delta Dawn“ was probably the first one that that came to mind, but she was just a pervasive part of the landscape. I can’t say like, the first moment that I heard the song, but it was around, and she was around. I think probably in my early 20s, I got very interested in some of the earlier country music like Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline, and started listening more specifically to that type of music. Music was always in my house. I grew up with a very musical household, but my parents are Yankees. So there was a lot of Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, but so the country side of stuff just sort of came from the world outside.
That’s wonderful to hear. I read that you captured some of moments of Brandi and Tanya, for a couple years, especially when they won the 2019 Grammy for Best Country Album and Best Song, how does it feel to be the fly on the wall to capture their amazing win for this one for album?
Yeah, that was incredible. And honestly, when we went into the studio, and on day two, like we captured them first meeting each other like Tanya never heard of Brandi before this began. And then they we see them on film meet for the first time, go into the studio. And Tanya is recording in a whole new way that she hadn’t before. Because 20 years ago, it was recording to tape and more one takes rather than a lot of these vocal comps and things the way that stuff is done today. And Brandi was by her side, pushing her through her fears. And there’s a lot of vulnerability in this film as they move forward.
And you really see this friendship begin. And on day two, I think everyone felt what was happening there was truly magical. I’ve been in a lot of studios and it’s always enjoyed to be a part of a witness to the creation of music and there was something really incredible about this. All of us had this feeling that there was going to be a journey to the Grammys to come wasn’t guaranteed but we definitely felt that that was that was going to happen, and which makes for a great arc for the film to follow it all the way through to the win, she bought four nominations to wins, and it’s the first wins of her career.
Now, you mentioned about the creative process, especially when it comes to music, getting to see it from the ground up to where it culminates to the Grammy Awards. I want you to tell us from your perspective, what was it like to be there from the beginning to where it is now.
It was incredible. I mean, it was a gift for to number one to be called. And to be able to have that happen. I went into it thinking I was just going to do a film strictly about Tanya, a biopic in a more traditional way. Then when I saw the relationship with Brandi and Tanya emerge, and then this journey to capture an award, where she you know, Tanya has this icon, and a lot of what Brandi & Shooter wanted to do is kind of get her in her proper place in history and get her the recognition that she deserved, which comes in a lot of ways.
And awards aren’t necessarily, you know, don’t mean the most, but it’s still great to be recognized by your peers and the way that she did. So, it was a joy to be on that process and see the inner workings of everything and all the steps. So we see the record made we see it, her to hearing it for the first time we see them go back out, take it out into the world and do the first shows that you really get to see the actual, the journey of what it takes and sort of the inside story of what it’s like to be in to be an artist and, and put a record out.
What was one facet that you learned about Tanya, throughout the process of filming the documentary that surprised you?
So, it what’s interesting as being such a fan of Tanya, and there’s the mythological Tanya, and sometimes you wonder, is that the real person or is it not? And Tanya is a lot of that myths. She was that and more. Sometimes they say be careful to meet your heroes, which was what Brandi was going through and myself as well, being more of the observer. And in this case, that’s one of the best things that could have happened.
I picked a surprising thing for me about Tanya is the vulnerability that she showed, because we’ve all known her as this tough person. But she will also know that underneath that toughness is usually someone with a lot of sensitivity. Her willingness to let us film everything and never wants to put the camera down or step back. That was surprising to me because someone that that much of a legend and that much of an icon you might think would have different ideas or protections. And Tanya was just like, Yeah, this is me.
Especially with Tanya, she started in her teens with her career, and she’s still in the business today as some staying power, especially with country fans across the country and around the world. And her fans are incredible. That’s the type of fans that always say, “that’s our Tanya, when you’re in part of the family”. I want the fans to be happy, because I think to achieve that Tanya so true, real and authentic that the Tanya in this film is exactly that and more. She’s sensitive, vulnerable and hilarious. And it’s a fun ride all the way through.
How does it feel to have your film at Middleburg Film Festival for its 10th anniversary?
That’s incredible. And this is a festival like no other. You know, I just went to the Women and Film luncheon, which was a blast and that Sheila Johnson put together this thing. I’m always admiring folks that have a vision and decide to put something together and within 10 years to have a film at a festival like this. That’s the place that people want to be and, you know, it’s no easy task. And so, we’ve got the best of the best films here. And it’s exciting to be a part of it. And in such an incredible location.
You’re right. Now do you have a favorite Tanya Tucker song?
I would say “Blood Red and Goin’ Down”. In fact, we were just talking about that at the luncheon that someone was saying they remember growing up listening to that song, driving to the grocery store somewhere in around these parts but that’s it and it cycles through. I think that that’s one of my tops.
And my final question, for anyone out there listening that wants to become a documentary filmmaker just like you, what advice would you give them?
That’s a good question. My advice would be to never give up. If you have a story that you want to tell and you just keep pushing forward because getting funds isn’t always easy. Once you have the passion and you have the story, and these days, you know you can pick up your phone you can do you can tell a story in a myriad of ways and don’t let anything stop you
See this documentary “The Return of Tanya Tucker featuring Brandi Carlisle” from Sony Pictures Classics. There’s gonna be more interviews at Middleburg Film Festival 10th anniversary