Country music legend Tanya Tucker has been enjoying a career resurgence of late, a phenomenon due not only to her talent but also to the efforts of a fellow country superstar, Brandi Carlile.
It was Carlile who helped convince Tucker to come out of semi-retirement and record While I’m Livin’, her first album in 17 years. The process of making that record, and what it meant for Tucker to re-enter the spotlight, is documented in The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile, directed by Kathlyn Horan.
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The film explores why Tucker, who shot to fame as a teenager with the hit single “Delta Dawn,” kept to the sidelines for so long.
“She chose to step away. She had lost her parents. And a lot of what this film is, it’s an exploration of this grief process,” Horan explained during an appearance at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary event. “She says she lost her mojo, and she didn’t want to do it anymore because her father was her manager for so much of her career. And then she just kind of didn’t know what to do or how to approach it without that. And it took Shooter [Jennings] and Brandi to create the space for her to want to step back into it.”
With coaxing from Carlile and Jennings (son of country music great Waylon Jennings), Tucker got that mojo back, a process that unfolds in the film.
“Tanya is just a vibrant artist in every way and has so much more to give,” Horan said. “We get to see that through the journey as she goes from this extremely vulnerable, terrified place to gaining her confidence and seeing the possibilities of her future.”
One of the themes of the documentary is the double standard Tucker faced as a woman in country music. Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and George Jones, for instance, were celebrated for their hard living, but Tucker’s partying and romantic relationship with singer Glen Campbell earned her rebukes.
“One of the many great things about Tanya is that she doesn’t resent any of that. You know, she makes a joke about it,” Horan said. “She sort of dusts it off and moves forward. But the reality is, at a time when she was out having fun. … You know, I’m sure, the legendary story about George Jones, who drunk drove a tractor to the liquor store because his wife took the car keys away — he got a mural in Nashville and Tanya gets a wagging finger.”
Check back Wednesday for the panel video.
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