Evan Smith: You must be so happy to have your new record out.
Tanya Tucker: Well, yeah. I’m just happy people are still interested. I didn’t know that would happen with a record of covers.
ES: I think it’s about you, but I agree—it’s also about your decision to perform these extraordinary songs.
TT: Most of them were songs that I sang as a youngster, ones that my dad had introduced me to or songs that I had heard all my life and had never sung but had always wanted to. It was a real challenge for me to do them to the best of my ability. You know, you have the original staring you in the face. That’s never bothered me too much, but a few times it has. Like if I hear a Delbert McClinton demo. It’s like, “Whoa, how am I going to beat that?”
ES: The originals were sung not by shrinking violets but by big personalities like Ray Price and Buck Owens, people who play leading roles in the history of country music. And yet listening to your versions, you’ve managed to make them your own.
TT: That’s the ultimate compliment, but I could never make them mine. To me, they’ll never be as good. These folks are my heroes. How can you outdo your heroes? The way I look at it, I’m paying tribute to artists who inspire me.
ES: Tell me about your approach to the material.
TT: I had those songs in my head. On some of them, like “Crazy Arms,” I had a little bit of recoil, because after I finished it, I thought, “Man, maybe I should have done that a little bit more like Ray Price.” And someone said, “No, no, you did your own thing. You didn’t lose the magic.” Some people take originals and make them into something I don’t like, but then some people do something else with them and I think, “Wow, what a difference.” Norah Jones did Hank Williams’s “Cold,