Dolly Parton Calls Songwriting “Better Than A Psychiatrist”


Dolly Parton is a powerhouse of talent not just through her singing voice but her mastery of songwriting. For Parton, many of the lyrics she’s penned are rooted in very real emotions and experiences that can sometimes be biographical.

That is entirely by design, Parton revealed, who said “My songs tell how I feel.” In fact, “I get more out of writing than singing.” For her, songwriting is a kind of therapy where she can put her emotions, and those who know her say the lyrics that reveal the true Parton would surprise fans.


Dolly Parton finds songwriting to be a personal therapy

Dolly Parton finds quality songwriting immensely more important than singing/ Laura Farr/AdMedia

For Parton, being able to write songs—and being able to write songs well—is a priority even above singing. “I feel like anybody can sing,” she reasoned, “but not everybody can write.” Mastering this craft enables her to channel herself into every word she writes.


RELATED: Not Knowing When She Could Afford Food, A Broke Dolly Parton Ate At Grocery Stores

She further explained, “My songs tell how I feel. I get more out of writing than singing. My writing is personal to me. It’s my self-expression. It’s me. I want to be remembered as a good songwriter and stylist and as a person who added something to this world.”

For that reason, she added, “If I had to choose, I guess a lot of people can sing better than me. I’d choose being remembered as a songwriter because my writing is something I take great pride in. Like I say, that’s totally me.”

Art imitates life in ways that may surprise some

Many of her lyrics are derived from her real, sometimes difficult experiences / © Greenwich Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection

In Alanna Nash’s book Dolly, makeup artist Jo Coulter said, “People don’t realize how serious a songwriter she is and how much writing means to her.” She further noted, “It’s her way of expressing a life and she has to have it. She really needs it.”

Parton herself has called songwriting “better than a psychiatrist” because, this way, “I’m able to put the hurtin’ things into my songs and then they don’t hurt me anymore. I get the world to share it.” A burden shared is a burden lessened, after all.

“That’s when the songwriting becomes therapy,” she explained in her book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “I never went to a therapist, because songwriting heals me. With my little guitar, my little head for writing songs, and my gift for rhyming, I can lift myself up.”

Dolly Parton likened the personal experience of songwriting to that of therapy / Greg Gayne / ©Hulu /Courtesy Everett Collection

“Jolene” is famously inspired by her insecurities over her relationship with Carl Dean, which proves to be as enduring as ever 58 years of marriage later.

But there’s also 1971’s “Coat of Many Colors,” telling the story of Parton’s mother stitching together a coat out of rags as a gift to her daughter. Parton’s family grew up remarkably poor, sometimes unable to receive presents during holidays, making any and all resources incredibly important to use to their fullest potential. Into adulthood and building her musical career, Parton certainly utilized the struggles she endured throughout childhood and turned them into art.

Those who know the Jolene singer say fans would be surprised to find out which lyrics are the most her / Tina Rowden / ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

RELATED: Dolly Parton Says “Hard Candy Christmas” Isn’t A Christmas Song, But Something Much Sadder

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