Wynonna Judd was supposed to perform this weekend at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, but COVID-19 had other plans, forcing the historic venue to postpone the gig.
Not to worry, as the country legend instead offered to strum on WTOP via Zoom.
“Everything is not okay and I’m okay with everything,” Judd told WTOP. “It’s a devastatingly beautiful time for music. We’re creating. We’re like farmers. … I’m waiting for the harvest. … What do you do after winter? What do you do after a storm? You live again. After the war, men come home and babies are born nine months later.”
Judd has been quarantining for months on her farm outside of Nashville.
“I’m living out my days with nature,” Judd said. “I’ve been on the farm now eight months, and I’ve left the gate maybe half a dozen times, so it’s been a lonely time. When you’re lonely, for me, isolation on a bad day is solitude on a good day. … I’ve been on the road since 1984 … so this is the longest I’ve ever been home.”
Born “Christina” in Kentucky in 1964, she changed her name to “Wynonna” at age 12.
“Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel gave me my name,” Judd said. “He was doing a song called ‘Route 66’ — ‘Flagstaff, Arizona and don’t forget Winona,’ he would say. Then I found out that Wynonie Harris is a beautiful Black blues singer, and my mom said something about ‘Wynonn-a’ because of the feminine, and here I am.”
After a brief move to Hollywood, her family next moved to Nashville in 1978.
“We were literally in the U-Haul pretty much every couple of years; my mother a gypsy,” Judd said. “We lived in a dilapidated farmhouse. We had a cistern, we grew up without TV and telephone, we lived pretty simple. She’s a nurse, I’m going to high school, graduated ’82, got a record deal in ’83, then we went on the road for 10 years.”
In 1984, the mother-daughter duo The Judds recorded their debut album “Why Not Me,” featuring the Grammy-winning title track and another future Grammy-winning hit, “Mama He’s Crazy,” voted by CMT as one of the Top 100 Country Songs of All Time.
“You knew who it was within a couple of seconds, like when you first heard, ‘I Had a Dream,’ it was like, ‘What is that?'” Judd said. “Today, music is so produced, so slick and almost pop. I would love to see somebody just come on with a guitar and blow people’s minds with their vocals. The closest for me is someone like Chris Stapleton.”
The Judds followed up with three more Grammys for Best Country Duo/Group with “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” (1986), “Give a Little Love” (1988) and “Love Can Build A Bridge” (1990), but working with your mom is never easy.
“It was really hard because I was a teenager and my heart was so free,” Judd said. “I’m a very independent and free spirit. My mom’s very organized. … I’m going, ‘Mother, I don’t want to behave, I want to rock!’ And she’s going, ‘Mind your manners.’ I shared a bus with her for 10 years. I should win the Nobel Peace Prize.”
After six albums as a duo, Wynonna broke off with her solo debut album, “Wynonna” (1992), featuring a pair of No. 1 hits: “I Saw the Light” and “No One Else on Earth.”
“The death of The Judds, the mother-daughter relationship, it changed [things] and I went out on the road by myself and I was really lonely,” Judd said. “It wasn’t exciting, it was terrifying. … I remember mom walking me out to the stage and the rest I don’t remember. I swear. I have to see footage. I think my spirit literally carried me through.”
Her second album featured catchy gems like “Tell Me Why,” “Rock Bottom” and “Girls with Guitars,” while her third album featured the No. 1 single “To Be Loved By You.”
“I had to walk through a lot of those 5-4-3 [countdowns]; somewhere at three, I’m looking for exits. ‘Get me out of here,’ because I’m an introvert,” Judd said. “It took me a while to figure out where and how to just be. Now that I’m 56, I’m chill, but it took me like almost 40 years to get to where I’m just relaxed enough to speak in sentences.”
Today, she’s busy turning her livestreams into a new EP called “Recollections.”
“We started to do Facebook Live, and the next thing I know, we’ve got four, five, six songs,” Judd said. “We just put them on an EP because we want people to hear the live, not the perfection, not all the fixes and all the acrobats. I just want to sing and be heard and connect and remind people that there is hope. That’s what music does.”
In the meantime, she keeps in touch with her colleagues for future collaborations.
“I talk to Loretta Lynn every couple of days,” Judd said. “I literally talked to Diplo the other day. … I’m talking to Def Leppard’s drummer Rick [Allen], I’m talking to Brandi Carlile, I’m getting ready to connect with Kelly Clarkson. … Blake Shelton texted me the other day. … We’re really lonesome for that connection.”