While most of us are keeping pace with the holiday bustle, country music superstar Wynonna is taking herself out of the madness this year. “I’m not doin’ it,” she said. “I’m just not. Not after what I’ve been through this past year.”
In addition to the rigors of touring, recording, and reality TV appearances, she’s spent 18 months assisting in the recovery of her husband and bandmate Cactus Moser, following a near-death motorcycle accident in which he lost part of a leg. As a result, the only giving Wynonna’s interested in this season is a big thanks to a higher power for the good fortune of Moser’s health.
“I’m just happy to have my husband, who is alive,” said Wynonna. “I used to send every Christmas card I can even think of to every single living person on the planet that I even know. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I’ve just reached an age where I just realized I don’t have to anymore, and I’m not going to, because it’s a life zapper.”
Taking her “keep it simple” philosophy to the stage, Wynonna and The Big Noise appear on Friday, December 20 at the Paramount in a stripped down set titled A Simpler Christmas.
“We’re down to acoustic instruments and just our voices, and that’s really scary,” she said. “You can’t hide behind all that production. It’s just real. It’s raw.” Her band includes the remarkably recovered Moser, who is “so fabulous that it’s becoming an issue,” joked Wynonna about her drummer husband.
As half of the mother-daughter musical duo The Judds, Wynonna and her mother Naomi dominated country music charts and awards shows throughout the ’80s, and changed the culture of the Nashville genre.
“My mom taught me really well,” said Wynonna. “She said country music is unlike any other genre. It’s not just about being famous, it’s about connecting, and it’s about communicating, and having a relationship with that fan.”
When Naomi retired due to illness in 1991, Wynonna embarked on a solo career and continued the firestorm of success that began in her teens. She’s now in charge of a multi-million dollar Wynonna brand that includes endorsements, books, music, television specials, and a new line of women’s shoes called Got Soul.
Having spent much of her life in public, she’s also aired most of her laundry there. “It’s both exhilarating and excruciating to be transparent. But the thing is, I have two very famous family members who will probably, when asked a question, tell people the truth, so I might as well anyway. I was on ‘Oprah’ 18 times. She said, ‘I know any time I invite Wy, she’ll bring it.’”
Her famous family also includes actress Ashley Judd, her half-sister who wrote a tell-all biography in 2011 that was not well-received in the Judd family fold, “I’m learning that I have very little in common with my sister about everything from politics to just flat out which flowers to plant,” said Wynonna. “We’re just very different and it’s O.K.”
According to Wynonna, setting boundaries in the Judd family has its challenges. “Saying ‘no’ has been hard for me my entire life, because I’m such a people pleaser. As people know, my whole story starts out with my mom, and starts out with people pleasing. I’m learning how to be a better listener,” she said. “That’s really hard in my family ‘cause we’d rather be right sometimes than be loved. We’re alpha females and sometimes when you get us all together its gonna…well, we all think we’re so damn brilliant!”
But, when even the most well-adjusted would falter, Wynonna tends to dig in. “I’m an ordinary woman who extraordinary things have happened to,” she said.
“I walk through it just like anyone else who is…maybe a pastor, or maybe a leader in some form. Much responsibility had, much responsibility required.”
As she looks to a new year, Wynonna is adamant that simplifying doesn’t mean boring. “I’ve got my ideas on how to mix things up. Just like in marriage. How can we spice things up? How can we do things differently? How can we stay in love? That’s what I’m trying figure out in country music right now.”
She understands that a new direction requires a new mindset, but the fiery redhead is up for the challenge. “My new year resolution is really hard this year because I’ve made some really life changing decisions and they involve just personally and professionally learning how to be comfortable in the uncomfortableness of deciding to be and do things differently,” said Wynonna. “I’m in a real place of becoming a student again—of life. I’m starting to go O.K., the older I get the less I know, so teach me. It’s the line about when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”