Country music icon, Jeannie Seely is making great strides as she celebrates two major achievements, her upcoming 54th anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member and the recent release of her album, An American Classic.
The GRAMMY-award winning artist included a spectacular collaboration on her new album with the one and only country music legend, Willie Nelson. “So proud of how it turned out, and the impact it had on the songwriter, Dallas Wayne, when he said it sounded like an intimate conversation between two old friends,” Seely said of the Nelson collaboration, later adding, ”Appropriate since Willie and I have been friends since about 1964!”
There’s a good chance some of these tracks will be performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage next time Seely steps foot in the famous Opry circle.
It only seems fitting that Seely starts the celebration off for her 81st birthday at the place that she just commemorated another milestone at, the Grand Ole Opry. As a member of the Opry for nearly 54 years, this venue will welcome her with open arms both on stage and in the audience. “I believe that birthdays should last more than one day, so there will be several celebrations!! And the best gift of all is the gift of life I have been given for another year,” said Seely.
Music Mayhem caught up with Seely to find out more about her achievements at the Grand Ole Opry, her advice for upcoming artists, her career highlights and more.
Read on to find out what Seely has been up to in this exclusive Q&A!
You recently celebrated your 55th anniversary of your debut performance and upcoming anniversary, How does it feel to be a member of the Opry for that many years?
It is unbelievable that it has been 55 years since I first appeared on the Opry! I can tell you that I felt so fortunate to be invited to be a guest back then…and then to be made a member of the Opry family… and I feel even more fortunate to still be active on the Opry today.
How does it feel to be one of three living women, the others being Loretta Lynn & Connie Smith, to have reached such a milestone at the Opry?
I feel very honored to be in the company of Loretta Lynn and Connie Smith in this special category, but it is always bittersweet to know that our other revered Opry sisters are no longer with us.
Your influence has been known for many, many years at the Opry, how does it feel to be such an influential woman in country music?
It’s truly humbling to hear myself referred to as influential. Through the years I have always just reacted to the issues at hand in the manner I thought was the right thing to do. If that has set an example for others, I am very complimented.
Speaking of influencing women in country music, you and Carly Pearce have built quite a friendship through the years and she has been wanting to become an Opry member for years. When do you think this will come to fruition for her and would you want to be the one to invite her?
It has been a joy to watch Carly Pearce grow in this business. I was first made aware of her in the shows at Dollywood and could tell how very talented she was. What has really impressed me about her is her work ethic. She never expected anything handed to her and seemed to realize the only way success lasts is when it’s earned…and she certainly has earned the wonderful opportunities and awards that are coming her way now.
Another woman who recently made her Opry debut was Priscilla Block, you were actually on the lineup the night of her debut. Do you have any advice for Priscilla as she paves her own lane in country music?
Unfortunately, I did not get to interact with Priscilla Block when she was at the Opry, but I do believe she is in a good spot in her journey. I look forward to getting more familiar with her work and her personally.
You recently released a new album called An American Classic, which charted in the Top 100, Congratulations. Can you tell us about the album and how it came to be?
My album, An American Classic, was the brainchild of Belmont University Music Professor Don Cusic. He approached me with the idea saying that he thought I was still viable and would like to do a project with me. Needless to say, I was thrilled! I am honored to work with Don and I have learned so much. I am also thrilled at the acceptance and success of our work together, and I cannot thank him enough.
On the project, you have a duet with Willie Nelson. How amazing! Can you tell us about working with Willie on this song
Recording a duet with Willie Nelson was pretty much icing on the cake! I called his producer to see if he thought Willie would want to and have time to record with me. He said without a doubt he knew he would want to, and the best way was to send his engineer the track and eventually Willie would do it…wherever he might be. So proud of how it turned out, and the impact it had on the songwriter, Dallas Wayne, when he said it sounded like an intimate conversation between two old friends…. appropriate since Willie and I have been friends since about 1964!
Also on the record, you have a song penned by Paul McCartney called “Dance Tonight,” how did that song make its way to you?
Dance Tonight was Don Cusic’s idea, and I could not hear it at first but once we started working on it, I fell in love with it. Adding Ray Stevens was just the best idea ever and it was such a thrill and so much fun to work with him. And besides…. It was a Paul McCartney song!!
Coming up, you are going to be a part of the Country Music Cruise, can you tell us about that and what you are most looking forward to on the cruise?
We are all looking forward to the Country Music Cruise…for many reasons. Performing for one thing, but also just getting to spend fun time with my friends and peers, as well as seeing so many fans that we have not been able to visit with in a while. We get to see folks all in one place that we usually see all of the country.
What would you say are three stand out moments or highlights of your career so far?
Probably winning the Grammy award, becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and most recently receiving my Star in the Walkway of Stars.
Coming up on July 6, you are going to be celebrating your 81st birthday, Happy early Birthday. Do you have any big plans to celebrate?
Well, my birthday falls on a Tuesday….so I might just celebrate that night with all my Opry family. We will have a get together with our family at some point, whenever we can match calendars with everyone, which could take some time as the grandkids have as busy schedules as I do! I believe that birthdays should last more than one day, so there will be several celebrations!! And the best gift of all is the gift of life I have been given for another year.
Anything else you’d love to say that we didn’t discuss?
The only thing I might like to add is that I want everyone to know how much I appreciate their support and efforts. I couldn’t still do what I love without you. I feel so blessed that my career has lasted this long…thank you!