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6 Degrees Entertainment

NEW! the Judds NEW! the Judds

'Fire & Smoke: The Naomi Judd Story'

For those not in the know, together, Country Music icons Wynonna and Naomi Judd aka the Judds made musical history throughout their career receiving eight Gold and eight Platinum records, selling over 20 million albums and scoring twenty Top 10 hits between 1984-1990.

Now, Curb Records is excited to bring fans the ultimate collection of those years together. The Judds – All-Time Greatest Hits was just released this past June 30th, 2017 and features each of the classic hits that helped to make them a household name on Country Radio in the 1980s and 1990s.

The twenty-one song set features each of the duo’s top ten hits, as well as “You Can’t Go Home Again (Flies On The Butter),” a recording from 2011. Beginning with the classic #1 hit “Mama, He’s Crazy” in 1984, and continuing through 1991’s “One Hundred and Two,” the duo established a career that will stand with one of the top duets in Country Music history.

Fourteen times the duo topped the Billboard Country Singles chart, and each of their five studio albums were certified Gold or Platinum. Along with their sales and airplay success, the Judds also dominated the awards shows like no artist before their time.

Starting in 1984, the duo netted nine CMA Awards, including a run from 1985-1991 as either Vocal Duo or Vocal Group of the Year. Their trophies also include the 1985 Single of the Year “Why Not Me,” which is also included here on The Judds – All-Time Greatest Hits.

They also won seven straight trophies from the Academy of Country Music – and the 2013 Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award. Their award collection also includes five Grammy awards.

Taking some time out with the lovely, and still so open and honest Naomi Judd, we first discussed how this album of songs from back in the day seemed to have been created using acoustic instruments; barely any electric influences to be found. "Well, for one thing, bluegrass music doesn't have drums or electric guitar in it. We grew up in the mountains of Kentucky so we already had that kinda music in our DNA. The tendency for every producer, I don't care in what genre, is to play with it. That's where they get their kudos and their personal joy from over producing stuff. And I hate it!"

"But our producer, Brent Mayer, who I just gave the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hall of Fame Awards ceremony, when we found each other it was like me finding Larry, my husband. We just knew we were going to be a match, because the production ... well, Brent just knew how to make our voices shine and allow our voices to come out front. All the rest of it was just like cake decorating. He knew to win over the best songwriters in Nashville, Tennessee so they gave us a reflection of who we were down at our core."

Being that a whole new generation of country listeners are out there now from the ones that grew up on you, what does it mean to you to bring them your music today? "I'm just happy and proud that our music is so enuring. I think it's because the songs have Wynonna's lead vocals. They say that Wynonna's the fire and that I'm the smoke and the two will always go together."

"When we were cutting this music, we literally had a sense of timelessness in the studio and the triple scale musicians that play here in Nashville, Tennessee; and who play for everybody who cuts out hits, they they knew just to appreciate the lead vocals. The way the songs were written. So they just kind of danced around us. Which makes these songs timeless."

What was it like growing up in Kentucky? "Well, you have to appreciate that living in the same house that I was born in for all those decades was quite the feat. In fact, my mom has just had to move out of there to a Nursing Home in Ashland, Kentucky. I couldn't get her to come live with me, but we had all lived in that same house for 68 years. So having those roots; and of course Huntington Woods, Virginia was like New York City to us young country girls, well, these are the folks that are the bedrock of our country."

"We've got the steel mills and the various plants there in Ashland, Kentucky and most of the people in a restaurant, if you look at their ball caps, they work at one of these many factories. My daddy had a gas station and sold Valvoline products. So I grew up knowing what integrity was and so Wynonna and I tried to have musical integrity."

"What that meant for us were songs that endure. That are timeless. That speak to the folks that sing on their own front porches. We grew up in the First Baptist Church on Chester Avenue where I played piano for Sunday School and we knew where we come from. We knew the roots and the ancestors and I wanted that to show in our music. So that it pierced the heart. That it stirred up memories. I'm very proud of the music we made."

Being that I'm speaking to you here from Detroit, Michigan, the Home of Motown, I was wondering if you also had any love for the old Motown sound? "Absolutely. I just love it. Most of our music was very bare boned also. Our producer, the lovely Brent Mayer, knew how to produce us and I think that's what happened there in Motown. That's why I love Motown so much."

"They both have very distinctive sounds and today I'm very afraid that country music has lost its way. You know ... I'm gonna go ahead and say this, but I think country music today is a poor counterfeit of how it started out. It started out with musical integrity where the songs reflected the roots and the lifestyles of the people in Appalachia here. The songs that the people sang on their front porches. There were family bands that came together to entertain each other, because they didn't have the internet."

"Frankly, I've never touched a computer in my life and never intend to! That's not to say I'm not sophisticated in other ways, because I literally know Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the guys who started Google, and can count them as personal friends. But, my point is, that today country music has long forgotten where it came from."

Being that this new collection of songs were recorded between 1984 to 1990, and with your recent reveal about depression and all that came with it in your new book, 'River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope,' in reflection, were there times when writing and recording these 21 songs that some of them nearly didn't get finished? If so, was there one close to your heart that to this day you are so glad you persevered with? "Oh, absolutely. As a songwriter, sometimes it's like pulling potatoes out of the ground. It was just so hard after I'd gotten an idea. I remember I was sitting by a creek behind a Holiday Inn in Texas and I was in a really depressed mood, intermittent with a panic disorder and high anxiety, and I came up with the phrase My strongest weakness."

"Once I had gotten a melody for it, as I tend to write the music and the words together at the same exact time, then it was hard for me to finish the song. To make it a 360 song. Meaning it could appeal to someone who found out they couldn't trust their partner and so forth. For me it was about trusting others and especially myself, after mom's suppressed memories came to light."

"Another was "Love Can Build a Bridge." I had watched a homeless man in Medford, Oregon - as we had a show that night and I would go out in the afternoon to hang out, in disguise, of course, with the townsfolk to kinda get a feel for the town - and I saw this homeless guy sleeping on a park bench. And as soon as that concert was over that night I crawled into my bunk and I wrote the words for "Love Can Build a Bridge." So definitely, the world and a single person have really inspired the words and the music to my songs."

So I would assume that if you had to choose one song on this new All-Time Greatest Hits album that was a true stand out for you even today, that would be the one? "Yes, I think that would probably be "Love Can Build a Bridge." There's a school in Franklin where they had the children sing "Love Can Build a Bridge" which served much like an anthem for them. That to me is as good as winning the Grammy for Songwriter of The Year, because that's what songs are meant supposed to be; what they're meant to be. I call it the Exquisite Reality."

"It's like when somebody comes up to me in Kroger and they tell me that their Grandpa just died and that they played "Grandpa (Tell Me 'bout The Good Ol' Days)" at his funeral. That's as real as it gets."

"There's so many esoteric songs, like "Water of Love" that people don't know about, but I have to say the number one right now is "Love Can Build a Bridge." Because they're doing it in schools and Cher even did it for the Prince's Trust Gala over there in England. So I'm constantly hearing about all these different venues where people are singing "Love Can Build a Bridge." I think it really speaks to the broadest demographic of listeners out there."

What's your recollection of the very first concert you put on as the Judds at an early age in your hometown area? "The first place we played in the Franklin area was our own front porch. One of the things that I love about Franklin is that there are still front porches. People know each other. They know their neighbors."

"Our front porch had indoor/outdoor carpeting. There was a lamp on our front porch, right next to the bug spray and we also had scented candles out there. So we would hang out on our front porch, which was just an extension of our living room. Wynonna had a swing out there and one night it started raining a little bit and we just started singing 'Rockin' with the rhythm of the rain' to anybody who was gathered there."

"So, thank God for Franklin, Tennessee, because it gave me inspiration. The folks there are down to earth, you know all your neighbors, but I'm a little discouraged about all the wannabe's that are moving in right now. But I love being able to walk into Puckett's or Merridee's and know at least half the people there."

You have a lot of devoted fans so I was wondering if there was one experience with them that still stands out in your mind today? "Well, of course, there are millions, because every night that I get to look out into the audience, I may not know their names, we may not have the same political agreements, and I certainly don't know their back stories, but there is something so magical, and actually unearthly that I would have with this entire arena of 20,000 fans on any given night."

"We would all come together and I believe, because they've told me so, they would see something of themselves in us. They may look at me and see a single-working mom, that's working minimum wage jobs, that was always just a paycheck away from the streets every month. Maybe they saw something in Wynonna, like How in the world could she hang out with her mother so much?"

"I just love it when people would line up around the bus at night after a concert. One night, and I suggested this and then allowed it, there was a woman who came on the bus who I knew was dealing with cancer. I knew she was dealing with cancer, because she had a scarf around her head and she had lost all her hair. She sat on the bus next to me, I put my arm around her, because she began crying, telling me she had five kids, she had never worked outside the home due to having raised five children, and her husband had just left her!"

"So what do you say in those moments? Sometimes music, a certain song is able to say it all. She asked me to Pray with her, which I was happy to do, but to see the Exquisite Reality of knowing what someone's going through - although, of course, there were many joyful and funny stories she shared - but to be able to see somebody in person and know that music surpasses any kind of words is simply Exquisite Reality, as I say."

"I know that 85% of all communication is non-verbal. Sometimes I can look at a person, as I'm called an Empath, because I'm very empathic and very intuitive. I actually have to do this whole ceremony before I go into Target or a large store like Kroger where I have to put myself in a bubble; because I can feel the people around me, all their stories. I get a sense of knowing. It's just so very hard for me to put into words, but that's what music does."

Tell us a little bit about your new book, 'River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope' and what people can expect to read about you? "Well, it really chronicles the stuff that I really don't think people have any idea about. All this stuff that happened to me that may be able to help them. I've been in the Psych Ward three times, I have lived through nightmarish scenarios, and it tells you all about my depression and my panic disorders."

"In today's society there are 40 million of us that suffer from depression. We need to get out there and promote the research, to help our Brothers and Sisters who are all out there suffering. I mean suffering. The number of suicides has gone through the roof recently and I can't tolerate that."

"But the bottom line is we all have stories. It's the fastest growing demographic in America. White men who are over 50 years-old are committing suicide, because they've lost their sense of identity and purpose. It's unbelievable what's going on in this country and nobody is talking about it!"

Is there anything else you would like to add about this new album, perhaps? "I'm just so very happy and glad that I can get to talk about this new CD. Some things continue to get better with time, like fine wine and that's how I feel about this new All-Time Greatest Hits Judds CD that just came out."

Finally, if you could end this interview with anything you wanted to say about anything in the world, what would you like to say? "It's like they say, if they drop the bomb, three things that are going to survive are Cher, roaches and just songs," she laughs. "I just came up with that" she laughs, one last time.

Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk

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