If nothing else, the tale of Tanya Tucker is one worthy of its own epic country music song and, as “The Return of Tanya Tucker — Featuring Brandi Carlile” shows, even its own documentary.
Country music legend Tucker scored her first major hit, “Delta Dawn,” in 1972, when she was 13 years old and since then, has painstakingly crafted a career despite the ups and downs that come with fame. But it had been 17 years since Tucker had released an album of original music, but with fellow country singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile by her side, she returned to the studio. And at the very last moment, so did a film crew.
Director Kathlyn Horan stopped by TheWrap and Shutterstock’s Interview and Portrait Studio at TIFF to discuss “The Return of Tanya Tucker — Featuring Brandi Carlile” with TheWrap’s editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman, and explained how she came to be involved in the project.
Carlile knew Horan from their previous work, on a music video and a documentary about a women’s prison, and told her that she was heading back to the studio with Tanya. “She had talked to Rick Rubin about his work with Johnny Cash and Rick told Brandi, ‘Make sure you document this,'” Horan said. “She told me what was happening. And I said, ‘100 percent. I’m in. When do we start?’ And she said, ‘Tomorrow?’ I showed up in the studio the next day and started rolling.”
“I’ve been in a lot of music studios,” Horan continued. And one of the most magical, mesmerizing things, musically and personally, is the intimacy we were allowed to capture. It was amazing. Tanya let us follow her everywhere. She said at some point, ‘Don’t do anything unless it’s on camera,’ which is a great thing for a documentarian to hear.”
Filming began in January 2019 and continued through January 2020, following Tucker and Carlile through the release of the album “While I’m Livin'” in August 2019 and the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, where Tucker won both Best Country Album and Best Country Song. She shared the awards with Carlile, who served as producer and co-writer.
But perhaps more important than the latest leg of Tucker’s career is all that came before it. After achieving fame so young, she then faced years of intense media scrutiny of her personal life (her exes include Glen Campbell) and substance abuse.
“Specifically, one of the reasons I think [Tanya’s] story is interesting is because she was marginalized in a lot of ways in her journey. She didn’t adhere to the ways a woman was supposed to behave in country music,” Horan said. “I think her personal life overshadowed her.”
“One of the reasons that I know Brandi loves her and why I love her is that [Tanya] gave us permission to be a lot freer and be ourselves. When I was young and listening to her, she was a hero to me in a lot of ways, because she didn’t follow the rules. And she’s 100% herself,” Horan said.
“The Return of Tanya Tucker — Featuring Brandi Carlile” will be released in New York City and Los Angeles on October 22, followed by a wider release across the country.
For the full conversation about “The Return of Tanya Tucker — Featuring Brandi Carlile,” click on the video above.
Studio sponsors include GreenSlate, Moët & Chandon, PEX and Vancouver Film School.