FARGO-Wynonna Judd has always had a strong voice. From the 1984 debut with her mother Naomi as The Judds, to her solo career, which started in 1992, the singer has sung her way to the top of the charts 20 times and five Grammy wins.
Wynonna (she's earned first-name-only-artist status) brings her new band, The Big Noise to Scheels Arena Wednesday night for her Christmas show.
The singer agreed to a conference call interview in late November with a handful of journalists around the country each getting to ask one question.
"We realize that this is not a conventional interview format; however, Wynonna is a dynamic speaker so you will get plenty of information from listening to her answers to all of the questions," her assistant said in an e-mail.
Just before the interview, the assistant laid out the ground rules.
"We're not going to talk politics. We're not going to talk about her sister. None of those controversial issues. This is about her Christmas tour, so let's keep it light and Christmas-y."
(Wynonna's half-sister, Ashley Judd, made news in October when she revealed that she'd been sexually harassed by film mogul Harvey Weinstein. On Dec. 5 she was featured on the cover of Time magazine's Person of the Year issue as one of "The Silence Breakers".)
Even the assistant's best attempt to "keep it light and Christmas-y" doesn't stand a chance against a woman as independent and outspoken as Wynonna.
"First of all, I'd like to take the word Christmas out because of the commercialism. I'm trying to come up with a better word," the singer said, when asked about her favorite Christmas traditions or memories. "It's almost like 'Christian' has become a dirty word for me and I just say believer. I'm just concerned about the commercialism."
Over the next 20 minutes, Wynonna proved indeed to be "a dynamic speaker" as she talked about the tour, what makes a good holiday tune and her plans for the big day.
On the tour:
If I can do one thing, that's to make people feel loved. It's not about politics. It's not about who is right or wrong. It's not about Democrat or Republican. It's about being American. Music allows me to do that.
I say onstage every night, 'We had face-to-face, baby. There was no Facebook.'
This tour means a lot to me because it's something to look forward to. I don't have to go to the mall - thank you Jesus ... I just look forward to being with people who want love and need to be reminded that there's hope.
Those people who wear Christmas sweaters - I think I should do a tour where if you wear a Christmas sweater you get a meet-and-greet so I can make fun of you, or something, because who are you? These people are blinking at me from the audience and it's very distracting. Who are these people that make their own sweaters? Who has the time?
On what makes a good holiday tune:
I want to hear Mahalia Jackson singing with a stick, a rock and maybe a little piano. I want to hear it raw and real. I want to hear honey on the rock. I want to hear harmonies. I want to hear Appalachian.
Any song I hear that's not done in the original form, like "White Christmas," from Bing (Crosby), I get a little cranky. Just because my heart is wanting Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole. I'm very traditional.
The one that makes people cry from their toenails (is a great Christmas song). I see people weeping and I think the song that does it, (sings the chorus of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"). It's just heavy, man. I do it like I'm crying to the heavens. I'm not just sitting there singing a beautiful song by the great poet - I'm singing it from my gut.
"O' Holy Night." Oh my god. I just go somewhere really far away.
On what her Christmas will look like:
I'm going to get one tree and decorate the hell out of it. I heard that Dolly (Parton) has one tree in every room. That sounds like a lot.
I'm not like Martha Stewart. I don't make my own wrapping paper. Who are those people?
I'm recovering from perfectionism because I was raised with (mother Naomi Judd and she) taught me to be a perfectionist. And now I'm having to unlearn that habit of having to do everything perfect.
I'm caught up in it too sometimes because I have a lot of people in my life and I want to give them the greatest gift they've ever got in their lives, I want to be that Miss America person. But I can't and I've had to learn how to let go and that's really hard. My work will be about letting go of perfectionism and just being OK with less.
I'm going to take a walk on Christmas and be grateful. Seriously, I'm going to think of three to five things I'm grateful for and just let the rest go.
If You Go
What: A Wynonna & The Big Noise Christmas
When: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Scheels Arena, 5225 31st Ave. S., Fargo
Info: Tickets from $25 - $59, plus fees, scheelsarena.com/.