When Wynonna Judd began her first solo tour a few months ago, she realized she had a bit of an image problem.
It wasn't the sort of public misperception that usually plagues pop stars, though. For most of us on this side of the country music business, Wynonna used to be the younger half of the Judds, and now that her mother, Naomi, has retired, is the solo half. And given the strength of her voice and the assurance of her delivery, few of us on the fan end of things had any reason to doubt that Wynonna would have any trouble coping in a career without Naomi.
Unfortunately, Wynonna didn't quite see it that way.
"My identity for 27 years has been 'Naomi Judd's kid,' and that crosses over the whole spectrum of things," she says over the phone from a tour stop in Rhode Island. "Whether it's designing clothes to picking out wallpaper in my house, to 'Gee, I hope she likes the guy I'm dating' -- all that. She did everything but cut up my meat for me. I hate to admit that, but it's true.
"So I was probably more worried about personally being able to make, like, my own decision about anything. I just was flat out scared of being the boss. I would literally get all worked up
"I just was flat out scared of being the boss." in situations where I thought, 'Wy, I hope you can handle this.'
"I guess I didn't give myself enough credit, because I've always had Mom with me," she adds. "If I wanted to bow out of an interview, or if I was in a bad mood and I didn't want to do soundcheck, I could lay it on her and she'd kind of carry the load. In a lot of interviews, you'll see that I'd kind of sit there and make wisecracks, the comedy part of everything. Just trying to get out of it."
Hearing her talk about these fears, it's clear that going solo was both a big step and a major trauma for the 28-year-old singer. But it's just as obvious that she's aware people probably can't imagine why this would seem such a big deal for her. After all, everyone leaves home at some point -- and few have the added advantage of being rich and famous at the time.
"It's hard for people to understand," she admits. "It's like, 'OK, Wynonna, grow up. Get a life. Get out there. Put your mother to rest.' And people don't understand that, Hey, this is my mother. This is the person who gave birth to me. We've been joined at the hip since birth, and now you're kind of cutting that umbilical cord?
"People just expect you to get up and do it -- I guess because they had to. I've talked to critics, and asked them when they left home, and they'll say, like, at 15 or 16. And I think, 'My God, no wonder these people don't get it. Because I never left home.'
"Everybody expected me to be solo someday," she continues. "But I didn't.I never thought of it as being 'Wynonna.' It just wasn't in my makeup." Indeed, she often joked about how her mom would keep on going with the Judds, to the point of putting rhinestones on her walker. "People would go, 'Ha ha, that's real funny,' but they didn't get it," Wynonna laments. "So it's been very frustrating for me."
At the same time, Wynonna doesn't want to come off as Whine-onna. As much as she misses having Mom on the road with her, she also understands how lucky she is to be able to make a living at something she loves.
"Sometimes I curse myself for being a heart person," she says. "I think I care too much sometimes. I'm not a businessperson. I'm not in this because I want to, like, kick Garth Brooks out of No. 1. I'm in this because of the art form.
"But in country music, you're allowed to be yourself. There's not this big facade. I don't need to walk around being, you know, Elvis or anything. I can be myself.
"I'm a very, very lucky person in that I have country music fans, too," she adds. "Country music fans are different. I feel a lot of responsibility right now to get out there and be an example. I get letters saying, 'Wy, it's a good thing you didn't feel sorry for yourself and stay at home. I'm glad you came out.' That's a lot of hope for me right now."
She also wants to assure those fans that, contrary to what they might have read in People, she's holding up very nicely, thank you.
"I mean, there are people out there that do understand that there's more to life than what you weigh," she says, dryly. "Mother is not dying, she's in remission. Get that right, guys, because it's true. And life is positive right now, so things are up.
"I'm lucky, man. I'm doing something that I love doing and getting paid for it. I still every night am amazed at that, that I get paid for this. I feel like sometimes I should be paying people to come see me."
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Where: Pier Six Concert Pavilion.
Tickets: $25 reserved seating, $15 lawn seating.
Call: (410) 625-1400 for tickets