‘Dolly Parton’s America’ producers share stories from putting podcast together


Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee talk about the nine-part podcast covering the life, career and legacy of Dolly Parton.

Credit: Elizabeth Sims

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you need something new to listen to on your way to work or during your holiday travels, there is a podcast out called “Dolly Parton’s America.”

This nine-episode series from WNYC Studios presents the life, career and legacy of the East Tennessee icon through a variety of personal, historical and musical views.

Host Jad Abumrad and producer Shima Oliaee took some time to answer some of 10News’ questions about the series.

They said their first interview was in November 2017, which means it has taken roughly two years to put the podcast together. This process included multiple interviews with Dolly, herself, a trip to the University of Tennessee to visit the class that gave the series its name, a visit to Dollywood and a surprise journey to Dolly’s iconic Tennessee Mountain Home.

“The first time that I met her when I pitched her on the project, seeing her walk into the room was like seeing someone I had grown up and seen only on TV walking off the TV screen,” Abumrad said. “Looked exactly the same, still larger than life but much shorter. That feeling, it took four or five interviews before it wore off until it was just another human being you’re talking to.”

The episodes cover a wide range of topics from “Dolly-tics” to Porter Waggoner to growing up in rural Appalachia. 

“You get a Ph.D. in Dollyology. From that vast wealth, you think about, ‘How are we going to create a beautiful journey for the listeners to experience what we experience?'” Oliaee said.

Even then, they said there was so much left on the cutting room floor, but don’t expect a season two just yet.

“Dolly is the unicorn of unicorns in some ways. There are very few people who have the breadth of their life. Maybe the next one is a three-part series,” Abumrad said.

And, of course, the question on everyone’s mind, what are their favorite Dolly songs?

Abumrad said his favorite song is “Mule Skinner Blues.”

Oliaee said she gravitates to Dolly’s sadder songs like “Down From Dover” and “Daddy Come and Get Me.”

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