Kathlyn Horan’s intimate and engrossing documentary will kick off the Music City cinema celebration Sept. 29.
After stirring up a ruckus last spring at the SXSW Film Festival, where it was aptly described by critic Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter as “a fittingly unconventional portrait of a nonconformist,” director Kathlyn Horan’s The Return of Tanya Tucker will occupy a place of honor as the opening night attraction at the 53rd annual Nashville Film Festival on Sept. 29.
The exceptional and stirring documentary gets up-close and personal with the iconic country music singer during the 2019 recording of what she calls her “relaunch,” the Grammy Award-winning album “While I’m Living’.” Co-produced by Brandi Carlisle and Shooter Jennings, who appear along with several other familiar faces in the film, it is Tucker’s first album of original material since 2002, and features, among other terrific tracks, “Bring My Flowers Now,” winner of the Grammy for Best Country Song of 2020.
“And I don’t know really how it happened,” Tucker told C&I in 2019. “I was talking with Brandi Carlile the other day, and we were discussing that. And I said, ‘Man, it’s just like, the only way I can explain it is God pushed you off a cloud somewhere and you fell into my lap.’ I mean, here’s this girl whose career is blowing up. Like, she won three Grammys this year. And she’s over here messing with me.”
But wait, there’s more: Carlile’s involvement didn’t end with the recording session. “It’s continued, with videos and doing shows,” Tucker said. “She’s got her fingers in all the pies. And thank God for that. It’s not like she’s forcing herself on me. I say it with gratitude that she is involved and has such a different vision than the normal producer might. I mean, she has a different look at it and at my whole career. Her take is so different, but she’s just so right on, and she’s involved with who takes pictures at photo shoots, and radio interviews. I don’t know how she does it with her career going as great as it is. But I know that I’m busier than ever right now. I mean, it’s just like I went from a standstill to a full-out run, and it amazes me that this all happened.”
Still, The Return of Tanya Tucker reveals how, even with Carlile and Jennings in her corner, Tucker had moments of self-doubt throughout the recording sessions — and at one point, her later-than-usual late arrival left Carlile hard-pressed to hide her nervousness. On the flip side: The documentary also gives us a fascinating glimpse into the creative process, as “Send My Flowers” gradually evolves from a random lyric to a full-fledged instant classic.
“I was up and out of the studio,” Tucker told C&I in 2019, “and the record came out before I knew what hit me, really… [It] was a real special time being at the studio.
“And no fixes, no overdubs,” she added with equal measures of pride and amusement. “That’s right. Hey, hey, hey! No overdubs! I didn’t get to fix nothing, you understand? So what you’re hearing is the raw deal. It’s like I’d walked in and sung it — and now you’re listening to it.”
The Nashville Film Festival, one of the longest-running events of its kind in the United States, has long been renowned as a celebration of innovation, music and the many visions of the human spirit through the art of film. The 53rd annual edition, set to run Sept. 29 through Oct. 5, will host more than 125 film screenings at the historic Belcourt Theater and the Andrew Johnson Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, and the historic Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee. The full slate of films and special programs will be announced in August. Watch this space for further developments.