THE WY WAY

The who, when, where & what of Wynonna

Who is Wynonna Judd, really? When is her new album coming out? Where has she been and what has she been doing?

The passionate performer is back from a self-imposed hiatus and ready to talk.

"I took six months off the road," reveals Wy, "and I was busier than when I was on the road! Now I'm doing about three things at once when you should really do just one. But I'm just the fool to think I can pull it off."

Wy's triple duty these days includes being a home-schooling mom to 7-year-old son Elijah and daughter Grace, 6; a partner to fiance D.R. Roach; and a singer who's not afraid to cross musical boundaries - and come back again.

Since she's been absent from country radio for about three years, some of Wy's fans and critics have wondered if she was abandoning country music. It's a question that riles the flame-haired diva.

"I will always feel the need to be country," declares Wy. "My roots are deeply planted. Anyone who questions that is questioning my family. But I gotta be me. If I get called to sing with Sting, I ain't stupid!

"I know who I am," she adds. "I don't have to prove myself anymore. I should be allowed to be able to do what I do because I've put in 19 years in Nashville. I've met all the deejays and their wives and children, three times around. I toured with mom for 10 years. I toured as 'Wynonna Alona' in the '90s, and now, here I am in the 2000s, after The Judds' reunion tour. But people still question, 'What the heck is she going to do?' "

What she's going to do is finally make the album she's always wanted to make. In a conversation with the head of her record label, Wy expressed that she wanted the new CD to be soulful.

"I've got some desires in life to sing with Al Green and Stevie Wonder," she explains. "One minute I'm singing at the Grand Ole Opry, the next minute I'm singing with Sting. That's who I am. If people want one or the other, they're not getting [the whole] Wynonna."

For her new album - scheduled for a late 2002 or early 2003 release - Wy chose to work with several producers, including Dann Huff, who's worked with Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and SHeDAISY.

"And I recently went in the studio with the baddest, most soulful chunk of funk guy named Narada Michael Walden," adds Wy. "He singlehandedly in the '80s brought back Aretha Franklin with Who's Zoomin' Who. Everybody's like, 'Well, now I guess you're making an R&B record.' I say, 'No, I'm working with people I love.' That's what it's about.

"If anybody wants to say, 'You're selling out, that's not country,' " she says with a sigh, "you must not know me very well. My fans know that I'll never make sense. But I'd rather fail in life on my terms than succeed on someone else's."

Yet Wy's newfound confidence, she admits, is hard-won and still a daily struggle. "For almost 20 years now, I've battled a real fear of performing," she acknowledges. "I'm extremely, painfully shy. When I come onstage, I'm Xena with a guitar. But when I'm offstage, I'm very different. I'm trying to let that side of me come out on this record. There are songs on it that are very vulnerable. Kind of like when you hear Bonnie Raitt sing 'I Can't Make You Love Me' - my favorite song of all time."

Happily, Wy is having no trouble in the love department. She describes her relationship with her security manager, D.R. Roach, as "pretty trippy. It's like the movie Bodyguard!"

Get all the who, what where and whens of Wynonna's life in the current(10/1/02) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now.

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