Wynonna Judd Opens Up About Music, Loss, and Faith Ahead Of Back to Wy Tour
“It’s a deeper feeling that it’s not just show business, it’s not just a performance. This is about fellowship and communicating with the audience,” Wynonna says of her connection to the fans.
Wynonna Judd; Photo by Jim Wright
Wynonna Judd is hitting the road again this fall for her Back to Wy Tour, which will feature the songs off Wynonna’s first two solo albums – Wynonna and Tell Me Why, performed track by track, followed by a finale of her other hits along with The Judds classics. The 15-city tour kicks off on Tuesday, October 26 in Indianapolis, IN making stops across the U.S. in San Antonio, Dallas, Louisville, and more before wrapping up in Knoxville on Friday, December 1.
Wynonna spoke with Country Now about what fans can expect from this new tour, how she’s been navigating the loss of her mother Naomi, and her new duet with Trisha Yearwood from the upcoming Judds tribute album.
“I Have To Sing“
For 40 years, Wynonna Judd has channeled her passion into singing. From the highest of highest to the lowest of lows, she’s used music to navigate the ups and downs of life. “I’m literally one of those women who just wake up with a purpose and I use my pain as my foundation sometimes of springing off the pain into purpose, and I just find that some of my greatest success stories have come through the most difficult of times,” she says. “When mom died, I was so devastated I couldn’t get a deep enough breath, so what did I do? I went on tour because the fans literally were there for me when I didn’t know how to be there for myself.”
Now, she’s revisiting her first two solo albums for her new Back to Wy Tour.
“The first two albums saved my life, again, because I went on my own. I was a solo artist all of a sudden. Mom left the road and I was devastated. So I’ve come full circle how many times now and this tour just makes sense because it’s time to celebrate,” says Wynonna. “Like a scrapbook – take ’em off the shelf, look through them, sing each song like looking at each picture and there’s a story there about every photograph and every song has a story.”
What Fans Can Expect From The Back To Wy Tour
The upcoming tour will be a full circle moment for Wynonna, who will be reliving the music from her freshman and sophomore solo albums from 1992 and 1993 throughout the trek. When she originally branched off on her own, she recalls how “devastated” she was. “I came off of a big tour with mom. Every night was a goodbye, and we ended the tour and came home and I literally pulled away out of the driveway while she was on the porch waving, crying, goodbye.” One of the songs that Wynonna will be performing on this new tour from her self-titled album is “It’s Not Easy to Say Goodbye,” which she knows will be gut-wrenching to sing.
“I don’t know how I’m going to make it through that song because I’ve recently had to say goodbye to my mother again. So how am I going to be feeling that night? Probably somewhere between hell and hallelujah, and I’m going to sing it again from my toenails because that’s who I am. My passion runs very deep and my faith runs even deeper. So I’m going to sing these songs like I’m singing ’em for the first time because some of these songs I’ve never performed live.”
On a lighter note, fans can also expect to see some nostalgic fashion in her wardrobe. Reflecting on her early years, she recalls that much of it was pulled together at the last minute.
“My mother was always the one who did all the wardrobe fittings and I would have to try to match her. I have PTSD because of those traumatic wardrobe fittings. I have to say we’ll be bringing some of it back, because it’s somehow coming full circle, like the mullet,” she laughs. “I’m going to be doing a little nostalgia, maybe get the hair jacked the way it was back then. I don’t know. But I’m going to definitely mimic some of the looks because I think they’re almost ready to come back.”
With this tour, she feels her fans are going to help her through another transition in her life alongside the healing power of music. “I also have this sense of faith and fellowship with the fans. It’s new. It’s a deeper feeling that it’s not just show business, it’s not just a performance. This is about fellowship and communicating with the audience.”
In addition to celebrating the music, it’s also an opportunity for Wynonna to share her testimony of how far she’s come. “I hope that encourages other people. No matter who they are and where they come from, their faith. They know that by looking at me, if I can do it, so can they.” She also hopes she can encourage fans to take care of their mental health.
“If I can help one person not leave the way my mother did, then I’ve done my part.”
Navigating The Loss Of Her Mother
As Wynonna has listened back to the songs from her first two albums in preparation for this tour, one song stands out that has a new meaning. “What It Takes” was the very first song she recorded on her self-titled album. “The line about, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep the smile on my face’ is more obvious now than ever, that I have work to do to make it through.”
Wynonna’s mother Naomi Judd died by suicide on April 30, 2022, turning Wynonna’s world upside down. Since her passing, Wynonna has struggled to make it through each day. “I was in the despair place for a long time and I still grapple with trying to understand that her house has been sold and it’s empty and there’s no life there anymore. And I live right next door, so it’s like I have to go by it almost every day to go to Ashley’s. It’s just weird. Life is so weird sometimes and you just try to make it through the day without falling apart in public with the ugly cry sometimes.”
Taking life day by day, Wynonna is finding hope and healing through her family, fans, and music. “When I’m holding my granddaughter, she reminds me there’s always hope,” says Wynonna. Her granddaughter Kaliyah was born just two weeks and two days before Naomi died.
“I think, wow, what a strange way for that chapter to end. And I don’t know how I did it. I went to the Hall of Fame the next day and we [The Judds] were inducted. How did I get through that? And again, I think it’s the community of country music coming together to support me, the fans being there at the shows and holding me up when I don’t even believe in myself.”
Duet with Trisha Yearwood
Wynonna has teamed up with fellow country music powerhouse vocalist Trisha Yearwood to record a reimagined version of The Judds’ iconic song “Cry Myself To Sleep.” Out now, the song is the second single off A Tribute To The Judds, a compilation record in celebration of the beloved duo’s 40th anniversary, set to be released on October 27.
“I cannot tell you how much it meant to me that Trisha came to the farm,” says Wynonna. “She drove down to the studio here at the farm and she got out of the car and we sat on the back porch and we laughed and we fellowshipped and we had snacks and we sang together live. It was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had in the studio here. And it was face-to-face and it meant a lot to me because we’re also busy and we’re also disconnected from each other at times because of our phones. We put down our phones and we got together and we did the song together at the same time, and it meant the world to me.”
Plans For The Future
In addition to her Back to Wy Tour and A Tribute to the Judds album, Wynonna is keeping busy with several other projects. “I’m literally writing a book, working on a cookbook. We’re doing a TV show, filming and there’s all this stuff in the works. You know how that goes. Women like me with a lot of attitude and faith, we’re always busy doing something.” And in her personal life, she’s maintaining a herd of animals and a garden on her farm, as well as helping take care of her granddaughter.
Wynonna has also been writing new music inspired by this season of her life. “The album will come out hopefully in the spring. That’s my goal.” She’s been writing songs about her faith and the dichotomy of losing her mother and gaining a granddaughter in almost the same breath.
“I’m walking in the woods crying and screaming and cussing at times when I don’t understand why mom left the way she did. And I’m angry and I’m devastated, and yet I let go because that’s what we do,” says Wynonna. “We move forward and I let go a little bit easier.”
Fans can purchase tickets to Wynonna Judd’s Back To Wy Tour at Wynonna.com.
Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Palsa has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.