Country music legend Wynonna Judd opens up about her lifelong struggle with and recovery from perfectionism, while her husband and bandmate Cactus Moser keeps things light and laughing with his distinctive brand of witty storytelling. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations — subscribe below!
TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW
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Mark: Today’s guest really needs no introduction, Wynonna.
Andrew: One word.
Mark: One word, yeah.
Andrew: Like Andrew, right?
Mark: And Wynonna Judd is our special guest, and I of course knew people who knew her before I got to know her. I knew Michael English. When I first joined the vocal band, he was in the group, and he was friends with Wynonna. He’d get on the bus talking about Wy, Wy, Wy. ‘Cause those who know her–
Andrew: That’s what he called her?
Mark: Real close, call her Wy. And so then Guy Penrod joins the group.
Mark: And he knows Wynonna, and he calls her Wy too. And he’d get on the bus, oh we did this, we did that. And I’m thinking, well, I know Wynonna.
Andrew: You wanna know Wy.
Mark: I wanna know Wy. I wanna know why I don’t know Wynnona.
Andrew: I don’t know why.
Mark: And then Bill Gaither invited me to lunch with them one time, and we hit it off. We’re both equally airheads. And we–
Andrew: I thought you were about to say arrogant.
Mark: That too probably. Now, she is so sweet. And what I learned today about her is that she’s a perfectionist. What a hard thing to have to live up to.
Andrew: It’s true, and she actually considers herself a recovering perfectionist. And I thought that was kind of a tongue in cheek thing. She’s serious.
Mark: She’s serious.
Andrew: She’s saying that perfectionism is a real struggle for her. Her expectations for herself and probably those around her have always been really high. But she’s talking today about how she’s kinda laying that down. And she’s doing that partially through the relationship with her husband.
Mark: Cactus. And we have one seat left at the table, and it’s yours. Let’s join the conversation.
Wynonna: Okay, this is gonna be such a long story.
Mark: Well, we can edit.
Wynonna: You have food. You can eat.
Andrew: That’s right.
Wynonna: I just think when you’re successful at 18 in that world, you play so much catchup for so long you just don’t have time to pay– Okay, think about it this way. If you’re in a car wreck, what’s the first thing you do? You look to see if you’re alive, blood. And then you can start to look around the car and see who else is hurt. But what’s the very first thing? Am I in pain? And I went through this metaphorical time in my life where I went very much to the, you know, foot of the cross, and I laid there. “God, show me.” Metaphor after metaphor after metaphor, look in nature, look at the– And I just went to studying, and I really love Brene Brown. She’s helped me so much to learn about vulnerability, shame, all the things that we don’t wanna talk about.
Wynonna: Courage, thank you.
Andrew: And the courage talk to about them.
Wynonna: Daring Greatly. Oh my God. I think when you’re so successful, you don’t pay attention to other people. Don’t you think? I really do.
Andrew: Why do you look at him and not me?
Wynonna: Because he’s so successful– ‘Cause he’s so full of himself. I mean just, I’m so.
Mark: But no.
Andrew: Just feed him.
Mark: In my little minuscule gospel world, it didn’t happen until–
Wynonna: Oh minuscule, whatever.
Mark: Until I was 30, till I was 30. You were 18. There’s a difference.
Andrew: So you think because you were older– You know there’s a study that over, I think it’s over the past 100 years, musicians who have had great notoriety, success, popularity, even in the big band eras, way back when, that over 3,000 of them have committed suicide at the age 27. There’s something they say about the lack of being able to develop in reality and then be able to handle– Like celebrity or success on a great stage can potentially be maneuvered as a mature adult, but your 20s and 19, 18, that’s not an adult. You know.
Wynonna: I did not know that. Learn something new every day. My unraveling– Everybody says, “Oh, I had a mental breakdown.” I call it an unraveling because of Brene. She taught me that. Unraveling is such a visual. I’ve had to unravel all the years with mom on the road, just because of the circumstance, just because of the expectation, and the looking at me, “Oh, you’re the youngest punk in the room. You don’t know anything.” Telling me what to do. I was so co-dependent and such a people pleaser. I’ve been in recovery from that for years, perfectionism, the whole thing. We don’t know whether it’s good or bad in the moment, do we? It’s not until we’re looking back 10 years later and go, that’s the best thing that ever happened to me. And that’s part of my, I say, ministry because I’m going into the prisons and all these places I don’t wanna really be, and I know they need to hear something.
Mark: How is that happening?
Wynonna: It’s happening because I’m being called, and I have no other way than to say I’m answering the call. I swear to you I had people before answer the call, and they’d filter it and it’d come to me, does it work in your schedule? Now it’s me going, okay, January 1 or 2, I go in to this peripheral state. I know it’s very holy. No, I’m just begging God for direction. I’m saying, I literally heard this from my mom, and I’d make fun of her little Hallmark card sayings ’cause she’s got them down. She’s been doing it. She’s like Lucille Ball. Right, she’s got her shtick. I said, “God, I don’t wanna just ask you to do your thing and bless what I’m doing. I wanna do what you’re blessing.” And the next thing I know I’m getting called by people like you and people who say, “Come over and do this.” And I’m like, no, it’s too vulnerable, it’s too, eh. But then that little voice, that mama voice says, “Let them see the cracks in your armor. That’s how the light gets out.”
Mark: Oh, does your mother say that?
Mark: That’s a great one.
Andrew: Yeah, it is.
Wynonna: It is a great one.
Andrew: But you wanna let them see the cracks in their armor, right?
Wynonna: You have to understand. I’ve been marching through the women in country music.
Mark: Aren’t you tired?
Wynonna: Mmhmm. And you said 27. 27 and 28 were my two of my most chaotic years, and then I had Elijah at 30 and he brought me home.
Mark: You had what?
Wynonna: That’s when I wrote the book. I had my son, Elijah, at 30, and that’s when I came home and literally went on Oprah and did all those shows, and she helped me title my book, Coming Home to Myself. So you’re right, 27. There’s still all this turmoil and what works and what doesn’t and separation. And I was so in love with Cactus at sort of 25. That was the beginning of my understanding about relationships ’cause I didn’t have relationships. I had a career.
Andrew: Right, yeah.
Wynonna: I didn’t have friends. I had band members.
Mark: But you didn’t even choose the career, I mean, really.
Wynonna: And payroll. I didn’t choose anything. It was her. It’s all her fault, no. It’s just she was the organized one.
Mark: And you had a great talent. No doubt about that. But the thing is, like I was just hearing about or reading on the way over here about Bette Davis. I don’t even know where I was at, but she was consumed by her career. I mean, you had a big career, have a big career, but you did not choose it.
Wynonna: Excuse me. I must correct you. Having.
Mark: You’re having a big career.
Wynonna: Hello, people. Work with me!
Andrew: Wait till after this airs.
Wynonna: I’m in my third chapter. Can you believe it? I’m third chapter. So go ahead. Bette Davis.
Mark: But I’m just saying–
Wynonna: I know it was her whole thing.
Mark: It’s not your consumption, is what you’re saying?
Wynonna: Nope, I will be honest and say it was because it was mom’s. She was 36, and she was ready. Have you seen the photos where she’s Miss America and– I’m serious. And I’m going, I just, ew, this is so weird. The whole time it was just weird. This is all too much. And then I met Cactus on the tour. He had Highway 101. And I was so smitten with him, and she was like, “No, you have a career.” So I think I know what you’re saying is it does become your whole life. I lived back when we had faxing. You know? People would send me my schedule. And I swear to you. I think one year I had two weeks off. I just was–
Andrew: That was it.
Wynonna: I just didn’t– I was not– When people I–
Andrew: You weren’t home.
Wynonna: I wasn’t home, and I did not have control of my own life. My manager and my mom did. And I’m not bitter. I’m just aware of how much I missed. And so now we’re turning our home, our farm, into a playground for adults to come and play and just laugh and be. And that’s why I’m living more spontaneously. So I think you’re right. You do get older and realize– And my daughter said it to me yesterday. She said, “Mom.” She’s only 22 and she goes, “I’m tired of taking everything so seriously.” ‘Cause I think everybody, you know, on social media or wherever, they’re all so consumed by followers and likes, and, oh my god, out there. They don’t go inside. And I think she, at any earlier age, is already stronger than I was at 22. And so I think you’re right. We do become consumed. And so in answer to your question, I think it’s time for us all to go “hello” to the person standing next to us at the grocery store. And I was just telling Wendy we have more technology than we’ve ever had, and we’re the loneliest we’ve ever been.
“We have more technology than we’ve ever had, and we’re the loneliest we’ve ever been.” – Wynonna Judd
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Andrew: Yeah, and I wonder, you know, you talk about recovery from perfectionism.
Mark: Oh yeah, I love that one.
Andrew: And a recovering perfectionist. I mean, I wonder, culturally speaking, what you’re talking about. I think the technological age has enhanced us. I think it’s always been where we want to put our best foot forward, get my best side. You know, perception has always been a part of humans’ struggle with interacting with ourselves and others.
Mark: And the industry’s full of image builders.
Andrew: Absolutely. And people saying, “Build your image.”
Mark: Yeah, build it but you just can never believe it. When you start believing the image they build.
Wynonna: I did.
Mark: You did?
Andrew: Or was it just something in reality?
Wynonna: No, no, no, no. I tell you what I did, and it’s worse. I started listening to the critics, and I started to try to move around and bend and be pliable, and, well, he didn’t like that one thing, so I won’t do that again. I’m just, people pleaser. I think it goes back to people pleasing and wanting so badly because think about this. If I walk in a room, what precedes me? Before you ever have a conversation.
Andrew: My perception of you or whatever I’ve heard.
Wynonna: Okay, what you’ve read and what you’ve seen. When you go into business, you’re expected to be whatever it is. And so I will say, I got to where I listened to other people’s criticism. My husband just told me about a guy who recently wrote — I’m not on social media — who wrote in and said, “You tell that Wynonna she better quit talking about her mama that way.” And he’s just mad at me. I wanna call him on the phone and say, “Excuse me, I can talk about my mama, but you can’t.” And by the way, I supported her for 30 years and loved her and was there. You know what I mean? I wanted to defend myself, and I thought, I can’t do this.
Mark: Let the children play.
Mark: Let the children play. You know what? I never listen to critics ’cause they don’t matter.
Andrew: Well, and there is some constructive–
Wynonna: In country music, it’s different though. Well, for me it was.
Andrew: To discern it, yeah. But it’s interesting– Receiving praise. I remember my dad, ’cause music is my background. I did all these piano recitals as a kid, and, you know, you put all this pressure on yourself. I think every person does it on every level at some given point.
Wynonna: The more talented they are, I’ve noticed they do. I think that’s interesting, the more talented people.
Andrew: Well then, I was hugely pressured, but– He was with me after a recital or something, and someone was saying, “You know, I was really moved by the way you played this,” or something, and I put my head to the ground and I couldn’t receive it. I couldn’t even say thank you. I think I kind of deflected like, well, you know, but then there was this part.
Wynonna: Women are the worst.
Mark: Oh, because you didn’t feel like you did good?
Andrew: Right, ’cause I had all the inner critique going in my head, and we–
Wynonna: Oh, I could’ve done this.
Andrew: Yeah. We got in the car, and he said, “One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to receive–“
Wynonna: Are you serious?
Andrew: “Is to receive someone’s compliment and just say– And if you’re not feeling it in the moment, that’s okay. You can go dissect your performance later. Look at them in the eye and say thank you.” That is all–
“One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to receive someone’s compliment.”
Wynonna: I cannot believe that happened to you. That’s awesome.
Mark: Yeah, I agree. Yeah, because they’re giving you a gift.
Andrew: It is a gift, right.
Wynonna: You know what I was told?
Wynonna: Don’t pay any attention to it because they’re just projecting. It’s about them.
Mark: Wait, wait, wait, wait. The critics?
Andrew: So like blowing smoke up basically?
Mark: Or someone complementing you?
Wynonna: I was told– You have to realize I was taught differently, and it’s okay. I’ve made peace with it. I was taught never to take that praise because it’s simply– It’s a God-gift, so give it back– In other words, it’s not you. Get rid of it. Take it off like a coat. And it’s just them complementing you to have an interaction with you and a connection to you, that they’re projecting.
Mark: Oh my gosh!
Andrew: So was that like an encouragement of false humility of sorts?
Wynonna: I don’t even know anymore. I just now have learned to go “thank you very much” and move on.
Mark: You know what? The thing is they are giving you– It’s the first time they’ve ever said it to you.
Wynonna: I think you know. My daughter knew the difference. She would say, “Mom, that guy doesn’t even listen to country music I’ll bet you.” And I’d say, “Gracie.” My point is you can tell when it’s genuine. Can you not tell when it’s genuine? You feel it, don’t you?
Mark: I don’t really analyze it that much. I just say “thank you” and move on.
Wynonna: Well, aren’t you just the sweetest little thing.
Mark: Well, I just don’t have time. Who has time to analyze everybody comes up and compliments you, girl?
Wynonna: Well, guess what.
Mark: I’ve been complimented so much.
Wynonna: Oh wow, I’m just so overcome.
Mark: But I just don’t– I don’t think about it that much.
Wynonna: Well, you didn’t share a bus with your mama for 10 years. Come on, let’s just get back to reality.
Andrew: I think there is some difference there.
Wynonna: Yeah, there is a difference in country music too ’cause you have to remember we’re accessible. We are right there in the airport. We are there shaking– I’m not saying that gospel contemporary Christian isn’t, but there is such an– You are who you really are on stage and off. In gospel, honestly I’ve met people who are so different off stage than they are on stage. I’ll be honest and say wearing the mask, the social mask, which I know all about it. And I see it off, and I go, wow, I didn’t see that off stage. All that to say I was raised you better not ever disrespect. I was so good at interrupting everybody, and my mother would absolutely say, “Quit it,” and she’d snap her finger and say, “Don’t you ever interrupt like that again,” Johnny Carson, you know what I mean? She would take me to town.
Andrew: Okay, so get this. This is what I’m thinking about.
Wynonna: I needed her though ’cause I was pretty cute and running around with my head cut off.
Andrew: It’s always the both and, right? I mean, this is happening though, dot your i’s cross your t’s, don’t believe the praise, you know, thrive on the critics.
Wynonna: God forbid.
Andrew: But at the same time– So in your personal life, and I don’t wanna tell your story for you, but you’ve got so much going on, right? You’ve got husbands. You’ve got–
Mark: One, right?
Wynonna: Go ahead, I’m sorry. The reason I said that is because a woman the other night yelled out and she goes– I said, “This is Cactus, my husband.” She goes, “Well, you finally got it right.” And I was like, thanks for shopping.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s right.
Wynonna: I was so overcome, so when you said husbands, I was like, I got more than one? Just it’s a thing. Just go ahead, go ahead with what you were saying.
Andrew: We’ll come back to you, Cactus. And I think about you find out as an adult, you know, that the man you’ve been calling dad isn’t your biological father. You go through this pregnancy that was this child birth experience with your daughter that almost takes your life. You know, plus this relationship with your mother that’s interesting at minimum, you know. You’ve got all this going on in the foreground, and it reminds me of like a laptop that’s got too many windows open and it just clogs–
Wynonna: I agree. It’s too much.
Andrew: Like how did that shape you? And does it still shape you?
Wynonna: It does everyday. I can’t believe you asked that question, and I said I wasn’t gonna cry. I was just with mom yesterday praying over her, and I don’t normally do that. I’m not a person to pray in public or be called upon to do that. I let others do that ’cause, I don’t know, I just guess I haven’t felt like I earned the right to do it. It’s always an elder or someone better at it. And I just prayed over her ’cause she’s my mom, and I said, you know, cause she’s 72, and it’s just hard for her. Because she loves being with people, and she loves to dance and be in the spotlight. She’s always been like a little doll. And I’ve given her, you know, opportunities to just fly around the stage, and I stay there and play my guitar and do my chores you know. So you’re right. It’s too much, and I think what I’ve learned is from my daughter. She’s my teacher right now. She says, “Mom, too much stress.” And it reminds me of that silly saying that we’ve heard a million times. “Too blessed to be stressed.” In my brokenness, my elder teacher, Mama Bunny said, “Quit using the word broken ’cause you’re not broken. You’re wounded, but you’re not broken, and you don’t need fixing.” And I was like, “Yes, ma’m.” But here’s the deal. I think when it comes to a point, you have to stop and go, okay, I woke up this morning, and he was flying. He’s Mr. Joy in the morning, and I’m like– Is it morning? Oh God. He’s joy. I’m like that. Okay, it’s awesome. I’m gonna get there. I’m gonna get there. I’m gonna get there when I’m 60. But anyway. I said, “It’s too much, honey. It’s too much.” And that’s why we’re married, because he’ll chillax, chick singer, in my band, which he actually tells people. And he’ll say, he’ll say, “Just enjoy because you know what the truth is–” Perspective. I have a friend who’s literally saying goodbye to his kids ’cause he knows he’s not gonna be here in a month. And I go, oh my gosh, oh God, and then I go and do all these things, and it just gives me a perspective. So I think, and to answer your question, it’s just it all is really small stuff and it really matters. It really is what matters, and it, unless it’s a life or death or we’re talking, you know, life support or funeral and stuff and it’s over, it’s part of the process, and I think the best advice I ever got was, well, from several people, but one saying, “Just be an observer. Quit taking everything so personally.”
Mark: That’s good.
Wynonna: That’s like the best I’ve ever heard anything ever said to me, just be an observer and stand back. And I will literally take a physical step back and watch something to go, why am I so hurt? Why am I taking this so personally? It’s not about me.
Andrew: Right. You’re not the axis.
Wynonna: What? Why is that so hard to figure out? I guess it is for me, but–
Andrew: I think there’s actually something kind of spiritual about it because we have been, I believe, created so beautifully and good by our Creator that it is about us to some degree, you know.
Wynonna: He love us so much.
Andrew: We know that internally we have all this value, but the value has been so displaced for so long we don’t know how to– I just don’t think we have a proper perspective of ourselves. I heard you say that you like wake up now, talking about waking up and Cactus being so joyful. Instead of saying– What is it? Instead of saying–
Wynonna: Oh God, it’s morning. I say good morning, God.
Andrew: That’s a shift.
Wynonna: That changed me. That changed me. And I say it and it’s corny, and I’m becoming my mother in that respect. I’m teaching my children that because there’s too much complaining, and I have been reading a lot more lately. I will admit I don’t know a lot about the Bible, and I’ve been reading it, and the things I hear are very simple, which is quit your murmuring. You know how we just under our breath or all day long going– What kind of noise is that sending to the heavens? And if we believe in infinity and sound is a wave, it’s still up there echoing in the heavens? Oh, good Lord. What do I want echoing in the heavens? I think about that everyday.
“What do I want echoing in the heavens? I think about that everyday.” – Wynonna Judd
Wynonna: What am I saying? What am I singing? And so I’m just– I think I’m more aware and more awake than I’ve ever been, and that’s because of my failures and my weakness was at a point where I literally went through I did not know how much I needed God till God was all I had. And it was during Cactus Moser’s accident, so we’ll talk about that. You just get to an age where, and I was talking with Wendy in the car, but when you hit 50, something happens where you realize everything from here on out is a gift.
Mark: Yeah, wait till you hit 60.
Andrew: Every minute, every second is a gift. Okay, but if I could earn that perspective, or not earn it, but if I could somehow find that perspective, why is it that we have to wait for some years to like– Why can’t I embody that?
Mark: You know God’s never in a hurry. I just don’t think he is.
Wynonna: That just makes me crazy.
Mark: He’s just never in a hurry.
Wynonna: I’m ready right now.
Mark: I know, but you know what? He’s conforming you, and it takes– It’s like heavenly sandpaper. When he gets done, you’re gonna be just like Jesus.
Wynonna: Nuh uh.
Mark: Yeah, you are. 33 in Jewish.
Wynonna: Oh my gosh.
Mark: No, no, we’re gonna be conformed into the image of His Son, right?
Wynonna: Yeah, it’s what I hear.
Mark: That’s what I hear too.
Andrew: Yeah, it doesn’t feel– Or maybe that is the challenge.
Mark: It hurts.
Andrew: The perfectionism. How do you begin to– How have you begun? I think this is a really relatable topic.
Mark: You still look perfect to me.
Andrew: And I agree. You walked in today and gave me a big old hug. I loved it. We’ve never even met, and you said, “Hold me. I’m insecure.” And I’m thinking, you’ve been in– I think you and your mom’s first record came out the year I was born. I mean, you have been a part–
Wynonna: Oh my God.
Mark: Oh, receive that why don’t you?
Andrew: Well, no, no. That’s still a compliment. That’s still a compliment. But you’ve been a part of this culture.
Mark: He does that kinda crap to me all the time.
Andrew: It’s because it’s– I mean, I’m getting–
Mark: He’s the millennial. I’m the old guy.
Andrew: Old millennial.
Mark: But perfectionism, yeah.
Wynonna: Yeah, how do you begin to manage expectations when you have so many expectations.
Mark: Yeah, how’s that working? How’s that going for you?
Wynonna: How’s that work for you?
Mark: Yeah, how’s that going? Are you less–
Wynonna: I’m less– I will tell you straight out that I was, and I’m gonna write a book about this. For the first part of my life, I was definitely a people pleaser, and I worked for my mom and my manager and I was the, yes, I will do that. I was overbooked and overpaid and too many benefits and too much and too much, and it came crashing. And I started over, wrote about that. I think you get to a point where you realize– And I do this in my speaking engagements, and I see women actually cry over this. I say pick three things, maybe four if you’re really having a good day, and do them well. And then go to bed and celebrate that. And I will literally see women start to cry ’cause I know we fall into bed saying, “Well, there was that one thing I didn’t do.” I’m so sick and tired of that. I’ve lived that way so much in my life. Cactus Moser is literally responsible for the very first time– I can remember him saying to me, “No, don’t do that.” And one of them was, an example, I was doing the Schermerhorn Symphony. Very very polite crowd. Very lovely. And I was up there in all my glory with this beautiful symphony, and I had on the heels and the, you know, jacked to Jesus and all that, and he literally was like, “Take off your shoes. You look like you’re not comfortable.” And I wasn’t. And I took my shoes off, and I sang from my toenails. And I got like, you know, just–
“Pick three things, maybe four if you’re really having a good day, and do them well. And then go to bed and celebrate that.” – Wynonna Judd
Andrew: Yeah, gritty.
Wynonna: It was awesome. And he just sort of took–
Mark: Like he gave you permission?
Wynonna: He just helped me unpack all my crap and say enough. And we started doing the songs differently, acoustically, with just– I walk out on stage now barefoot and sing a cappella. Birds flying high, you know how I feel.
Mark: Is that what you start with?
Wynonna: I wouldn’t have done that to save my life.
Andrew: Too exposed?
Wynonna: Just too vulnerable.
Mark: Oh my gosh. I bet that’s fabulous.
Wynonna: Well, okay. Now…
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Wynonna: But back then, it was so not the way we did it. You know how we did it in the old school where you’d go out there, three songs uptempo, bring them back down. So Cactus Moser says, “We’re going do this right. We’re gonna do it real.” We gather around one microphone, we sing, we play. I play harmonica, drums whatever. I think what I’m saying is I’m finally enjoying myself.
Andrew: And you know what? When you do that, I think you’re giving people permission to actually sit back and listen instead of have to, you know, go over the top in their involvement and get all hyped up. You’re actually allowing them– I mean life is so hyped, especially in our culture today.
Wynonna: No kidding.
Andrew: That you’re giving them permission to just sit back, be themselves.
Mark: And if you’re having a good time, they will.
Wynonna: Point is it’s just time to finally be yourself and say it’s okay.
Andrew: Embody it. I listened to you sing a second ago. I was listening to some of your records last night just to prep for the interview, and you know, that’s a different voice.
Wynonna: It’s a different life.
Mark: It sounded a lot like her to me. What do you mean?
Wynonna: I know what he’s saying.
Andrew: You have more body. The living of life is now coming out in your musical experience.
Mark: The anointing has always been there, but now it’s like you’re mature and know how to handle it.
Wynonna: All I know, guys, is just be yourself. I think people are hungry for real more now than ever, and Cactus Moser being producer, manager, partner, life partner– I can finally say partner. Before it’s always been Wynonna Incorporated, solo artist. Now it’s a we. Me has turned into we. It just feels better. It feels more honest and real, and I have mentors like, you know, Brene Brown saying, “It’s okay to be vulnerable.” No, not in my family it’s not. We’d rather be right than be loved.
Mark: Oh. Wow!
Andrew: That is a major wall. That’s a fortress that cannot be penetrated.
Mark: You know, I know a lot of people like that. Rather be right than be loved. That made my head sweat a little bit.
Andrew: And I think it’s almost like my counselor told me recently that, he said, “I think you’re a great comforter. I think you comfort people easily and that kind of thing.” He said, “I don’t think you have any idea how to receive comfort.”
Mark: Well, you ain’t gonna get it now.
Andrew: Can somebody touch me?
Wynonna Judd and Cactus Moser singing “What It Takes”
Cactus: Are you fixing my hair while I lay down a bad, bad guitar groove?
Wynonna: Tell me when you’re ready. Are you serious right now?
Cactus: I’m just checking my makeup in the lights.
Wynonna: Let me tell you a little bit about myself.
Cactus: Oh honey, I’m ready.
Wynonna: Are you sure? You think you can handle it?
Cactus: I’ve been trying for 10 years.
Oooh, I wanna walk
To no particular destination
I like to talk
When I got the inclination
I like to move
When I got the locomotion
I like to do just what it takes
To keep this smile on my face
I like to ride in my car
Oh wherever they’re driving faster
I wanna sail the ship
As long as I can be the master
I can ride those rails
On my own roller coaster
I like to do just what it takes
To keep this smile on my face
‘Cause I was born to be this way
Never save it for a rainy day
I just like to make it my own way
I wanna be the first to say
Ain’t gonna change my ways
Oh, no, no, no
If it means that I ain’t livin’
Don’t wanna go through life
If there’s no room for givin’
Don’t wanna stand here long
If it just means I’m a waiting
I like to do just what it takes
To keep this smile on my face
I was born to be this way
Never save it for a rainy day
I just like to make it my own way
I wanna be the first to say
I don’t wanna work too hard
If it just means that I ain’t livin’
I don’t wanna go through life
If it just means that I ain’t livin’
I ain’t gonna stand here long
If it just means I’m waiting
‘Cause I like to do just what it takes
To keep this smile on my face
I’m gonna do just what it takes
To keep this smile on my face
Dinner Conversations Sponsorship Message
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Andrew: And while you’re there, check out some of our friendly merch. We’ve got show mugs and Season One and Two DVDs. And we got these little note cards so Mark can write me a note that says, “You’re the best cohost.”
Mark: Oh yes. Well, you know, you get that after every episode. And what about this mug with our faces on it?
Andrew: What says good morning better?
Mark: It’s like we’re on both sides, so lefty or righty, you get to see us every morning.
Andrew: You know, I think it’s time we get back to those guests.
Mark: Yeah, probably.
Andrew: So you’re missing a leg, Cactus.
Mark: Yeah, how did that happen?
Cactus: You know, I thought I was being invited to a really nice meal. I didn’t realize it was a bludgeoning. Yeah, there’s a fact there that can be underlined. I’m missing a leg. And we’re not having–
Andrew: I wouldn’t know.
Cactus: Yeah. Well, thankfully, that’s my goal is I want people to look at me and always go, “Oh, I didn’t had no idea.” And in truth, my hand was really the biggest part of–
Mark: Are you serious?
Cactus: So I had a motorcycle wreck, for those that don’t know.
Andrew: You guys were together.
Cactus: She was on a bike right behind me. I had just come around her, and the bike, you know–
Wynonna: Which was a lot. You really have a lot of–
Cactus: I had a faulty tire.
Wynonna: Nobody goes in front of me.
Cactus: I got in front of you all day that day.
Wynonna: But I was so in love with you I let you.
Cactus: I know. You were very chivalrous. So in losing my leg– Laying there on the ground, you know, after I quit tumbling and rolling and all that. I had laid on the top of a car for milliseconds, and yet I had a five-minute mini movie. I remember laying on my side and seeing her go by, my bike tumbling end over end, And I’m thinking, wow, that’s weird. It’s going end over end instead of short ways, you know. Now I laid back on my back and looked up and went, “This sky.” This was like when I was a kid in Colorado or when we lived in LA. It was like there’s a different kind of sky than in the South. And I kid you not, it was, you know, milliseconds. I hit that thing and went up over the windshield over the top of the car and went back off the back of the car. I’m told later because of a guy who was riding right behind us–
Andrew: It’s on the interstate or–?
Cactus: Yeah, it’s a mountain highway up in South Dakota. And I thought about everything, from, oh, I could become a DJ. If my arms and legs are maimed, I can become a DJ.
Andrew: You’re thinking about this?
Cactus: Yeah. Yeah, electronic music is big. If I need, I can get a helmet that looks like I’m, you know–
Mark: All this is going through your mind?
Cactus: Yeah, yeah. And then I started rolling down the road, and I’m thinking, this is way too fast. And I’m a snow skier. I thought, oh, we always, you know, do something to kind of contain the falls.
Cactus: And when I stopped, my first thought was not, oh, my leg was gone. It was, oh, we have a gig in four hours. I gotta assess what’s going on. And I had a glove on, and my hand was still the biggest part of injury ’cause it was gone. Everything disconnected. Nothing broke, but my hand surgeon, who’s an amazing, historic guy at Vanderbilt for musicians in particular, said, “Never in my career have I seen something like that.”
Andrew: Are those your fingers?
Cactus: Yeah, they’re my fingers.
Mark: Now, explain it. I’ve heard about the leg. I’ve never heard about the hand.
Cactus: I always said that you can go to a leg store and buy legs, you know, and since you astutely pointed out I don’t have one, I went and got one.
Andrew: Smart man.
Cactus: But your hand.
Wynonna: And being a drummer, I mean, come on. It’s like missing a vocal cord.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s the tragedy.
Cactus: For everything I do, you know, from guitars to obviously drums, first and foremost. But yeah, so this thing was pinned in this position. And my leg was gone on this side. And I had this wrapped up, and I had her, and it was just like she was my left side. And everything I had to do from shower to you name it, she had to come and be there.
Wynonna: Except for that one thing.
Cactus: Yeah, except for that one thing.
Andrew: Would you like to clarify?
Cactus: So anyway, yes, it was a tumultuous event that led to–
Wynonna: Well, it either makes you or breaks you, come on.
Cactus: But led to many things.
Mark: How long had y’all been together?
Wynonna: This is three months. Three months, we’d been married. I had literarily–
Mark: You’d been married three months.
Cactus: We dated two years prior that.
Wynonna: I’d put my honeymoon clothes ready to go. I swear to you. I had all these outfits picked out. I was so– He didn’t see me without makeup or all my hair for five years. I was that smitten.
Wynonna: Did you?
Cactus: No, I didn’t.
Wynonna: So I was mad. Really mad. And I was stuck with him and him stuck with me for four months. And then I had to go back on the road by myself, and I literally remember the day I had to do a show without him. I thought, can’t do it.
Cactus: Well, you weren’t– In truth, because I just said this, so I don’t wanna sound like, you know, I’m fibbing. You had to go back on the road in about two and a half weeks. I went back on the road three months to the day from the wreck.
Wynonna: It seemed like four months.
Cactus: I got on a bus three months to the day, and we did a Christmas tour. So it was a little less intense, you know, a little less rocking.
Andrew: You can kind of fake it.
Cactus: In truth, you had to go back on the road, and they would call me because I always led the prayer circle before the show or whatever. They’d call me, and I’d be on a speakerphone. They wired up a little speaker, so I’d be in the middle circle praying with them before they went on stage.
Andrew: I mean, it seems like your energy, optimism, whatever, does not end. You’re thinking about deejaying.
Wynonna: He complained once. When we’re in the car, Pinewood Road, about a mile from our house, and he looked at me very solemn and he said, “Honey, I’m different.”
Mark: I’m different?
Wynonna: That’s it. And that was the only complaint
Mark: Do you have a high tolerance for pain?
Cactus: Well, apparently I do. I didn’t want to have that be something I would brag about in my life, but–
Wynonna: Only when we’re arguing about something, he’ll say, “Remember that thing you said were that was the greatest sound on earth besides your children’s birth?” ‘Cause he went under, but he came back, and when you come back in the movies, they always have the sound and I heard it and I thought he was gone or fading. They said you had just minutes before–
Cactus: I was just assessing. I never went– I never went out.
Wynonna: But he brings it up.
Cactus: Yeah, well, I like to, you know. She might say, “Did you remember to put the, you know, the chicken back in the refrigerator before we started watching a movie or whatever?” And I’ll go, “Honey, I’ve only got one leg.”
Mark: I love it.
Cactus: So it comes in– It comes in quite handy.
Andrew: Yes, I’m sure it does.
Mark: I was using “mama died” five years after she did. “I can’t be there. Mama died.”
Cactus: Yes, there you go.
Andrew: You said you were angry though. What do you mean? At the tragedy?
Wynonna: I was angry ’cause I finally felt like I was literally starting a new chapter of my life, and I did not think it would go that way. You know, you think you have that crystal ball or your, oh, I know. Ooh, I’m gonna say it on national everything. I thought I was literally in control, and I realized I wasn’t.
Mark: You mean in the marriage?
Wynonna: Like literarily in life.
Mark: That sounds like a running theme with you.
Wynonna: It is such a running theme because I had no control for so long because of managers and handlers, they call them, which sounds so bizarre.
Mark: Just somebody else to take a paycheck.
Wynonna: Thank you. Okay, I’m just going to say this, and I never talk this way hardly, but I figure you, what the heck. I think there should be co and everything, whether it’s the White House or a marriage or a partnership. I tell you what my theme has been is giving people too much power. Thank you so much for pointing at me. That’s awesome. There’s three pointing back at you. So anyway, I gave people so much power. And now I have a partner who says, “You know what, honey? I don’t think that’s a really good idea.” And I go, “What? Why?”
Mark: Okay, was it scary for you, Wynonna? I mean, for instance, like I– You’ve had this management of your mother and others managing you, and then to finally stand up and break free, isn’t it scary? And so when did it feel like, okay, that was the right decision.
Cactus: That’s within the last few months. But she has gone from kind of letting things come at her and happen to her–
Wynonna: Reaction to being proactive is very different.
Cactus: To taking control and making decisions.
Andrew: Well, that’s less codependent.
Mark: Own it.
Andrew: It is boundaries, you know.
Wynonna: And it’s not arrogance. It’s confidence.
Andrew: It is not domination.
Cactus: See, I’m seeing her — this sounds ironic or bizarre — but becoming an adult in a lot of ways. Not that she wasn’t, but you know, there was a lot of she didn’t have to be.
Wynonna: I was so busy reacting to the world and I gotta do this, gotta do this. It’s fear, it’s fear. It’s fear based.
Cactus: Whether it was on– It was definitely fear based, which I understand, but–
Wynonna: Gotta do this, gotta stay relevant. Gotta stay relevant.
Cactus: People take advantage of that and overlord it.
Andrew: He’s seeing you in ways that you’ve never been seen before.
Mark: I think we need to interview you more ’cause I think you’re seeing things she hasn’t.
Cactus: Honey, I’ll see you at the house.
Mark: No, but you’re– I mean, what a great perspective. Talk about perspective.
Wynonna: This one is saying, “You know what we gotta do? We gotta do real.” And I’m like, “Okay?” And he said, “And we’ve got to do it imperfectly.” I said, “Okay?” So instead of going down here to the million dollar studio that has the beautiful windows because it was a church.
Andrew: Ocean Way
Wynonna: And it’s beautiful. Ocean Way. Some of my greatest experiences. He goes, “We’re going to do it in the shed where I taught my kids.” And it’s about the size of this table, twice in this way, twice. And we put five musicians in there, and I sang live and we made a record. And it was so bizarre. I would literally be walking in my Uggs with my little plastic bag with my apples and peanut butter and think, um, I used to have an intern that would go get Starbucks. What the heck? Just because we’re spoiled rotten. This is America.
Andrew: Isn’t that more satisfying in some ways?
Cactus: Well, and there’s a brilliant, there’s a brilliant point here to be made.
Wynonna: Is there? Is there?
Cactus: As we know, because of technology, and we have since, you know, I built a studio down there, but we don’t need any of that stuff to make amazing music. That’s a complete facade.
Wynonna: Well, I wish I’d known this 20 years ago
Cactus: And it’s all changed. But here’s the thing. The records that are being played right now as we sit here and talk, whether they’re old Neil Young records or a thousand people that we could sit here and name, they were made so imperfectly, but you know why? Because life is messy and dirty and imperfect.
Mark: And they couldn’t be tuned.
Wynonna: Birth is messy.
Cactus: There’s 500 perfect records being made–
Mark: Birth? Did you say birth?
Cactus: There’s 500 perfect records being made right now probably in this town. And guess what. In about six, eight months when that first single is already off the chart and done, they will not be heard again. It’s just like a tree in the forest. All that imperfect, raw, real– I mean, we don’t make imperfect stuff. We make it sound great because we know how. We have this amazing singer. That’s 90 percent of the battle. And then the knowledge–
Cactus: Then the knowledge– Then the knowledge of how to tell the story in a song is now the only quest we have, and so it doesn’t have to be science. It’s not science. It is heart.
Andrew: Yeah, which is where it began, where it always was actually. Those who had heart, even in the more sophisticated, big budget days, actually are the ones we’re still hearing from. Receive that. The ones who were making music when it was polished that are still making music, it is simply because of heart.
Wynonna: Okay, this is really off the beaten path. Do you remember the scene when Loretta Lynn is taken into the studio, and she’s getting ready to make her first. You know, you’re going to be the next big thing. And she’s, you know, doing her thing, and she’s trying to and all of a sudden Doo does that thing that this one does. He goes– He knows she’s nervous. He knows she’s unsettled and all this. I just was– I cry every time I think about it almost. It’s like, he goes out, and he gets her kids. Just gets me as a mom ’cause it’s like that’s who she’s used to singing to. So he goes and gets her kids and brings them in and puts them down. And oh my God, that moment, just for some reason has stuck with me all these years. My favorite movie ever, Coal Miner’s Daughter. And remember, she just went to singing. Like she’s just singing for kids and it’s like– That’s what he’s doing. He’s putting me in these environments where he’s like– First of all, let me just say I need to win the Nobel Peace Prize for this. I shared a bus with my band and crew for a year because of this one. He said, “You are going to be in a band.” I’m used to my own space, you know. Because in America, they say we have a three foot radius around us that you do not get inside of our space.
Cactus: Three feet, that’s plenty.
Wynonna: Three feet, at least. Wow. And so he said, “You’re gonna ride the bus.” I had the most fun. I was the most frustrated at times, yes, because I’m used to, you know, spreading out my makeup and everything. I had to keep it contained.
Wynonna: Okay, who takes up three bunks for your crap, drummer?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s exactly. The drummer, always.
Wynonna: Thank you. Don’t even get me started. That’s a whole other podcast. But anyway, I wrote my– You said, “It’s time for you to take off your nails, take off your lashes, do the whole unpack your crap.”
Cactus: Well, I actually said leave your lashes on.
Wynonna: And I said leave your leg on, and we’ll do this thing. You gotta come to see a show because we are so entertaining.
Mark: Okay, so now the show is still a band, but it’s just the two of you up front, kind of sitting on stools?
Wynonna: It might as well be because he takes up so much of the room.
Mark: I want to see this.
Wynonna: It’s just raw and it’s real and it’s imperfect. It’s guts and glory, blah, blah, blah.
Cactus: But you feel something.
Wynonna: This one makes people go– I literally wait for people to come up out of their seat– They say the idea of a good person speaking is when people lean forward like they’re really into it. Does that make sense?
Wynonna: Isn’t that interesting? Because people can sit there and go, okay, show me. Or they can lean in like–
Wynonna: That interests me. That’s what he has helped me do is make me realize what is and what isn’t true for me ’cause I think when you get raised up in the business, you hear a lot of stuff and you hear a lot of projection. And you have to undo it at some point. You have to go, take off the mask. Who am I really, you know? Who am I? And I think it’s just now since, well, since we got married, it happened because you forced me against my will.
Andrew: To get married?
Cactus: And it is kind of the two of us. You know, the drums– God always told me– God always spoke to me, even in the Highway 101 days, that, you know, I want the drums on the front of stage, is what the Lord said. So I could’ve started out further back with her, but then as we’ve gone, God has spoken to me and–
Andrew: And to her mostly.
Cactus: Yeah. And I try to go out there on social media and say, “What do you people want to see more of now?” And they always say more drums. So it’s gotten a little closer to where it’s kind of just the two of us up there.
Mark: I gotta see that. So are you hollering from the drum set?
Wynonna: He has a freaking microphone.
Mark: Oh, you’re back there.
Cactus: And during the show, we do songs where it’s just her and I. I play guitar, playing– We do a little bluegrass.
Andrew: I’d listen to him play guitar all day long.
Mark: Do you do any kind of mushy love songs to each other?
Wynonna: We, on the Christmas tour–
Cactus: Tell him how mushy it is. I’m your king bee
Wynonna: You’re my king bee. I wanna be your queen.
Cactus: Yeah. Yeah, girl.
Wynonna: And then I do that, and people are dying.
Cactus: We have been given this chance to start the next, I keep saying, the next– The Big Noise Record began the next
Wynonna: The next season.
Cactus: 10 years. She’s had a 10 year Judd, 10 year Wynonna, 10 years of this phase now, and this is going to be, I believe, probably the most important–
Wynonna: I have to share with you for 10 years.
Cactus: Since she began because she still has the same voice and everybody can still go, oh my god, but then to do that autobiographically, where all these songs we’re writing are really telling the story from that side of the curtain. And it’s just going to be done in a way that it’s so very real. How can anyone not go, “I need some of that”?
Wynonna: I’m writing with– You said something earlier, and I’ve never talked about it and it’s time. Everything has– I was telling Wendy in the car on the way over here. I said, “This is a new season. And it’s time for me to–” And we’ve been writing a song about the man I never knew is Charlie Jordan, my biological father. I never got to meet him. And what does that mean? And how do I write that to where it’s not just, you know, the country song that makes you want to drink. It’s just my story. It’s time for me to tell it. It wasn’t 10 years ago. It’s now. And so as my children get older and I look back at my life kind of thing, so it’s just a time, you know this, as you get older, you’re willing to say more and be more transparent and more–
“It’s just my story. It’s time for me to tell it. It wasn’t 10 years ago. It’s now.” – Wynonna Judd
Mark: Yeah, you have less to lose too.
Cactus: Well, we’ve got a lyric for that that I still think, and I say this sometimes to other people when I’m discussing how we’re writing and I said, you know, the lines are, you know, he was right there in Ashland, Kentucky. He was 10 miles away right there in Ashland, Kentucky, and that might not be a big thing to anyone else, but it was a great big thing to a little girl who could sing.
Wynonna: And the thing that I can’t get over– I think I cried for like weeks I was so overcome. They found a drawer full of clippings where– And I just think about that and go, oh, you know, he never, ever I think ever felt worthy enough to meet me.
Mark: How did you discover that?
Wynonna: It’s just cool. I was called into a therapy session, and I thought it was about– I’ve never talked about this. I thought it was about my mom telling me she was sick or something. Ashley ended up telling me, and I remember sitting there going, whoa.
Mark: So she knew it? Ashley knew before you?
Wynonna: Everybody knew it way before I did. And so I think what I’ve learned to do, and that’s why I sing “I Can Only Imagine” with every fiber of my being because I literally– That song was coming out about the time, and I just remember pulling over and weeping from my, you know, the deepest part of me, going, well, I never knew my earthly father. And that’s where I think it really began with my relationship of, okay, it’s personal. It’s not just a beautiful thought story, theme, the way we’re raised. This is a personal moment where I cry out to my Heavenly Father, and it’s changed me.
Wynonna: So it made me who I am today, which is incredibly curious, very interested to know who this man was that I never met. And I realize how much I’m like him in some ways. I have a brother I’ve never met. And it’s a very weird story.
Mark: Is he living?
Wynonna: He’s living.
Andrew: Is there opportunity?
Wynonna: I’ve been holding off. I don’t know why.
Mark: What’s his number? I could help you make that happen.
Cactus: You sound like me now. That’s my thinking.
Mark: I mean, does he know he’s your brother?
Wynonna: I don’t know if he does or not. I would think he does.
Mark: Oh my God, he would be thrilled.
Andrew: Yeah. Well, but that’s your journey.
Wynonna: I’d be the life of the party.
Mark: I mean, aren’t you curious that there are other cousins maybe, other brothers, sisters.
Wynonna: I think I’m so wounded by family and all that that it’s so much. I’m taking a breath before I take that on. That’s a whole other something to unpack, and I think there’s just that worry, fear back in the early days.
Mark: They might be fantastic.
Andrew: Might be, but they– I mean, that’s a lot of back to back. I think the breather thing is really valid.
Wynonna: Well, it’s been 10 years.
Cactus: She’s met the cousin or whatever, right?
Mark: Well, don’t breathe too long.
Cactus: Yeah. She’s met at a couple of them. She’s met a few.
Wynonna: I know what you’re saying.
Cactus: And they have been very sweet and very normal.
Wynonna: Normal is a cycle on the washing machine.
Mark: No, no, no, no, no. There are normal people.
Wynonna: No, there are not. Then you need to get out more.
Andrew: There may be boring people, but there aren’t normal people
Mark: Yeah, they’re not boring, but they’re normal.
Andrew: Take a little tip from my dad, Tim Greer, who’s older than us all. And just receive this. You look into my eyes. You’ve been a gift. You were gift, you are a gift and you will continue to be a gift.
Mark: That’s true. Now look over here at these eyes. You’re fabulous. And I love you a lot
Wynonna: That’s three words.
Mark: And you’re just something else. And I’ve known you forever, and I thank God you’re in her life because God knows she needs you. After hearing all this stuff, now I’ll know how to pray.
Mark: We want to thank Wynonna for being with us today.
Andrew: We sure do. She was a lot of fun, wasn’t she?
Mark: Oh yeah.
Andrew: You can check out some of Wynonna’s music down in our Amazon affiliate link, which is in our episode description.
Mark: And if you want to binge watch Dinner Conversations–
Andrew: Who wouldn’t?
Mark: You got to do that right now on Amazon Prime. Dinner Conversations is brought to you by ChildFund, a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potential no matter where they’re from or what challenges they face since 1938.
Andrew: Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world and the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today.
Mark: It really does take so little to make a difference.
Andrew: Visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations.
Mark: A child is waiting.
ChildFund is a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potent no matter where they are from — or what challenges they face — since 1938.
Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world in the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today. It takes so little to make a difference. A child is waiting. And remember, every one who sponsors a child is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville, plus receives an autographed Season Two DVD, CD and a special item handmade for you by our communities in Guatemala.
Learn more here: childfund.org/dinnerconversations.