It comes down to family with Wynonna (no surname, please; real divas don't need them). She found success with her family (as the younger half of the mother-daughter duo the Judds), works her schedule around it (she's a single mom with two kids), and finds inspiration in it. "It's the agony and ecstasy of life," she says. "It's hard and painful. It's healing. It's the biggest piece of work I do." (Wynonna headlines the free Dollar Bank Jamboree Saturday.)
In fact, she finds a semblance of spirituality and peace in just about everything she does these days. "I'm trying to be a good person and be kinder and not have road rage," she says. "It's a lot, but I'm doing it."
But it wasn't always this way. The Judds were huge. They won five Grammys, nine Country Music Association Awards, and dozens of other industry accolades. Mom Naomi called it quits in 1991 after contracting chronic hepatitis. Two years ago, the Judds got back together for a few months. They sold tons of concert tickets, made lots of money, and then went their own ways again.
Wynonna's solo career has been trying to catch up to that acclaim ever since her 1992 self-titled debut. New Day Dawning, released in 2000, is a more rustic spin on traditional country themes and as close to home as she's gotten. "I tried to be a big girl and moved away from town," she says. "But I realized that I am a voice, not just a chick singer."
Wynonna's currently working on the follow-up, which she says will be released "sometime between now and March. That's the best I can do." The music is "much more airy, much more light. It's a heart record."
But she's keeping busy, having recently recorded Elvis's hunka "Burning Love" for Disney's Lilo & Stitch soundtrack, making the promotional rounds in support of it, and debating which is more daunting: covering the King or anchoring the season's big animation flick. "It's not me trying to be Elvis," she says. "I'm not trying to be a caricature. I'm being myself, and there's a lot of joy in it. We're jaded, but I haven't had one person come up to me and say, 'That really sucked.'"
Wynonna is feeling vulnerable today, but she's closer to serenity. "I have a lot of fun now," she says. "I know what I'm not, and it's freed me up to be who I am. I've made peace with a lot of the things I struggled to become.
"We're not just human doings; we're human beings. To be is my theme right now."