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Elle King Shares How Dolly Parton Responded to Her Drunk Performance

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Elle King is speaking out about her drunk performance. On the latest episode of iHeartPodcast’s Dear Chelsea, King told host Chelsea Handler what really happened the “really crazy” night she performed a Dolly Parton tribute at the Grand Ole Opry while drunk.

“So I did a big no, no. I not only cussed on stage, hammered at the Grand Ole Opry, but it was Dolly Parton’s birthday and the Opry was doing a Dolly Parton tribute,” King said. “I haven’t spoken about it because, one, I had to just chill… I had been going through something very heavy and traumatic in my life at the time, and that day was a really big day dealing with what I was going through, and then I’m still going through, and I suffer from like severe PTSD.”

The day of the January incident, King recalled, “I hadn’t eaten, I hadn’t slept in days, and I was really overwhelmed. I was like a shell of myself.” King noted that she wasn’t supposed to perform that night, but “this other singer who’s supposed to be the headliner backed out like three hours before, and they asked me if I would sing, if I would be the headliner and sing ‘Jolene.'”

King immediately agreed because she knew the iconic track. The first of the night’s two performance went “f**king perfect,” King said, noting that the trouble started with the late show of the evening.

“I take one shot too many and I’m just not there in my body. I’m not there. I don’t remember it,” she said. “… I know now what I said. I said, ‘I’m Elle King and I’m f**king hammered.’ I got the curtain dropped on me. I just get like flashes of this. I was totally, 100 percent, disassociated. I just cut to the dressing room, me on the floor just sobbing, ‘What have I done?’ And then the next day it was like everywhere. Everywhere.”

Afterwards, the Opry said that they “deeply regret and apologize for the language that was used” during King’s performance, and the singer postponed her upcoming concerts.

“I was mortified,” King said. “I hand wrote an apology letter to the Opry. I hand wrote an apology letter to Dolly.”

Parton wasn’t upset about the performance. In fact, when she called King days later, the singer declared Parton as “literally proof that angels exist.”

“She just gave me really kind words and told me, ‘Well, Dolly’s not mad at you, why should the world be?'” King recalled. “(She) made me laugh. That’s the kindness from women.”

“That’s the stuff that I’ve received that I’ll never forget, ever, because I wanted to f**king die,” she continued. “I had to like remove myself from the population for a while, because it just it wasn’t getting any better.”

King added, “Regardless of what I was doing in my life and what was happening to me — that I don’t feel like I owe to anybody in the f**king world to try and explain — I also don’t think that it does excuse the fact that maybe I shouldn’t have f**king been drinking.”

“This is like a sacred stage and I f**ked up,” she admitted. “For all the people who are asking for an apology from me, hey, if you were there that night and I didn’t get a chance to say I’m sorry to you, I apologize.”

King did eventually speak out on Instagram, writing, “To everyone sending me love because I’m human and already talked to Dolly, I love you. To everyone who told me to k*ll myself, I love you too.” 

“People were telling me to surrender my child, that I’m an unfit mother, and that I should off myself,” King said on the podcast of her son, Lucky, whom she welcomed in 2021. “Maybe I did have a little aggression built up of that… The people who were sending me these messages weren’t at the show. Dolly even said it, no one is going to be harder on me than me. I was very, very hard on myself, and I’m mortified.”

While King said that she’s “not grateful” for the performance and the aftermath, she noted, “That was me hitting a massive brick wall, and I made changes in my life. I feel like I’m becoming a stronger person because of it.”

“I’m not grateful for it, but at the same time, I can find a silver lining in literally anything,” she said. “I’m going to choose to use this as a tool to not defeat me, but to make me, hopefully, a better person, and I can learn from my mistakes. Now, I don’t drink before I go up and sing, and they’re the best shows I’ve ever played. I’m proud to say that.”

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