Elle King Addresses Drunken Dolly Parton Tribute For The First Time, “I Was Mortified”

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Elle King is opening up for the first time about her much-talked-about Dolly Parton birthday tribute performance at the Grand Ole Opry.

In an interview on Chelsea Handler’s “Dear Chelsea” podcast Thursday (May 16), Elle King detailed the events leading up to her drunken performance and how Dolly Parton reacted.

Elle King, 34, was one of several country stars slated to participate in “Opry Goes Dolly,” an event celebrating Dolly Parton’s 78th birthday at the historic Ryman Auditorium. But when it was King’s turn to take the stage, things went downhill quickly as the intoxicated singer delivered a profanity-laced performance that led to the venue bringing the curtain down on her.

It’s been five months since King’s highly-publicized performance, and the singer told Chelsea Handler that she had a good reason for staying mum about it. “I had to just chill. It was a big deal,” she said.


King added that she was experiencing some “heavy and traumatic” things at the time that caused her not to be 100%.

“That day was a really big day dealing with what I was going through, and that I’m still going through, and I suffer from severe PTSD,” King said. “I hadn’t eaten, I hadn’t slept in days and I was really overwhelmed. I was like a shell of myself.”

Elle told Chelsea that she was a last-minute addition to the show after another artist was forced to drop out. King performed the first of two shows without incident. But things changed when she decided to have some drinks before the second show.

“I take one shot too many, and I’m just not there in my body. I’m not there,” King said. “I don’t even remember what I said. I know now what I said. I said. ‘I’m Elle King and I’m f—— hammered.’ And I got the curtain dropped on me.”

Elle King recalled becoming “100% disassociated” and sobbing on the floor of her dressing room.

A clip of Elle King’s Opry performance was posted online and quickly went viral. Backlash ensued as viewers accused her of being disrespectful to Dolly Parton and the Grand Ole Opry, both sacred establishments in country music.

“The next day it was, like, everywhere. Everywhere. And I was mortified,” King said of the viral footage, adding that she sent handwritten apologies to Dolly Parton and the Grand Ole Opry.

How did Dolly respond? Exactly how one would expect her to – with kindness.

“Dolly called me a couple days later,” King recalled. “Literally, she’s 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?’ And made me laugh.”

Elle said she will always remember how kind Dolly was to her in a moment where she “wanted to … die.”

“I had to, like, remove myself from the population for a while because it just wasn’t getting any better.”

King didn’t elaborate on the struggles she was experiencing at the time of the performance, but made no excuses for her behavior.

“And I also don’t think that it does excuse the fact that maybe I shouldn’t have … been drinking,” she said. “This is like a sacred stage, and I [messed] up.”

Elle King credits the incident and the subsequent backlash with making her stronger and a better performer.

“That was me hitting a massive brick wall, and I made changes in my life. And I feel like I’m becoming a stronger person because of it,” King said, adding that she used the situation to learn from her mistakes and become a better person.

“Now, I don’t drink before I go up and sing,” King said. “And they’re the best shows I’ve ever played. And I’m proud to say that.”

Listen to Elle King’s full interview with Chelsea Handler HERE.