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"I'm just so proud of her," the country legend says of Swift

By Steve Helling
Updated March 27, 2015 08:55 AM
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Country legend Dolly Parton saddles up to celebrate 30 years of Dollywood and talks about her future. Subscribe now for instant access to the exclusive interview, only in PEOPLE.

In her long career, country legend Dolly Parton has seen many talented people come and go.

“A lot of people came to Nashville at the same time I did, with far more talent than me, but they never made it,” she says in the latest issue of PEOPLE. “You wonder why that happens.”

But there’s one young artist who Parton thinks will be around for a long time.

“I think that little Taylor Swift has just done amazing,” Parton says.

“She knew exactly who she was, she had her dream, and she stuck with it. That’s what you gotta do. I’m just so proud of her.”

But don’t ask Parton to give advice to Swift – or any other singer. “I’m not one to give advice, because I never wanted anyone to give me advice,” she says with a laugh. “If someone comes to me, I say, ‘What I did was this, but I’m not you.’ It’s different for each person.”

“But there are some golden rules in life,” she continues. “Be true to yourself. You need to know what you will and won’t put up with, and what you’re willing to sacrifice. A desire, a wish and a dream are different things, and you’ve gotta figure out those little differences. Everybody wishes that they were rich or famous, but that’s not necessarily going to happen if you don’t have the spunk to make it happen. You gotta work your dreams; you gotta put legs and arms and arms and wings on them!”

Parton’s hard work has paid off. Her theme park, Dollywood, has just opened for its 30th season in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And this summer, she’s opening the DreamMore resort nearby.

Sitting with PEOPLE at Dollywood, Parton reflected on her achievements.

“The key to my success has always been that my desire to succeed has always been greater than my fear,” she says.

“I’ve been scared to death about a lot of things, but then I think, ‘Okay, you gotta buckle up, girl. You’ve got yourself here, so get out there and just do it.’ And I just ask God to help me, and I follow that light.”

For more on Parton, including her thoughts about retiring, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now