Loretta Lynn's Granddaughter Tayla Lynn Revisits Her Darkest Days: 'If I Wasn't Sober, I Wouldn't Be Here'
"You're sitting there, not being faithful in your marriage and breastfeeding your baby while you're doing drugs and all of a sudden you wake up and say to yourself, 'What in the hell am I doing?!'" Tayla Lynn remembers
"She was not happy," remembers Lynn with a slight chuckle during a recent interview with PEOPLE. "If I was going to stay out, I'd always call. But this time, I didn't. And Memaw made it quite obvious that she wasn't going to play that game. It was a, 'You might do that to your mama, but you are not going to do that here' sort of thing. She required respect and I learned that pretty quick."
But as the years went by, there would be nights filled with more and more disappointment, as the daughter of Loretta's son Ernest Ray would fall into the hereditary handcuffs of addiction.
"There was a time when I didn't want to wake up and see tomorrow," Lynn, 44, admits. "When you're hiding from God, the last thing you want to do is see the sunrise."
But today, Tayla finds herself on the other side both personally and professionally courtesy of a new album — Tayla Lynn Sings Loretta Lynn — and a continued drive to make her grandmother proud.
"For a long time, I tried to do something different music-wise because I believed that's what I was supposed to do," says Lynn, who sings alongside her grandmother on the country music classic "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels." "But when I let my gut start leading me and I started trusting my intuition, that's when I knew that this was the record that I was supposed to make. It was literally the easiest, most joyful experience I've ever had."
Bolstering that joy was the approval she received from her grandmother about the enlightening album.
"Not only am I supposed to make this record, I felt like I was allowed to make this record," explains Lynn, who was also spurred creatively by the loss of her mother Cindy, who died unexpectedly in 2018. "Memaw wanted me to make this record."
Indeed, Loretta Lynn has long been a woman that has served as a safe place for Tayla both physically and emotionally. But it wasn't until 1997, when a teenage Tayla was asked by her grandmother to go out on the road with her, that she experienced firsthand the weight her grandmother held within the country music industry.
"About six months after my grandfather passed away, my Memaw went back out on the road and took me with her," Lynn remembers. "I would stand on the side of the stage, and she would sing 'Here I Am Again,' and she would start crying and the audience would start crying. When I recorded that song for the album, I just had tears streaming down my face thinking about her singing that song to the audience."
There were also the nights that Memaw found herself questioning some of her granddaughter's decisions, whether it was the skimpy outfit she wore out on stage or her openness to discuss her past addiction struggles.
"She said, 'I want you to know that there is a difference between being honest and telling people your story," Lynn remembers. "She would say, 'I want you to remember that at the end of the day, country music is about family and there's families in that audience and whatever you do is a reflection on me. I'm proud of you and what you're doing, but you've got to figure out a different way to tell your story.' That was an awakening for me, that's for sure."
But sometimes, those moments of awakenings were short-lived, and Lynn would get an inkling that Tayla was letting her addictions take over yet again. But rather than raise her voice, Tayla's grandmother would handle her disappointment in more subtle, yet powerful ways.
"The way she handled it was, I wasn't allowed to go on the road," Lynn remembers. "Going on the road with her was like heaven to me, being able to be on her bus and eat dinner with her and sit with her in the back after the shows to debrief about the show. That was my favorite thing in the world. But she wouldn't allow it if I got myself in any trouble."
But trouble did in fact find Tayla multiple times in her life. In 1997, Lynn got Tayla into rehab, but the lessons taught there ultimately would not hold her back from the enticement of alcohol, pills, cocaine and heroin. It wasn't until July of 2004 that Tayla got truly sober for the first time. And in 2010, she even became a member of the short-lived country trio Stealing Angels. But shortly after getting married and becoming a mother, Tayla's demons began roaring back.
"You're sitting there in the middle of this fancy neighborhood in Seattle, not being faithful in your marriage and breastfeeding your baby while you're doing drugs and all of a sudden you wake up and say to yourself, 'What in the hell am I doing?!'" Lynn remembers.
Today, Tayla is celebrating eight full years of sobriety from her various addictions and lives with her husband and children at the Loretta Lynn Ranch at Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
"Memaw is not on the road anymore and that's a grief for her and a grief for us and a grief for the fans," says Lynn, who now regularly tours with Conway Twitty's grandson Tre Twitty. "But she's still so witty and so very talented, and today, I stand in the power that she has given me."
She draws in a deep breath.
"To go from getting arrested in the projects and weighing 82 lbs. and selling my body for drugs to now making a record and having people respect me and to stand on the stage with my little boys in the wings watching me is just incredible," Lynn concludes. "If I wasn't sober, I wouldn't be here."
And sunrises don't scare her anymore.
"Today I wake up before the sunrise so I can make breakfast for my babies and see the chickens on the farm and have some time with God. It's the first thing I do. I get out of bed, and I thank God for the day."
Tayla Lynn Sings Loretta Lynn is available now.
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