Dolly Parton's Nephew Sabyn Gets Creative with a Classic in Pulsating Music Video for '9 to 5 to 9'
The groundbreaking artist known best as Sabyn has always known of his aunt Dolly Parton. He has watched with the rest of the world as her music has changed the lives of millions, how her smile has brightened the lives of so many, how her pride and her confidence and her sassiness has changed the game for women across the country and around the world.
He just never knew how she felt about him … until now.
"She is very kind and very supportive and very gracious to me," Sabyn, 40, tells PEOPLE, mere days before the release of his debut EP Halfway There, which received an enthusiastic blessing from Aunt Dolly herself. "We are not close and we don't spend a lot of time together, but she was so encouraging to me when I came to her with my new version of '9 to 5.'"
Using the backbeat of the familiar chorus of that 1981 chart-topper, Sabyn currently finds himself joining voices virtually with his Aunt Dolly on the adventurous sounding "9 to 5 to 9."
"I played it for her and she was like, look, you have my blessing to do whatever you need to do with this," he remembers. "Everything that people say about her is true. She's an amazing person."
Granted, she was also a person that Sabyn didn't have much access to through much of his life. A shy kid from Hendersonville, Tennessee, and the only child of a single mother, Sabyn found himself in Los Angeles as early as age 5, moving with his mother Laray Mayfield in search of new dreams and more opportunities.
"I learned early on just how to take care of myself," says Sabyn, who spent much of his childhood "moving around a lot." "My mom is a really well-known casting director, so I was always around really talented filmmakers and artists and musicians, and I was always encouraged to pursue that."
But at the same time, life was not kind to the tall kid with the big doubts as to where he fit in. With every new city he found himself in, he found himself the victim of relentless bullying. Eventually, Sabyn found himself going to film school and immersing himself in that industry, despite the fact that music seemed to forever be calling his name.
"I think I was in my early twenties, and I had this yearning my entire life to do music," he remembers. "But it was like a secret, you know? Something that I would do by myself."
That was, until the afternoon he decided to share a freestyle rap with his friend as they sat at a stoplight.
"He was literally like, 'We're going to Guitar Center and we're getting this software and a mic and you have to start doing this," remembers Sabyn, who was at the same time providing music arrangements for shows such as MTV's Buckwild and CMT's Party Down South. "I did it like as a secondary thing for a while. But then connecting with my dad really kind of brought it full circle."
Sabyn's father was Randy Parton, the son of Avie Lee Caroline and Robert Lee Parton Sr. and the younger brother of Dolly Parton. Before moving to California, Sabyn just had limited contact with his father — something he now refers to as "a complicated situation."
"At times I would look him up on the internet and I just couldn't believe how much I looked like my dad," he remembers of his father, a well-known singer-songwriter known for Top 40 hits such as "Hold Me Like You Never Had Me" and "Shot Full of Love." "We both had long hair way back when and he was tall like me."
But two years ago, after receiving word that his father was stricken with cancer and didn't have much longer to live, the father and son were committed to finding a way back to each other.
"The time that we spent together more than made up for the time that we spent apart," says Sabyn, whose own son is now 22 years old. "He told me that he loved me and that he was proud of me and that he thought I was really talented. There was just a lot of stuff that didn't need to be said. I was like, 'Hey man, I'm a dude, I got a kid, I have an ex, I get it. We don't have to talk about it.'"
And while he didn't hold on to anger, he did grant forgiveness.
"As we get older, we realize that he had much he was struggling with," he explains. "It was not a reflection on me. My dad loved me the best that he could. And what is so beautiful about it now is that we got the best versions of ourselves at the best time for the right amount of time, you know?"
Randy Parton died on Jan. 21st of this year at the age of 67.
"I was there with him that morning before he passed," he remembers. "That's the man my mom raised me to be, to show up for people and do things that you might not necessarily think you would do because you don't want to live with that regret."
But before he passed, Randy heard Sabyn's music, some of which was inspired by his very own father.
"There was always something about his song 'Tennessee Born' that always really got to me," he remembers. "I ended up sampling that track and recorded it and played it for him, and he was just over the moon. And he said to me, you need to do that with one of Dolly's tracks."
And so, he did.
"I had this inherently musical side of me that I didn't know how to embrace for a long time," concludes Sabyn, who now lives in Tennessee. "I just feel a little more comfortable and a little less pressurized here. I feel like I was trying so hard to meet a standard in L.A. I didn't really know if I was doing it because I enjoyed it anymore or if I was doing it to just prove a point. I don't know how to describe it. It's nice to be here."
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