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Country Music Star Listens for God’s “Still Small Voice”

“It’s important to be able to be entertained by stories of faith, stories of miracles, stories of people rallying and coming together.” So says country music superstar Jennifer Nettles about her role as Dolly Parton’s mother Avie Lee in two TV movies based on the singer’s early life: the Christopher Award-winning “Coat of Many Colors” and the recently-aired “Christmas of Many Colors.” Both movies share the story of the Parton family’s life in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, struggling to make ends meet with a family of nine, but always having more than enough love to go around. 

The faith of the Partons is something to which Nettles can relate. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, she told me, “I grew up in a really small town. The church was a big center of support for each other in times of celebration and in times of need. For me, that has always served, I think, as a wonderful example of what family and community can mean.”

Nettles has relied on that support in times of personal struggle. She said, “When I need to reach out and check myself on things that might feel like a question of faith, I have a wonderful support [system] to help me come back on track. For the most part, while I’ve had struggles and challenges in that way, there hasn’t been anything, so to speak, that would make me question what is that small still voice within. I know that I am a child of God, and I am always cared for and protected in that way.”

That grounding in faith has made Nettles appreciative of the blessings in her life, especially all the people that contributed to her becoming the award-winning lead singer of the band Sugarland and now a successful solo artist and actress. She recalled, “My mother was always super-supportive of me, carting me around to different lessons, performances, rotary events, 4-H club events, and everything else that I would be doing...Then, I had some wonderful teachers and choir directors. My children’s choir director at church was the first person who said to my mom, ‘I really think Jennifer has a gift and you should encourage her to take piano lessons.’ My mom listened and took note of that. Kudos to her for being aware of her child and also for wanting me to do what I love.”

Nettles brings that love and support to her role as Avie Lee Parton, a role influenced not only by Dolly’s real-life mom, but her own: “I have a beautiful, strong, southern mother, and I have always known that I was loved by her. She’s super-affectionate, sweet, kind, but also no nonsense when she needed to be. Myself, being a mother now, I really love that part of Avie Lee and, of course, I love her relationship with her whole family.”

Despite her hectic career, Nettles continues to rely on her spiritual roots to keep her moving in the right direction. She concludes, “For me, it has a wonderful impact to get still, to listen to that still small voice, to take time to meditate in prayer. As you’re moving around a whole lot, sometimes it’s hard to hear that little voice, until it has to scream. Sometimes, it has to scream for me! I would prefer to be able to hear it when it is that small still voice and to have that sensitivity. I think getting still and being still is the best way to do that.”


For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, JESUS: THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: