The song Wynonna Judd likes best is the one that makes people cry. No, she’s not a sadist. She’s talking about a song that hits an emotional chord in someone.
“Something that makes people cry from their toe nails,” she says about that song. “Maybe it’s something in a minor chord. Maybe it’s a sound from heaven to them, it touches them so deeply.”
Expect a large measure of that when the country-singing superstar turns up in Houston for her Wynonna and the Big Noise Christmas concert at Jones Hall on December 7. Presented by the Society for the Performing Arts, the show features settings of traditional Christmas fare and Wynonna originals. Hardly a stranger to Houston, Wynonna performed for decades at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, both as a soloist and with her mother, Naomi, as part of country music duo The Judds.
“I love coming to Houston,” she says. “If I weren’t from Kentucky, I’d be from Texas.”
Known for her rich voice and bravura stage presence, Wynonna has had 20 No. 1 hits and won more than 60 industry awards during her three-decade career. She’s the kind of artist who instantly connects with her fans, readily admitting she feels their vulnerability because she’s vulnerable, too.
“I’m recovering from perfectionism,” she says. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the perfectionism that this time of the year often brings. I love singing the music that inspires me to remember the real reason for the season. My hope is that people can come to the show, forget about their ‘to-do’ list and, for the time we are together, simply enjoy themselves.”
This is the fifth year she and the Big Noise have taken their Christmas show on the road. The tour has become a holiday tradition for Wynonna, who says she wants to help people remember that Christmas isn’t about how many presents you buy or how you’ve decorated the house.
“I don’t make my own wrapping paper,” she says, gently spoofing on the Pinterest perfection so many others might feel pressured to pursue, something she feels sets people up for failure. “I mean, who has time for that? But I feel God is calling me to be everywhere, so I am doing concerts and I am busy, and I am so grateful. I want to inject as much joy as I can for people. Music allows me to do that.”
But don’t expect her show to be some new-agey, hyped-up regurgitation of holiday favorites. While there’s no doubt Wynonna will bring her own stamp to Christmas songs, she readily admits she’s a traditionalist.
“I like things that are raw and real, things that remind me of my childhood," she says. "When it’s Christmas, my heart want Johnny Mathis and White Christmas by Bing Crosby.”
What Wynonna really wants, though, is for people to both have a good time and take solace in the songs she chooses. She might love the song that makes someone weep with emotion, but she knows people need joy.
“I do love to make people laugh—laughter is so important,” she says. “And I want to be able to remind people there is hope.”
A Wynonna & The Big Noise Christmas, Dec. 7. Tickets from $34. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-227-4772. More info and tickets at spahouston.org.