This past summer, I attended the Second Annual Woofstock held at the Fontanel to benefit Emmylou Harris’ non-profit organization Bonaparte’s Retreat and Crossroads Campus. I was already a fan of Emmylou’s music, but her passion for the organization was truly inspiring and made me admire her even more. Emmylou was kind enough to invite me to her home to discuss more about the organization and of course, talk music.
Emmylou established Bonaparte’s Retreat in 2004 with the goal of rescuing dogs deemed unadoptable from the Nashville Humane Association. She named the organization after her dog, Bonaparte, which she rescued many years prior. She says Bonaparte was a great “bus dog”. He toured with her for ten years. She says it’s amazing how many artists tour with their dogs. Her music partner Rodney Crowell also tours with a dog. Emmylou says that makes for three dogs, a band and a crew on one bus. She loves it, though. “All I need is a bunk and a TV to watch baseball,” Emmylou said.
Bonaparte was with Emmylou for ten years until he died. Emmylou did not think she would get another dog, but after seeing a commercial about shelter dogs on TV, she looked at her large flat backyard and decided to become a satellite of Nashville Humane. Then she started thinking about dogs at Metro Nashville Animal Care and Control because they are high kill. The first dog she got from Metro was Bella, and she ended up keeping her. She wrote the song “Big Black Dog” about Bella but says it’s really about all dogs.
Emmylou is only able to keep a limited amount of dogs because Bonaparte’s Retreat is in her own backyard. “We really need more fosters because the more fosters we have the more we can get from Metro,” Emmylou said. “Once they get here, they stay until they have a home.” Bonaparte’s Retreat and Emmylou pays for all dog care expenses anyone willing to foster incurs. “I’m a working girl, and I will be until the day I die,” Emmylou said. “I have to be. Vet bills are expensive.” Emmylou does not mind at all because she loves being on the road and the comradery that comes with it.
Emmylou has done so many amazing things in her music career. It would be impossible to write about them all, so I chose to ask her about a band she was in called the Nash Ramblers and specifically a show they did at the Ryman. “My idea of a live album is to do all new material, and the first time we played the songs we would record it,” Emmylou said. “We were looking around for a venue. At that time, the Ryman was closed down. There was even some talk about demolishing it. We got permission to have a limited audience for 3 nights.” Shortly after the show, it was decided to not tear down the Ryman. Emmylou says she doesn’t know if the Nash Ramblers had anything to do with it, but I’m sure they did.
There are a couple of local opportunities to see Emmylou perform before she takes some time off next year to write a new record. She will be at the Cannery Ballroom on November 16th for an Epilepsy Benefit. On December 14th, she will be at Miracle on Music Row benefitting Bonaparte’s Retreat. It will be held at O,Liv Bar in Edgehill.
Emmylou says that her favorite place to play is the Ryman. “I love it because of the sound,” she said, “but I will play on a porch. I just love to play music.” Well, she can play on my porch anytime!
To find out more about Bonaparte’s Retreat and how you can foster a dog, go to www.bonapartesretreat.org. For more information on Emmylou and her upcoming shows, go to www.emmylouharris.com.