Elle King breaks silence over disastrous Dolly Parton tribute: ‘I was mortified’

Elle King has spoken out about her disastrous, drunken tribute performance for Dolly Parton at the historic Grand Ole Opry in January, saying that she was “mortified” by her behaviour.

The “Ex’s and Oh’s” singer, 34, was part of a star-studded lineup taking part in a concert for the Queen of Country’s 78th birthday celebrations.

Video footage shared on social media at the time showed King appearing to slur her words as she told the audience she was “hammered”, before launching into a chaotic cover of Parton’s song “Marry Me”.

While Parton was not in attendance herself, King’s behaviour was branded “disrespectful” and Parton’s sister, Stella, accused King of insulting Parton’s fans.

In the latest episode of Chelsea Handler’s Dear Chelsea podcast, King finally opened up about what happened that day and the severe backlash that followed.

“I had been going through something very heavy and traumatic in my life at the time,” she said, “and that day was a really big day dealing with what I was going through – and that I’m still going through – and I suffer from like, severe PTSD.”

King explained that at the time, she hadn’t eaten or slept “in days”, which left her feeling “really overwhelmed” and “like a shell of [herself]”.

Elle King (left) was criticised for her Dolly Parton tribute performance (Getty Images)
Elle King (left) was criticised for her Dolly Parton tribute performance (Getty Images)

She revealed that she wasn’t originally supposed to headline the show, but stepped in last minute after “this other singer who’s supposed to be the headliner backed out like three hours before”. The Grammy-nominated artist said she was asked to sing “Jolene”.

“I take one shot too many and I’m just not there in my body. I’m not there. I don’t remember it,” King recalled.

“I know now what I said. I said, ‘I’m Elle King, and I’m f***ing hammered.’ I got the curtain dropped on me. I just get like flashes of this. I was totally, 100 per cent disassociated. I just cut to the dressing room, me on the floor just sobbing, ‘What have I done?’ And then the next day it was like everywhere. Everywhere,” she continued.

“I was mortified. I hand-wrote an apology letter to the Opry. I hand-wrote an apology letter to Dolly.”

She said that days later, Parton called her and “gave me really kind words and told me, ‘Well, Dolly’s not mad at you, why should the world be?’

King told her Grand Ole Opry audience: ‘I’m Elle King, and I’m f***ing hammered’ (Getty)
King told her Grand Ole Opry audience: ‘I’m Elle King, and I’m f***ing hammered’ (Getty)

“[She] made me laugh. That’s the kindness from women,” King said. “That’s the stuff that I’ve received that I’ll never forget, ever, because I wanted to f***ing die.”

In February, Parton urged people to move on “cause [King] felt worse than anybody ever could”. “She’s a great girl,” the “9 to 5” singer told ExtraTV. “She’s been going through a lot of things lately, and she just had a little too much to drink.”

“Regardless of what I was doing in my life and what was happening to me – that I don’t feel like I owe to anybody in the f***ing world to try and explain – I also don’t think that it does excuse the fact that maybe I shouldn’t have f***ing been drinking,” King told Chandler.

Taking responsibility for her actions, she said: “This is like a sacred stage and I f***ed up.

“For all the people who are asking for an apology from me, hey, if you were there that night and I didn’t get a chance to say I’m sorry to you, I apologise.”