Wynonna Judd Plans to 'Bask in the Glory of the Moment' of Performing National Anthem at the Kentucky Derby (Exclusive)

"This was definitely a check on that list of things I've got left to do," the country star tells PEOPLE

<p>Courtesy Mike World Wide</p> Wynonna Judd

Courtesy Mike World Wide

Wynonna Judd
  • Wynonna Judd will perform the national anthem at the Kentucky Derby

  • The annual event will be run at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday, May 4

  • The country star was "always overcome with emotion" when attending horse races as a child

Just five days following the two-year anniversary of her mother Naomi Judd’s tragic death, Wynonna Judd will sing the national anthem at the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby.

"I feel her, and I miss her terribly," says Judd, 59, during a Zoom interview with PEOPLE about her legendary mother and the somewhat sad timing of the much-anticipated Saturday, May 4 performance. "It's the 'best and the worst of times' kind of thing, where you're keenly aware of where you were and what was going on, on that day."

The five-time Grammy award-winner's heavy words hang in the air for a bit until Judd continues her somewhat somber thought. "I think about everything differently now, now that Mom is gone."

So, when Wynonna received the invite to join a long list of female country artists such as Carly Pearce, Jennifer Nettles and Jo Dee Messina who have performed The Star-Spangled Banner at the annual Run for the Roses, the “No One Else on Earth” hitmaker knew her ultimate answer would be 'yes.'

"This was definitely a check on that list of things I've got left to do," she says. "This is definitely one of those moments."

Related: Wynonna Talks Lessons Late Mom Naomi Judd Taught Her: 'Never Let 'Em Tell You Who You Are' (Exclusive)

The chance to sing at the Kentucky Derby is also a precious one, as Wynonna still recalls the days in which she spent watching horse racing with her family. And in the hours leading up to the legendary race, Wynonna says she plans to bask in the memories that will most certainly flood back in her mind of the times she spent there as a little girl.

"I grew up going to Keeneland," recalls the Kentucky native of the track in Lexington, Kentucky. "Standing on the backside as they come around and hearing the thunderous sound of the hooves hitting the dirt, I was just always overcome with emotion. I still think about it. I think to this day, besides having my children, it's one of the greatest memories of my life. My sweet Papa was there every single year, and he took me."

And so, with family and friends surrounding her, Wynonna says she looks forward to really basking in every moment of the illustrious day this year at Churchill Downs.

"I will be going in the morning for a soundcheck, and that will give me a chance to stand there and just bask in the glory of the moment," Judd explains. "I just met my brother a couple of years ago and he lives in Lexington, so I'll be with him. I have this whole new family, and it's just a whole thing. It's like the best of the best. It doesn't get any better."

(Wynonna discovered in recent years that her biological father, Charles Jordan, had also fathered a son named Michael, who is three years younger than she is.)

Nevertheless, she still is a bit nervous.

“I will be writing the words on my hand,” she admits with a laugh. “I'm nervous as heck because it is my home state, and these are my people. But yeah, I'm excited because I've never done it before.”

But there is still much more to do in the career of Wynonna — including writing and recording a brand-new album.

'I'm working on a really personal message to the fans,' says Wynonna, who will play the Railbird Festival in Lexington, Kentucky on June 1. 'I've been doing this for over 40 years, and I'm at a point in my life where I'm just so aware of how quickly it's all going by, and I don't know how much more time I have left.'

Related: Ashley Judd Says 'Undiagnosed' Mental Illness 'Stole' Mom Naomi Judd Ahead of Second Anniversary of Her Death

Wynonna is also featured on the upcoming Tom Petty tribute album Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty, collaborating with none other than Lainey Wilson on the 1980 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers classic "Refugee."

Unsurprisingly, Wynonna and Wilson, 31, have really hit it off.

"I cooked for her the other night," says Wynonna of the “Heart Like a Truck” hitmaker. "We sat and talked about things, and she said some of the things that she's going through, and I remember the same. Yeah, I've walked this similar path. I've learned to not let people judge. Just to do your own thing and blaze your own trail. That's what I'm trying to do for these other women that are coming up in the music."

Tune into NBC on Saturday. May 4 to see Wynonna Judd perform the national anthem ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

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