Back in April, at the 2022 CMT Music Awards, fans got the collaboration they never knew they needed when Jimmie Allen and Little Big Town shared the stage with R&B legend Monica for a rendition of her song “Pray.”

Now, Monica’s got a full-blown country album in the works, which she says she’s been working on with Brandi Carlile. The project, called Open Roads, might seem like a left turn for the singer — but it actually dates back to her decadeslong Dolly Parton fandom.

“My Dolly Parton obsession began — and it hasn’t ended — and what it was, was that my love for my family is really my connection to her,” Monica tells ET Online.

“I was in her park [Dollywood] at about 10 years old, and the lady working told me, ‘Well, I’m Dolly’s first cousin and she gives us a job, a car and an apartment. It’s amazing,’” the singer recounts. “So when I met her and I realized all of these people are related to her and she built all of this, it really helps her family and community, that’s when my love for her began in country music.”

Of course, Dolly is a dream collaborator for Monica’s album, but she’s not the only one: The singer also names Mickey Guyton and Chris Stapleton as people in the country genre who she’d love to work with.


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