Local musician Jesse Priest selected for Dolly Parton’s #JoleneChallenge

Jesse Priest stopped by The Cullman Tribune office Friday afternoon to talk about the #JoleneChallenge.  (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Holly Pond graduate and local musician Jesse Priest has been selected by Dolly Parton and the producers at Netflix to be featured in a compilation video performing Parton’s classic hit “Jolene.” Priest submitted a video of himself performing the song and entered the #JoleneChallenge that was given on Parton’s Netflix series “Dolly Parton’s Heatstrings.”

Priest is used to his friends and fans sending him requests to perform songs by female artists, but said he never predicted that the requests would lead to Parton.

“I will do ‘Strawberry Wine,’ ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ and ‘Jolene,’ of course,” he said.

Then his friends began tagging him on Facebook to bring his attention to the #JoleneChallenge.

He explained, “The post explained that Dolly wants to see people’s versions of ‘Jolene.’ I was looking into it and the premiere of the show was that Friday and I got the message on that Wednesday.”

He hurried and put together a version at his house, but he thought it could be better. He recalled visiting Grace Episcopal Church with his friend Shannon and admiring the acoustics and wondering if he could record the song there.

“I asked Jay Jones and he said, ‘Yeah man, I’d love for you to use it,’” said Priest. “We used it in the video and I thought, ‘This is it. It’s awesome!’ I don’t remember when the showed aired, but it was in November before Thanksgiving. I got a call yesterday (Thursday, Dec. 5) and I thought it was a telemarketer, but I have my number on my website so I answered it. I was kind of rude. I answered expecting a telemarketer and said ‘What’s up?’ The lady was like, ‘Hi, I’m Andrea and I’m with Netflix and partnered with Dolly Parton and we are trying to reach Jesse Priest.’ I quickly changed it and turned on the Southern Gentleman.”

Andrea explained to Priest that he had been selected with “a few” others to be part of a video being made.

He isn’t sure how many videos were entered, but said, “There’s thousands probably. When you clicked on the #JoleneChallenge, you would scroll for days. I was telling people to tag Dolly and make sure she sees the video because that would be awesome! I love Dolly!”

He added, “From what I understand, they are going to make a compilation of me and a few others, but she was having trouble getting in touch with people because people were blowing her calls off probably thinking she was a telemarketer.”

There isn’t a contest associated with being chosen in the #JoleneChallenge, but Priest said he feels like a winner regardless. Just being selected by Parton to be part of the video is enough for him.

“It’s awesome to know that the producers and Dolly took part in watching me singing. Knowing that Dolly has probably seen this is epic. That she watched it and liked it enough to put it in a promotional video is something, right?” Priest smiled.

As of right now, Priest said he is still not sure when the video will air and said that his understanding is a bit vague but he will update everyone when he finds out more in the coming weeks.

Priest, who appreciates singer/songwriters, is beyond excited.

“Anyone can write about girls in short shorts and drinking beer,” he said. “I like to listen to the words and put myself in their mindset as they tell a story. Dolly’s music tells a story and I love that.”

Priest said he and his friends often use the saying “Real is rare,” and it doesn’t get much more real that Dolly Parton.

See the video Priest made for the #JoleneChallenge at www.facebook.com/jessepriestmusic/videos/2251768475113639.

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