By Ruth Kinane
October 21, 2020 at 09:56 AM EDT
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If you invite Dolly Parton onto your show, you'd better be prepared for impromptu performances and tears.

On Tuesday's episode of the Late Show, the country icon stopped by to talk all things song writing, promoting her new book Songteller: My Life in Lyrics and shared some stories of her life as a songwriter. Parton explained to host Stephen Colbert how special the process of lyric writing is to her, describing it as "her personal time with God." The book compiles roughly 170 songs written by Parton with notes about what was going on in her life and her frame of mind at the time of writing. It also includes childhood pictures and tales of growing up in the music business.

After sharing with Colbert how some songs can truly become something else once they're arranged and performed by other artists ("She took it and made it so big and beautiful —when I heard it, I couldn't believe it was my song" she said of Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You"), Parton went on to share how her mother would sing old tunes to her when she was a child, remembering one particularly sad song — or "plum pitiful," as Parton put it — "Bury Me Beneath the Willow."

Then, as one does, the singer broke into a rendition of the woeful track about a young woman who dies by suicide after her lover leaves her at the altar. As the camera cut back to Colbert, he's seen wiping tears from his eyes. “Aw, you’re crying?” Parton asked, singing more. “So I better hush before you cry yourself to death and you can’t finish the show!” As Colbert tried to regain control, he told her, "Like a lot of Americans, I’m under a lot of stress right now, Dolly! You got under my trip wire right there, that was pretty beautiful. Isn't it funny that sometimes there's nothing happier than a cry?" To which Parton responded, "It cleanses your soul." Sob.

Songteller: My Life in Lyrics is out Nov. 17. Parton's holiday album, A Holly Dolly Christmas is out now.

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