Until recently, Marie Osmond had never seen a buffalo.
She also had never seen Old Faithful. While visiting Yellowstone National Park, she stood wide-eyed as the geyser erupted, spouting thousands of gallons of water and reaching a height of well over 100 feet.
“So cool!” she exclaimed three times, laughing in amazement.
During a pandemic that has shuttered concert venues and delayed music projects, and with her two youngest children now in college, Osmond has been taking in a lot of sights for the first time.
“I’ve toured my entire life. I grew up on the road, I grew up on a bus. I relate to not a lot of people — maybe Judy Garland, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson,” the 61-year-old singer said during a recent Zoom interview with the Deseret News, citing a number of former child stars in the music industry. “But most of us, we traveled on the road but never got to see anything because we were in either the concert hall or the hotel room.”
Now, whether it’s on a black Harley she bought last year or in a motorhome she and her husband, Steve Craig — who she remarried in 2011 after a divorce in the 1980s — have taken across the country, Osmond is seeing a lot.
“It was the first time we had been alone since 1982,” Osmond said with a laugh. “The two of us have just been having a blast.”
It hasn’t been all play for Osmond, though. Yes, she’s spent a significant amount of time traveling around, camping and exploring U.S. landmarks. But this period has also led to a different kind of exploration, with Osmond pushing herself even more out of her comfort zone and embracing new projects.
As of late, that continual process of self-discovery includes Osmond’s album “Unexpected” — a 17-song project that covers everything from opera to Broadway to the Great American Songbook. The album doesn’t hit shelves until Dec. 10, but a handful of tracks will be featured during a special pre-filmed concert titled “An Evening with Marie” premiering on BYUtv Oct. 1.
“This is a whole new stretch for me vocally and every way else,” Osmond said. “You have to be in shape for this one.”
One door closes, another opens
When the pandemic hit, Osmond’s 11-year Las Vegas residency with her brother, Donny, had been over for four months. Several months later, another big change came when Osmond left the CBS show “The Talk” after just one season as co-host, citing a desire to work on other projects and spend more time with family.
“I don’t mind closing doors and opening new ones,” Osmond said. “As a young girl, I got shut down a little bit by change — I hated it. … So I just decided I wanted to embrace it. If anybody’s going to cause change, it’s me. When I’m done with something, I have no problems closing that door.”
That philosophy has now led Osmond — who was 13 when her first single, “Paper Roses,” became a No. 1 country hit — to the album “Unexpected,” a tribute of sorts to a love of opera that began during her childhood.
“I’m the crazy Osmond, right? Country and opera,” she joked.
Both styles and more will be on display in the BYUtv special, which also features the Southwest Symphony, Osmond’s nephew, David Osmond, and “America’s Got Talent” finalist Daniel Emmet. Filmed earlier this year at southern Utah’s Tuacahn Amphitheatre, the concert — which features everything from opera to Broadway to country — marked Osmond’s first performance since the start of the pandemic.
Although Osmond has been developing her chops as an operatic soprano for roughly 20 years — ever since her stint on Broadway in “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music” — she wishes she could’ve had another show or two under her belt before diving into a concert of this magnitude.
The butterflies she felt standing on the stage at Tuacahn — her first performance in more than a year — were the same butterflies she felt as a 12-year-old, when she flew to Nashville to launch her career, she said.
And Osmond is feeling that same kind of nervousness surrounding her new album, which she will promote on a cross-country Christmas tour (she’s not expecting to get in a lot of sightseeing this time around).
But the nerves makes her smile, because it means she’s still growing as an artist.
“Age shouldn’t define us,” she said. “I’m the kind of woman that even with all the experience, I want to keep learning. I don’t know everything. I want to keep trying, pushing. I’m not afraid to fail — I’m more afraid to not try.”
‘I do what I want’
Osmond’s can-do spirit doesn’t mean she’s hitting the stage at every possible moment, though.
In a lengthy career that has brought her face-to-face with a diverse host of celebrities — everyone from Lucille Ball to Charley Pride to Bob Hope to John Wayne — Osmond estimates she’s performed with more than 600 people.
She reflects fondly on the past, pulling out anecdotes from her days on the “Donny and Marie” show with the same level of excitement she gets talking about her present-day endeavors. But at this stage in her life — and with several grandchildren to dote on — Osmond is being more intentional with her time.
“I’m kind of at a really nice place of peace in my life,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I’m content and I’m done. But I’m also not the kind of person that feels like I’ve got to be out there. I only want to be out there if I feel like there’s something new or fresh, or something that I can give back.”
Aside from her album and upcoming tour, that approach also includes doing work for her charity, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and getting more involved in the film industry, most recently producing and starring in the upcoming Lifetime movie “A Fiance for Christmas.”
“My whole life it was, ‘You can’t do this because you’ve got this show and you can’t do that because you’ve got this thing to do. ... So I’m just like, ‘I do what I want,’” she said with a vibrant laugh. “I hire me, so there.”
At one point during our interview, Osmond, who was wearing a hot pink blazer and black biker boots, paused the conversation to answer a text from her daughter.
“I never, never not pick these up,” she said. “You learn that from life.”
Life has thrown a lot at Osmond over the years, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, including the death of her son, Michael. For all of her success and fame, Osmond seems grounded, rooted in the knowledge of the day-to-day things that make life worthwhile.
It’s the reason she’s ending her upcoming tour a few days before Christmas, so she can be sure to enjoy the holidays with her children and grandchildren.
“It really has been an incredible life, in so many ways,” she said. “I think the reason I didn’t grow up as your typical child celebrity is because of my mother and my faith. She taught me that I could never lean on anybody else’s knowledge. You had to know for yourself, be a fighter.
“And she taught me that faith is a proactive word ... a positive attitude that is a choice,” she added. “And that’s a learned skill that at this stage of the game I’m happy I learned.”
Note: “An Evening with Marie” airs Oct. 1 at 7 p.m MT on BYUtv. Once it airs, the concert will be available to view on the BYUtv app and Byutv.org.