She's also come a long way from being known only as Loretta Lynn's baby sister.
Gayle, who became a pop country superstar in 1977 with "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," has carved out a niche with a sophisticated style of balladry that is all her own.
"My mother said I could sing before I could walk," Gayle said, calling from her home in Nashville, Tenn. "Music is in our soul. It was just a part of everyday life in Kentucky. Even though I was about 4 when we moved out of there, I can clearly remember gathering on the front porch and entertaining ourselves. A lot of bluegrass and roots music comes from those Kentucky hills, after all -- Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, the Judds -- too many to count."
The singer plays a show in Layton on Wednesday.
"We love to get out to Utah," she added. "It is just so lovely. I don't think we've ever played that venue before, though."
Avoiding the shadow
Big sister Lynn was already a superstar when Gayle decided she also wanted to make music her living. Even as a teenager -- she started recording before she'd finished high school -- she realized she had to do things differently if she was to avoid her sibling's long shadow.
"My sister got my foot in the door, no doubt about that," she said. "But I knew I had to find someone who believed in me and my music, not just that I was Loretta's sister."
Gayle said her sister suggested looking for a different flavor from what had made Lynn a star.
"She said, 'We have one Loretta Lynn and we don't need another,' " Gayle laughed. "I knew all her songs, but she told me to quit singing them. She was smart on that, telling me I needed a different sound. It's what made it happen for me."
Her looks made her stand out as well, from both Lynn and other contemporaries. Gayle went for fairy-tale glamour in her colorful stage ensembles, and her luxurious ankle-length hair.
"I attribute the hair to my American Indian blood. I cut 9 to 12 inches off a year. I've no idea how long it would be if I never cut it. I once let it get long enough to drag about four inches on the ground." She laughed. "I just could not deal with that. But I've wondered how long it would be if I could just let it grow -- you see those pictures of women, mostly from the Orient, with their hair dragging like a cape."
Gayle's first No. 1 hit, "I'll Get Over You," had a fairly typical commercial country sound. But it was with "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," a jazz-inflected torch song, that Gayle nailed her signature style.
"I have to laugh, because it seems like you put a sax on it, and it turns into jazz," she said. "And I know Nashville, in this day and age, wants to be known for music in general, not just for country. But there would be no Nashville without country. I don't think it would have been known for anything without it. Country music is great and acceptable, not something you want to hide in the closet. I found a style I love to do, but I consider it country, really. I would never turn my back on that. "
Gayle is working on a new album. Her most recent release, from about two years ago, is a collection of standards called "All My Tomorrows." She released a similar collection some years ago, focusing on Hoagy Carmichael songs.
"They are just songs any singer loves to sing -- it doesn't matter when they were written and when you were born," she said. "As for selecting, I mostly feature songs we've done over the years, so it was easy.
"I especially love 'Smile' by Charlie Chaplin. And just last week, I was reading that it was Michael Jackson's favorite song, and that his brother sang it at his memorial. It is such a sweet and poignant song."
Gayle is bound to pull out a few classics in Layton. She brings along some family -- sister Peggy Sue is also a singer -- as well as a band with sax and guitar, bass and drums.
Entertainment is the goal of the show, she said, in the same way she learned those many years ago on her parents' front porch.
"That's why people come to a concert -- to be entertained. I don't think they want to be preached to, and don't want politics. We're just there to have fun."
l WHO: Crystal Gayle
l WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
l WHERE: Kenley Centennial Amphitheater, 403 N. Wasatch Drive, Layton
l TICKETS: $34/orchestra pit seating, $24/reserved, $18/general admission, $16/seniors and children general admission, available from the Davis Arts Council, (801) 546-8575