Tomorrow, Oklahoma Today’s Country Music issue will land on newsstands across the state, the first comprehensive exploration of the genre in Oklahoma Today’s fifty-five-year history and the first time the magazine has printed six collectible covers.
“With our state’s incredible history and talent in every conceivable facet of country music, even we are a little surprised it took us fifty-five years to produce this issue,” says Steffie Corcoran, editor in chief of Oklahoma Today. “It includes a state-of-the-genre feature written by Holly Bailey, senior political reporter for Yahoo! News; a discography by Ryan LaCroix; and a history piece on Roger Miller by Randy Krehbiel. Thanks to a suggestion from our publisher, Joan Henderson, we made the decision to publish six covers.”
Vince Gill rocked back and forth, acoustic guitar across his knee, and beamed as his daughter, Jenny, sang her heart out to a house that has meant so much to him over the years.
On Aug. 13, Jenny sang Vince’s classic “If You Ever Have Forever in Mind” at the Grand Ole Opry during an event honoring Gill’s 20th anniversary with Nashville’s venerable institution.
In the background, Gill quietly mouthed the words, closed his eyes, and thought about “how full circle things have come since I first got to perform there,” he said in a phone interview from his Nashville-area home. “It was great to just sit there and be dad for four minutes.”
It was when Jenny was 7 years old that Vince got the call from the Opry, asking him to make his debut on the historic stage. He turned them down because he had promised Jenny he’d be at her talent show on the night the Opry asked him to perform.
Country star Vince Gill set the bar awfully high when he released the ambitious “These Days” album five years ago. The four-CD, 43-song collection delved into bluegrass, rock, jazz and soul and also featured contributions from a ton of notable guests, including Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Gretchen Wilson and LeAnn Rimes. The well-reviewed, platinum-selling project won Gill a Grammy for best country album and was nominated for album of the year in a category that included Amy Winehouse, Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock and Kanye West.
The 54-year old Nashville resident, one of the headliners at this weekend’s Ford Arts, Beats & Eats, will issue the long-awaited follow-up, “Guitar Slinger,” in October. Gill experienced major highs and lows while writing and recording the album, making it one of his most personal and emotional efforts to date. The follow-up to “These Days” keeps things a little closer to home, with contributions from Gill’s wife and fellow singer-songwriter Amy Grant, plus three of their children.
QUESTION: What were some of the life-changing events that took place while you were making “Guitar Slinger”?
ANSWER: I look at life so much differently at 54 than I did at 24. Amy and I were talking about this the other day. She says, “It’s kind of hard to believe but about two-thirds of your life is done.” Mortality is very present, and you’re getting to that age where the generation before you is starting to go, and there were a lot of really strange things that happened. I lost two friends to suicide, and just, I don’t know, real life happened, that’s all. And it’s not always just the best.
I lost a lot of equipment and guitars in the (Nashville) flood last year, a lot of guitars I’ve been collecting my whole life, and the real beauty in all of that was really the fact that there was a great perspective. There was something much sadder that had happened. My friend (musician-songwriter) Will Owsley took his life April 30, the day before the flood happened, and on the flip side of all that, my daughter (Jenny) was getting married the next Saturday.
So I just kept my eye on that, and I said, “You can flood and take a bunch of my stuff away and friends — Amy lost a relative in Afghanistan that week — but you’re not robbing me of my joy of watching my daughter walk down the aisle.” So I had this real life yin and yang going on. Life happens and you learn a lot more about how you respond to it than anything else.
Q: You made the recording of “Guitar Slinger” quite the family affair, didn’t you?
A: My oldest daughter, Jenny, is quite a gifted singer, but I wouldn’t invite somebody to sing on my record unless they were really good. I’m much too much of a snob, and she’s good enough. She gives me that opportunity to have blood-blend, like the Everly Brothers, and the kind of things that I just adore.
So when I really want that family-ish type of thing, I really lean on her because she can really deliver that. My duet with Amy, “True Love,” has my 18-year old daughter Sarah singing on it. That was the first thing we recorded in our new home studio. And my youngest, Corinna — who was 9 — sang on the song “Billy Paul.”
I’m doing it because I’ve always felt that music was like painting. I would think, “What sound do I want here?” moreso than what famous person do I want. With Sarah, her voice is so unique and compelling, and it’s very interesting to me, not just idle background stuff that doesn’t get noticed.
Q: Given Detroit’s incredibly rich music history, what artists from here did you grow up listening to?
A: All of ‘em!
(Bob) Seger cut one of my songs a couple records back (on his “Face the Promise” album) called “Real Mean Bottle.” I’ve always loved his songs; they get a ton of airplay at my house.
We became friends not too long ago. I host a golf tournament here and we have a real informal jam session after we play golf, and one year, he got up and sang. That was great.
It’s got an amazing history musically, Detroit does. There are several places around the country that have a great history, and it’s one of those meccas that turned out some of the greatest music ever made.
Q: With all the awards and all the plaudits you’ve received over the years, it’d be easy to rest on your laurels, and yet you still sound enthused and inspired about making music. What has kept you so motivated?
A: The laurels haven’t changed anything. The accolades, they feel great, they make you feel the work is being well-received, but it never diminishes the desire for wanting to do it. I feel like I did when I was 17 and I was playing a joint for twenty bucks or fifty bucks or whatever I could get. …
The travel’s hard, being away from my family is hard — that’s a different stage of life than I used to be in. I don’t tour as much as I used to and I have other responsibilities that life has dictated I do, so everything’s in a great perspective, a great balance. But that whole music thing inside me has never changed in any way. I still feel driven to get better.
Q: What songwriters do you look up to?
A: From a lyrical standpoint, two of my all-time favorites are Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell. They became great friends of mine, not only mentors but great friends. But I’d also have to say James Taylor, Lennon and McCartney, Carole King and Paul Simon. I’ve always loved where Paul Simon takes you rhythmically, it’s always unique.
There’s Jimmy Webb, Dylan, I could just go on and on and on. Where do you stop? You can’t.
AS THEY BLEND THEIR MUSICAL STYLES AND EXCEPTIONAL TALENTS IN CMT’S HIT SERIES
“CMT CROSSROADS: STING AND VINCE GILL”
EPISODE WILL PREMIERE IN NOVEMBER ON CMT
NASHVILLE – September 1, 2011 – Together they have earned over 35 Grammys, sold over 125 million albums, and performed in front of as many, if not more, music lovers all over the world. Now world-renowned musician Sting and country legend Vince Gill will be making music history in the newest episode of CMT CROSSROADS: STING AND VINCE GILL, premiering in November on CMT.
After a five-year absence, CMT is bringing back its critically acclaimed series CMT CROSSROADS to New York City, for an invitation-only taping of two of music’s biggest superstars. Sting and Gill will perform their classic hits and selections from both of their highly anticipated new releases hitting stores this fall.
“We are long overdue for a CMT CROSSROADS taping in New York City. Some of our best shows ever were taped there, and this will be no exception,” says John Hamlin, SVP, Music Events and Talent, CMT. “These are two Hall of Famers who, by our count, have 36 Grammys between them. Both artists have wanted to do CROSSROADS for years and this is the perfect pairing for them. They have been waiting for the right time and now is the time. This is going to be an unforgettable evening.”
Composer, singer, author, actor, activist – Sting has won universal acclaim in all of these roles yet he continues to defy easy labeling. Born in Newcastle, England, Sting moved to London in 1977 and formed The Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. The band released five albums, earned six Grammy awards, and in 2003 was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since 1985, Sting has released 12 solo albums. His latest, Symphonicities, is the companion CD to his celebrated Symphonicity world tour, featuring Sting performing his greatest hits re-imagined for symphonic arrangement with a symphony orchestra and band. To also accompany the tour, a CD/DVD package, Live in Berlin, was released in November 2010 to critical acclaim. This fall, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his solo career, Universal Music Group will release Sting: 25 Years. This definitive box set collection contains three comprehensive CD’s, all re-mastered exclusively for this set and personally curated by Sting, as well as a DVD, Rough, Raw & Unreleased, featuring previously unreleased live concert footage filmed at New York City’s Irving Plaza. As one of the world’s most distinctive and highly respected performers, he has sold nearly 100 million albums from his combined work with the Police and as a solo artist and has earned an additional 10 Grammy awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and three Oscar nominations. Also an accomplished author, Sting published a memoir entitled Broken Music in 2003, which spent 13 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list. He most recently released Lyrics, a comprehensive collection of lyrics and personal commentary, also featuring photographs from throughout his career.
One of the most popular singers in modern country music, Vince Gill has a love for country music, top-notch songwriting, and world-class guitar playing, all wrapped in a warm tenor and a quick and easy wit. Gill achieved his big breakthrough with “When I Call Your Name,” which won the Country Music Association’s Single of the Year award. Since then, he has won 17 more CMA honors, including Song of the Year four times – making him the most awarded artist in that category in CMA history. Since 1990, Gill has walked away with 20 Grammy Awards and has racked up sales in excess of 26 million. Gill co-hosted the CMA Awards for 12 consecutive years. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. After a long and musically productive spell of writing, touring and recording with other artists, he roars back on his own with “Threaten Me With Heaven,” his first single in four years. The song is the opening salvo from his MCA Records album, Guitar Slinger, due out Oct. 24.
CMT CROSSROADS is produced by Tom Forrest and Kathryn Russ. John Hamlin, Margaret Comeaux and Bill Flanagan serve as executive producers for CMT.
For country veteran Vince Gill, there’s no place like home — especially for his new album, “Guitar Slinger.”
Gill recorded the set, his first new release in five years, at the studio he built in the Nashville home he shares with his wife, fellow artist Amy Grant, and their children. But, Gill says, home and studio became interchangeable terms during the sessions.
“It was just a great environment,” says Gill, 54, who also guests on Alice Cooper’s upcoming “Welcome 2 My Nightmare.”
“When things come from home, they just feel different. I’m in there barefoot most of the time, maybe in a pair of gym shorts. I don’t have to doll up and leave town, so to speak. You walk down the hall and there’s the kitchen and Amy’s in there knockin’ up some brownie or making some cookies or whatever the heck. …
“The musicians who played on this record loved the vibe that went on in the process of recording these songs and spending time in the house. It doesn’t feel like work, in a really neat kind of way. There were times where I didn’t know if we were really working or just screwing off.”
“Guitar Slinger” isn’t due out until Oct. 24, and Gill is well aware of the time that’s passed since 2006’s four-CD set “These Days.” He’s already released the first single, “Threaten Me With Heaven,” whose co-writers included Grant and Will Owsley — who tragically committed suicide in April of 2010.
“(The song) has a totally different impact on me now that he’s gone,” Gill acknowledges. “I’ve never confronted something quite like that in my life, write a song with somebody and have them do that before it came to fruition and all that. So it’s already had a profound impact on me.
“As bad as Will struggled in his personal life, I didn’t think he would ever do that. In my heart, I just wish he could’ve hung on and seen this (song) have an opportunity to have an impact on people’s lives. Maybe it would’ve changed things for him.”
Vince Gill performs at 10:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, on the Michigan Lottery Main Stage at Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Royal Oak. Admission is $3. Visit www.artsbeatseats.com.