Vince Gill knows Grammy Awards: The country star, a longtime friend of legendary Monahans-born songwriter Guy Clark, has notched 20 wins so far.
Gill will headline the Rodeo Austin gala on Saturday, the evening before the annual awards show airs on CBS.
“I was thrilled to death to see (this gig) on the tour schedule this year,” the 53-year-old singer says. “Austin’s one of the best towns in Texas, hands-down. Great Mexican food, great golf buddies, incredible music scene. Feels good to be around real folks.”
American-Statesman: How did winning your first Grammy feel (for 1989′s ‘When I Call Your Name’)?
Vince Gill: Man, it was like a dream come true. I don’t know that it ever enters your mind that you’ll win one. Twenty of them is beyond anyone’s belief (laughs). I’ve always had a fondness for the Grammys because they’re historically based not so much on popularity. You’ll see Lyle Lovett, Asleep at the Wheel, Johnny Cash win Grammys. It’s not always the biggest dog selling the most records.
How did you react to the most recent one (for the 2008 Brad Paisley collaboration ‘Cluster Pluck’)?
Now, it’s like, “This might be the last one. This is truly special.” (He laughs.) I don’t think that anyone who’s artistic or creative would ever get tired of people thinking well of what they’ve done.
Guy Clark’s nominated in the contemporary folk album category (for ‘Somedays the Song Writes You’). Do you think he’ll finally win?
Oh God, I hope he does. I have the greatest love for Guy. We’ve been friends for almost 35 years. He’s the king, in my book. We’re all voting for him around here.
What do you draw from him as a songwriter?
He has a different sense, tells a story better than most people. It’s real earthy. There’s no posing. Being around him all these years and having been lucky enough to write a few songs together, it’s fun to (realize) how every word does truly have to hit the mark.
You’re cutting his song ‘The Randall Knife’ for (the forthcoming album ‘This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark,’ due in November).
Yeah, that song is a real bond between Guy and I. I played guitar on the first version he ever did (on 1983′s “Better Days”), and I’ll never forget it. We were playing, and giant tears were falling all over my guitar. (Like Clark’s father), my dad was a lawyer, and he died when I was 40. Guy gave me the original lyric to “The Randall Knife” as a present.
How will you approach recording the song?
When Guy talks, that’s what you think God’s gonna sound like. I think I’m gonna wake up at five in the morning and do it when my voice is as low as possible (laughs). You know, that song inspired a song I wrote for my father when he passed away called “The Key to Life.” There’s a reference: “The pain of losing him cuts like a Randall knife.” Guy and I are somewhat tied at the hip through that song.
At 69, Guy keeps getting better. Are you improving with age?
Yeah. I feel like I write songs better today. I would think that should be a natural progression. I know some songs Guy’s been tortured with forever, and he finally will change a line or two. Most people’s mindset as we get older is that (we experience) diminishing returns, but I feel like I’m light years better today.
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