PICKIN’ ON NASHVILLE
Vince Gill centers himself through bluegrass and digs Miranda Lambert.
One of the great tenor voices in country music history, Vince Gill has a staggering list of accomplishments: 20 Grammys, 18 Country Music Association awards – including two for Entertainer of the Year and five for Best Male Vocalist – 40 charting singles, and membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Married to Christian pop singer Amy Grant, Gill devotes much of his time these days to various charities. But on Monday nights, he fronts a little Western swing band at Nashville’s Station Inn “just for fun.”
Chatter: You’re a honky-tonker married to one of the country’s most recognizable Christian singers. How does that work?
Vince Gill: We really work well together and complement each other. She puts up with my rougher edges. She’s an extremely nonjudgmental person.
C: Ever had any bad public moments in relation to her career?
VG: We were onstage together one night when I broke into my impression of one of Dana Carvey’s old Saturday Night Live church lady skits. Didn’t go over too well.
C: You were part of the whole Newgrass movement in California in the early ’70s. What took you to California?
VG: California then is a lot like Nashville has been the past 20 years, just this huge musical melting pot. There were great players everywhere, and you could go out and see amazing music every night.
C: Mark Knopfler asked you to join Dire Straits. Why did you turn that offer down?
VG: I needed the money so bad I almost took it. But I’d just moved to MCA, and [label head] Tony Brown and Rodney Crowell were telling me I was going to make it in country music. So I thought long and hard, but in the end decided I should pass on it. And it wasn’t long after that things took off for me.
C: You were in Pure Prairie League, which was on rock radio. Who convinced you that you could be a success in mainstream country music?
VG: Rodney Crowell was always a big voice encouraging me. And I was in his band the Notorious Cherry Bombs with Tony Brown and Emory Gordy Jr., who also believed in me. But I do love Rodney Crowell like a brother.
C: Who are some hot youngsters that you are interested in?
VG: I have to tell you I don’t really get out and chase the music the way I used to, so I can’t really comment on that. I will say that every now and then something pops up that restores my faith in Nashville. That song on Miranda Lambert’s album [Revolution], “The House That Built Me,” blew me away because it means good songwriting is still happening.
C: What is your take on mainstream country music and the Nashville environment?
VG: I honestly don’t follow it. A lot of it just doesn’t interest me.
C: Do you still play any bluegrass?
VG: I’ve got some great people I play with for fun. Bluegrass will keep your chops up, and it’s one of those things that centers me.
C: Your dad was a judge and amateur musician. Was he ever disappointed that you went into music instead of something more solid and normal?
VG: My parents never once discouraged me from playing and pursuing my dream. They didn’t care if I had two nickels to rub together as long as I was happy. I was truly blessed.