Vince Gill: "I reached the point where I said, ‘I’m just going to play what’s necessary’"

(Image credit: John Shearer)

Vince Gill has been playing the guitar for 55 of his 62 years. His virtuosic and sweetly expressive solos - whether flatpicked or played fingerstyle - have graced more than 20 genre-spanning studio albums that have earned him 21 Grammy awards and just about every honor the Country Music Association has come up with. Asked if he feels like he has anything more to prove, the easy-going guitarist laughs gently and says, “Probably not. I’ve had a good run.” 

He pauses a little before expanding on his answer: “I mean, there’s still a lot that I can’t do on the guitar - we could fill a book with it. But a while ago I reached the point where I said, ‘I’m just going to play what’s necessary.’ That comes with age and experience. You don’t think like that when you’re young, but it’s a peaceful place to be. I’m content to say what I want on the guitar, and I can leave it at that.”

“I would be a pretty fortunate man just to be doing my own thing,” Gill says, “but to play with the Time Jumpers and now the Eagles, it’s like, ‘How more blessed can I be?’ But I just try to do the best I can and honor the music I’m playing. I can’t do more than that.”

Despite the hectic pace, Gill managed to carve out a block of time recently to record his first solo album in three years, Okie, which is perhaps his most personal and poignant release to date.

“I’m proud of where I come from,” the Oklahoma native explains. “We were called ‘Okies’ as a put-down, but you know, we’re good and honest people. So I’m kind of appropriating that term as a way of saying, ‘You can’t judge us with preconceived notions.’ Goodness knows there’s too much of that.”

Much of the album is bathed in the sound of acoustic guitars (the tender ballad Black and White is a fingerstyle gem), although Gill and guest pickers Tom Bukovac and Jedd Hughes let their electrics snarl on the dusty country rocker That Old Man of Mine.

On two stellar cuts, Nothin’ Like a Guy Clark Song and A World Without Haggard, Gill pays tribute to two of his departed musical heroes - the latter track pairs the guitarist’s heartfelt strumming with sweeping pedal steel textures that reach toward the heavens.

“This record is so important to me. As we recorded, I listened to it over and over, and I left no stone unturned,” he reveals.

“Through that, I also arrived at the process of elimination. There’s no extraneous guitar playing on it; every note played had to matter, and if it didn’t, I took it out. So in the end, I have an album that I found very pleasing to listen to, and I think my fans will feel the same way.”


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