By Sandra W. Plant
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with Vince Gill, the multi-talented bluegrass and country artist, who is performing Thursday evening at the EKU Center for the Arts.
After fearing that I would forget my own name when Vince Gill called at the appointed time, I found that talking with Vince Gill is like having a pleasant conversation with a good friend.
Never mind that Gill has earned more than 20 Grammy Awards and is one of the youngest artists ever inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, I found him to be a genuinely nice guy who loves making music.
With a 37-year career as a singer-songwriter and award-winning recording artist, Gill talked fondly of how he got his start in the bluegrass state. “When I was 18 years old and just starting out, I lived in Louisville and also in Lexington. I have a great love for Kentucky,” he said.
Gill reminisced about his days performing with the Bluegrass Alliance in Louisville, a group that has fostered many other well-known artists including Sam Bush and Tony Rice. He also performed for a time out of Lexington with Ricky Skaggs and his group, Boone Creek.
I asked Gill what fans can expect when he and his band perform in Richmond? “I have been making records for a long time, so you can expect a night of something of all my songs — bluegrass, country, old and new,” he said.
Here’s hoping he performs his 1980s hit, “When I Call Your Name.” Or his 1990s hits, “I Still Believe in You,” “High Lonesome Sound” and “I Never Knew Lonely.” And just about anything from his 2011 album “Guitar Slinger” would be fine with me, especially “When Lonely Comes Around.” As with most of his albums, Gill wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on “Guitar Slinger.”
“I hope the fans will come out. We have some good music coming their way. And please tell the fans,” he said, “that I need them as much as they need me.”
“What about your band?” I asked. “They are my regular traveling band, all great musicians. They have been with me for an awful long time.” He cited the steel guitar player who started with him in 1975 and the piano player who dates back to the late 1970s.
So nothing you do on stage will surprise your band? I asked. “No, we know each other pretty well,” he laughed.
Gill has performed duets as well as played back up for a variety of artists over the years. The list includes country and pop artists such as Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton and Reba McIntire. “I love the camaraderie that goes on in the music world. I’ve always felt a special bond there,” he said.
His work with bluegrass greats such as Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson is some of the best in the business. “It seems like everybody in bluegrass knows everybody else. We have a great time,” he said. He lamented the recent death of Doc Watson. “He was a sweet man,” Gill said sadly.
Perhaps Gill’s favorite singing partner is his wife, Amy Grant, herself an amazing singer-songwriter. He told me that Amy will not be with him when he comes to Richmond because “she is working somewhere else. We have both been working hard this year, but this is one of our last weekends to work and then we can be home together for a while.”
I told him that we also love Amy Grant here in Kentucky. His response was not unexpected. “How can you not love Amy? he said.
Their duet, True Love, which they wrote and also sing together, is on a recent album “Guitar Slinger.” I told him how a friend and I stopped work just last week to listen to it over and over again.
“How do you get your inspiration for writing?” I asked. “Life will write those songs for you if you pay attention. I love telling stories.”
Gill admitted to being 55-years old. “I think my writing is getting better. And as long as my songs are getting better, I’ll keep on writing them down.”