Vince Gill: On playing Duane’s Goldtop, Upcoming tour with Lyle Lovett
DON’T MISS VINCE GILL IN CONCERT THURSDAY, FEB. 16 AT THE MACON CITY AUDITORIUM
You’re about to head out on tour, what do you do to prepare yourself before a couple months out on the road?
Nothing [laughing]. Nothing, I know those songs backwards and forwards and I’ve been singing them for a long, long time. All I need to know is what time the bus is leaving.
You’re doing a couple shows in Georgia in February but you’re going out on tour with Lyle Lovett in March.
Yeah, we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve been friends for over thirty years, and last year and the year before we did a few dates and had a lot of fun so we’re doing nine shows out west and looking forward to that. It’s pretty easy to sit on stools, tell stories and play guitar. It’s pretty fly by the seat of our pants but it’s fun.
Ten years ago this year you were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, what was that experience like for you?
That was pretty surreal. Especially as a young man, I was 49 years old, maybe 50 when that happened. The reason that happened so young for me was they added a category of eligibility to the Country Music Hall of Fame about two years prior to that and they realized there were artists that had had Hall of Fame type careers and had started their careers after the eligibility period, where you had to be prior to 1975 to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. That stipulation was so old that they said this is pretty antiquated so we need to modernize it a little bit, some of the rules and whatnot. So they added an extra category and I was fortunate that that got to happen for me.
Tell me a bit about the time you spent with Pure Prairie League.
That was so many years ago. It was a great experience, getting to be apart of a well known country rock band. We were seen similarly to Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker Band, and even The Allman Brothers and folks like that, a little more southern rock. It taught me a lot about the music business, it taught me a lot about how this stuff worked, how touring and the stage and the buses, just how the real music business worked. It was pretty invaluable for what I learned. I always knew I wanted to be in the world of country music so I knew my time with them would be pretty limited and it was, I think three and a half years and three albums. Once again, a great experience but not how I wanted to spend my career. I always wanted to write some songs and be more of a country artist.
You went on to play with the Cherry Bombs and worked with Emory Gordy Jr, who we just had in the studio a couple months ago. He’s produced a few of your albums, what’s it like to work closely with him?
He produced my first two records. We played together with Rodney [Crowell] and Rosanne [Cash], we used to play with Emmylou [Harris]. He’s had a great career and one of the great musicians of our time. He’s a Georgia boy, great guy. Those were fun days, too, getting to play with Rodney and Rosanne and that band they had put together, arguably some of the best musicians I’ve ever played with and once again, a great learning experience. A lot of people might see that move from being a front-man of a fairly well known country rock band to being a side man in a songwriter’s band as a step backwards but it was actually, musically, quite a step up. The caliber of musicianship that I was surrounded by was pretty important in furthering me in getting better, so a great experience once again.
You’ve worked with a ton of artists over the years from different generations of music. What’s a project or relationship you’ve formed over that time that really sticks out in your mind as being one of the most special?
Oh gosh, you know, just doing things with people most people wouldn’t normally expect me to do things with. People like Barbara Streisand, folks like that outside of my comfort zone, so to speak [laughing]. At the end of the day, it’s all music, you know? We’re pretty bad in our country about branding things and identifying things, to me, music just is what it is. It’s a pretty joyful noise, I just like all of it and I’m not going to segregate myself to only one thing when it comes to music. I like it all.
I was just listening to your rendition of Guy Clark’s “Randall Knife” on the Guy Clark Tribute Album, This One’s For Him. Tell me about your relationship with Guy? And with that song in particular?
I knew Guy. When I first moved to Los Angeles as a 19 year old kid, the first place I played was at the world famous Troubadour Club in LA and we opened for Guy Clark that night. I’d already known his songs and done several of his songs in the bands I was in in high school and was a great fan of him. I remember, we opened for him that night and meeting him and meeting Rodney and all those guys was a game changer for me. The original version of “Randall Knife” that Guy recorded I played guitar on, and as he was singing that song, it just destroyed me. It reminded me so much of my relationship with my father and so many similarities and all these years later, Guy sings in the song “My father died when I was 40,” so did mine. After my father died I wrote this song called “Key To Life” and it makes reference to “Randall Knife” in that song as a tribute to Guy. Guy sang that song at my father’s memorial. We were just unbelievable friends. And when they asked me, they said “there’s only one song you can do in this tribute and its ‘Randall Knife.’” [laughing] I said, “Man, I’ve never done a resuscitation in my life, I think it would sound so silly,” but I mustered up all the courage I could and tried to do it as early in the morning so my voice would be low enough to actually sound interesting. I think it almost became an impersonation of my father’s voice reciting that song. It was interesting, that was a song that banded me and Guy together as friends, very important. Last year was just the toughest year ever losing Guy and a lot of other greats, great friends and great mentors. It was a really hard year, last year. They’ve got a new book about Guy, an autobiography of sorts, and it’s a great read if you get a chance. It puts all the pieces of his puzzle together.
I know you’re a big golf fanatic, how often do you get out on the course with your rigorous tour schedule?
Back in the day, years ago, I was out playing golf everyday. When I was touring, it was a great excuse to find something to do with my time when I was traveling. It’s a little hard to find the energy to play golf for four or five hours and then do a three hour show after that, you know, I’ll be 60 coming up here in a couple months so I don’t play as much on the road as I used to but I still play quite a bit. I’m crazy about the game.
You’re going to be performing in Macon on February 16. Have you spent time in Macon before?
Yeah, absolutely. The last time I was there, maybe one of the greatest experiences of my life, I was given an amazing opportunity to play one of Duane Allman’s guitars. It’s one that he played on the first two Brothers records and “Layla” if I’m not mistaken. It’s a 1957 Gibson Goldtop Les Paul and I got to tell you it was the most spiritual music experience I might have ever had holding that guitar in my hands and actually hearing the sound of that instrument in the air while I was standing right there because I knew the sound of that guitar from those records. I used to try and play those songs as a kid in my room and it was so neat to be in the air, holding that guitar and playing it. I think it was my favorite experience playing an electric guitar.
– Interview by Jamie Saunders