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Phil Vassar: ‘It’s Hard to Define What ‘Country’ Really Is’

Phil Vassar thoughts on modern country music
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Phil Vassar is hoping to soon release a new studio album — his follow-up project to 2009’s Traveling Circus — and as the 51-year-old puts the finishing touches on his new record, he acknowledges that country music has evolved plenty in the last 15 years, but he isn’t about to let those changes affect how his music sounds.

“… I think music’s changing a little bit again in Nashville … It’s cyclical. Nashville does that: If something hits, they jump on it, and everyone signs something,” Vassar tells The Boot. “There’s a whole lot of followers, so by the end of the cycle, you get sort of watered-down versions of what started the whole trend.

“I think it’s like anything: There’s good and bad,” he continues. “I don’t listen to anybody else, really … I don’t like to be influenced by what everybody else is doing or something.

“… I think everybody is trying to get out and do their thing. I appreciate that,” Vassar adds. “Some of it, I don’t like, [but] it’s like anything: There’s good and bad country, pop, rock, jazz. So I think, for me, if that’s what you want to do, do it.”

Vassar says that he feels fortunate to have weathered so many changes in the genre already.

“… It’s hard to define what ‘country’ really is. It’s not like Waylon Jennings anymore,” the artist notes. “Things change. Things need to change; they need to evolve.”

However, Vassar points out, “That doesn’t mean you have to lose sight of where we came from.”

More than anything else, the tunesmith says that the credit for his continued career goes to his fans, who inspire him to keep making music.

“It’s amazing: We’ve had a couple of things out, but I haven’t done a new studio album in [six] years now, and our crowds are growing. It’s weird,” Vassar muses. “We’re doing a lot more on social media and that sort of thing. We don’t sell a million tickets a year like some of these big, huge tours, but we still sell 100,000, or almost 200,000. That’s a lot of tickets.

“We do a good amount of shows and have a great following and a great fan base,” he adds. “It’s really exciting.”

A list of all of Vassar’s upcoming shows is available on his website.

NEXT: Is Traditional Country Music Dead?

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