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Vince Gill Bluegrass Tour Has Been a Welcome Change

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Vince Gill is one of country music’s most enduring performers, as skilled on the guitar as he is at penning heart-piercing hit songs. But for his most recent tour, the Country Music Hall of Famer is delivering something new. More accurately, he’s offering something old that may be new to fans of the music they’re accustomed to hearing from him on the radio. The Oklahoma native is nearing the end of a 12-city bluegrass tour.

“It sounded like fun, and I don’t have to show up and sing my most recent hits,” Vince tells North Carolina’s News and Observer. “I haven’t been quite as in vogue at country radio for quite some time, and that’s OK. I get to do what sounds fun to me these days, and it kind of sounded fun to me.”

Longtime fans of the man who wrote and popularized such No. 1 hits as “When I Call Your Name” and “I Still Believe in You,” may not be aware that Vince played in his first bluegrass band while still in high school. After graduation, he moved to Louisville, Ky., where he performed with two seminal progressive bluegrass groups, Bluegrass Alliance and Boone Creek. Those bands also featured future legends of the genre: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Ricky Skaggs.

Two North Carolina-born titans of bluegrass, Earl Scruggs, who died in March, and Doc Watson, who passed away last month, have been on Vince’s mind throughout the recent trek, and certainly on his stop in that state this past weekend.

“They were two of my very favorites,” he notes. “I wanted to flat-pick like Doc. He was the first guy who ever turned me on to flat-picking.”

Some of his greatest memories include being invited to picking parties at the Nashville home of Earl Scruggs and his wife, Louise, who passed away in 2006.

“Louise always made me sing ‘Go Rest High on That Mountain,’” Vince says of one of his most popular songs. “She loved that song. But I just love the camaraderie of bluegrass musicians. Guys you met in 1974 and you never forgot each other. You maintained friendships. That’s the remarkable thing, and the most appealing thing, about it. It’s that camaraderie and the way everybody treats each other. It’s very welcoming.”

Fans who have been able to witness Vince playing bluegrass will be happy to know that he may just do a bluegrass album in the future. But he’s following the lead of another artist whose recording output has been decidedly eclectic, making it anyone’s guess, including his, as to what will happen next.

“I wouldn’t rule out a grassy record in my future,” the singer-guitarist explains. “I’m not tied to a record company anymore. I have about 20 ideas of what I want to do; I don’t know which one’s going to show up first. I think Willie Nelson is a great example for me. What he’s done the last 10 or 15 years is probably 10 times more than he’d done the first 30 or 40. That’s my goal.”

While Vince isn’t chasing radio hits anymore, he’s discouraged by the way music has seemingly lost it value in the current digital age.

“Record sales aren’t what they used to be,” he lamented in a recent interview. “The devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. My single costs 99 cents. That’s what a [single] cost in 1960. On my phone, I can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises — the same price as the thing I create and speak to the world with. Some would say the fart app is more important. It’s an awkward time. Creative brains are being sorely mistreated.”

Vince’s bluegrass tour heads to Kentucky for a pair of shows later this week and will conclude in Wabash, Ind., on Saturday, June 30. Next month, he’s headed to Arendal, Norway. Check here for more details.

Watch Vince Perform Live in Our Studio

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