Vince Gill made an appearance at the kickoff to 2015 Summer NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) in Nashville on Wednesday night (July 8) to discuss the evolution of country music and his thoughts on the other styles that influence, and are influenced by, the genre.

"I think a lot of times when people think of Nashville, they only assume that it's a country music town, and I'm gonna tell you something: The quality of musicianship that walks these streets and plays in these studios and makes these records, they are some of the most gifted musicians I've ever heard," Gill said during the event. "They come from all over the world to wind up here in Nashville.

"Most people perceive Nashville to be a country music town," he continued. "That's kind of true, but the musicians have always known that wasn't the case. The musicians always knew each other and knew how each of the other musicians played. A lot of men and women have made their living playing on country records. They were some of the greatest jazz musicians you've ever heard in your life, and it would shock you that they were playing on a Hank Williams record or a Patsy Cline record."

A fervent history buff, the singer-songwriter says it's because of Nashville's heritage before the influx of country music that it remains one of the most revered cities in America.

"Take the Ryman Auditorium, for example; that's kind of our mother church here in Nashville," Gill explains. "It's one of the most historic buildings in the world. Most people don't realize it was built in the late 1800s as a church house, as a tabernacle. Country music never really was really part of the Ryman Auditorium until 1943.

"It went almost 50 years of being a venue in town," he adds. "It had all of the greats from different eras. So even our most famous building was not really the official home of country music. It became that many years later."

Gill also credits some of the pioneers who famously pushed the boundaries of various genres with helping shape Music City.

"Right now there's an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame based on Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash," Gill says. "... Nashville had a really amazing R&B scene that nobody really knew that much about because Memphis kind of took the lion's share of the attention in the state of Tennessee. They had all these great R&B artists that played here in clubs and whatnot."

Gill has embraced that diversity in his own music as well, singing on albums from dozens of other artists, of all genres.

"[I've played with] everybody from Ralph Stanley to Barbra Streisand, and everything in between. I'm getting ready to do a duet with Diana Krall, I think this week, on her record," he shares. "What I've enjoyed the most is, once again, the diversity of what I've got to experience ... I've always had a great love of all kinds of music, and I just wanted to do anything and everything I could. That's what I aspired to be."

On Saturday (July 11) NAMM will host a music industry day. The event, which runs from 10AM to 4PM, will include a NAMM Acoustic Nation Stage featuring Dustin Lynch, along with other artists. Tickets are $10 in advance or $20 at the door. More information can be found on NAMM's website.

See a Childhood Photo of Vince Gill

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