Vince Gill 'couldn't have dreamed' legendary career

 

 Juli Thanki, jthanki@tennessean.com 12:29 p.m. CST February 12, 2016

 

When it comes to bad habits, Vince Gill admits he’s got a few.

“I’ve been noted for being a little hot-headed on the golf course,” he explains.

Gill says one of his golfing buddies, a psychiatrist, said that the same temper Gill exhibits while missing a putt is likely what’s made him such a successful musician.

“You have that burn inside you that won’t accept anything but your best,” the doctor told him.

Sitting barefoot in his home studio, with his cocker spaniel Okie contentedly gnawing on a toy by his side, Gill doesn’t resemble the “knucklehead” he says he can be with a 9-iron in his hand.

But the evidence of that drive to succeed is all around him: His 20 Grammy Awards are lined up on shelves behind him, and his Country Music Hall of Fame plaque is five feet to his left. Even surrounded by these honors, Gill admits that, to him, chart success and trophies are less important than making music that's significant, whether it's country, bluegrass, Western swing or rock.

"I feel compelled by all music, not just one (style)," he says. "The only thing I really want to accomplish is authenticity."

Gill thinks that his new album, “Down to My Last Bad Habit” (out Friday), might be his best yet.

“I’m writing better songs and I play better than I ever have … I think I sang with more intensity than maybe any record I’ve made to this point.”

That emotion, he says, came from watching several dear friends pass away, including George Jones, who he pays tribute to on the album's closing track: “Eventually you get to the place where you go, ‘I don’t know how many more swings at this curveball I’m going to get.’ You better make it count.”

At 58, Gill’s been taking his swings for more than 40 years, and he’s knocked his share out of the park, selling more than 26 million records and releasing several dozen hits, including "Go Rest High on That Mountain" and "When I Call Your Name." This year, he'll celebrate his 25th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and he just contributed harmony vocals for country music legend Merle Haggard's next album.

"I couldn't have dreamed any of this in a million years," Gill smiles.

When he began his musical career as a teenager in Oklahoma, he was frequently the youngest member of any band he was playing with, but the kindness shown to him by more experienced musicians he met, such as bluegrasser Roland White, has stuck with him for decades. As a seasoned veteran, Gill is proud to carry on the tradition of championing young, talented musicians. On “Down to My Last Bad Habit,” he collaborates with multiple up-and-coming artists, including Charlie Worsham and Cam.

“It’s fun to be willing to invest in young, aspiring people that love to do what I do,” Gill says.

Gill sees a little bit of himself in those rising stars who are just as passionate about music as he is. The boyish enthusiasm he had at 20, when he'd play gigs for $15 a night, is still there when he steps on stage.

“Every step of the way, I’ve found joy in it," he says. "If you’re playing, that’s all that really matters.”

For him some of the fun comes from not knowing what's around the next corner.

“If you know how the book is going to end, why would you read it?" Gill says. "I’m in the middle of this book, and I’m going to keep reading.”