Interview: Vince Gill Discusses His Aptly Titled New Album, 'Guitar Slinger'
Country music star Vince Gill discusses his new album, Guitar Slinger, why he turned down a spot in Dire Straits -- and those increasingly frequent Vince Gill/Jeff Beck comparisons.
And is this accurate? You’ve won 20 Grammy awards?
Yep. If you knew what they were for, like guest appearances, collaborating, instrumental, songwriting, singing, producing, it’s pretty, well ... I’m proud of the diversity of what they represent.
And you were offered the chance to join Dire Straits?
In the late ‘80s Mark Knopfler was a fan of my playing, and he came to see me here in New York City. I think it was ‘89 or ‘90. We had never met before, and I adore his playing. He said, “I’m just curious if you might have any interest in being in Dire Straits. We’re getting ready to go on a world tour.”
I was so tempted because I was really struggling, not making much money. I had just changed record companies; I went from RCA to MCA. I spent seven or eight years in Nashville trying to have some hits and not much luck, getting a record to chart every once in a while but never the big home run. I had just made a new record with MCA with my friend Tony Brown.
I said, “As much as I need to do this, and I could really use the help financially, what I’m afraid of is if I say yes it will be turning my back on what I’m trying to accomplish in the country music world, and it will feel like I’m kind of quitting or failing.” I said I really don’t have any reason to believe it’s gonna turn around, but right now I want to bet on myself. It doesn’t look smart from here, but I have to do this. So I turned it down, and low and behold, a giant hit came right after that and changed my life. The best part was he still stayed in touch and asked me to come work on the next record he made, and I got to make a great friend and didn’t have to go on the world tour. (laughs)
You play on two songs on the new Joe Bonamassa album, Dust Bowl, "Tennessee Plates" and "Sweet Rowena." [As we listen to "Tennessee Plates" on my iPhone] Is that you on the left speaker?
You know, I don’t know [laughs].
And "Sweet Rowena" is a cover of one of your songs, correct?
Yes, it’s my song. I just played rhythm and Joe plays everything else.
He does a good job of sounding like B.B. King on that one.
He's an unbelievable guitar player. That’s what I mean; when you get around someone who is "that," all the way to his core ... but I like dabbling in it.
I suppose just knowing guys like Joe are around might keep you from making a blues album.
Well, every guitar player is insecure. Eric’s insecure, I’m insecure, Joe, I know from working with him I found out is we’re all just a little bit the same. It was really neat to find out that everybody struggles with that. You know, the grass is greener. That guy's so much better, his tone is better, blah blah blah. We’re all the same.
Any final comments about the new album?
It’s a great collection of songs. It’s a very musical record and there’s something for everybody. It’s all over the map; there’s a blues tune, there’s a pop-ish commercial, contemporary tune or two, there’s a romantic ballad, there’s dark subject matter, singer-songwriter songs and real hardcore country stuff with lots of steel guitar. It’s all over the map, just like I am.
Photo: Jim Wright
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