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Vince Gill Biography

Last updated: 12/27/2012 05:10:41 PM

BORN: April 12, 1957, Norman, OK

"This one is country from top to bottom." That's how Vince Gill describes The Key, his latest MCA Nashville collection. At a time when "country" is used to describe just about any style recorded in Nashville, leave it to Vince to remind us that this music does have authentic roots and branches.

"There are a lot of left-field country records out there," he observes. "And I've certainly made my share of them. But lately I've found myself just missing real, true country music. Searching the radio, you don't hear very much of it. And I just miss singing those kinds of songs. "This time, I had a very definite idea of how I wanted the album to sound. In the past, I'd get with my fellow songwriters and just go with whatever came out. But I knew I wanted to write a very traditional record. I knew the kinds of songs that needed to be written. So I just decided to buckle down and do it."

Vince Gill wrote solo all but three of the 13 tunes for The Key. They include My Kind Of Woman/My Kind Of Man, his first true duet with his frequent harmony partner Patty Loveless; Hills Of Caroline, a folk song featuring Alison Krauss; The Key To Life, which honors the memory of his late father, and a jukebox weeper with Lee Ann Womack on harmonies titled Kindly Keep It Country. The last could serve as the theme song of The Key.

Along the way he zips through the western swinger I'll Take Texas, a toe-tapping Bakersfield Sound homage called I Never Really Knew You 'Til You Said Goodbye and the instant-classic roadhouse shuffle Don't Come Cryin' To Me. The lead-off hit single, If You Ever Have Forever In Mind, is Vince's way of tipping his hat to the grand masters of The Nashville Sound.

"I'm not afraid to tell somebody where I got a musical idea. The acoustic guitar solo on Let Her In is kinda reminiscent of Garden Party. I'm trying to emulate Buck Owens on I Never Really Knew You. I would be thrilled to death if somebody heard If You Ever Have Forever In Mind and walked up to me and said, 'You know, that reminds me of those Ray Charles records of the '60's where he sang country standards.' You flatter someone by trying to be like them, by being inspired by them. I hope that somewhere guys like Owen Bradley and Floyd Cramer are smiling down on this. Because I sure loved their records. I learned how to do what I do from those records."

The Key showcases the stylistic diversity that "country" embraces. Live To Tell It All is a classic hillbilly waltz. Faith Hill sings harmony on the blissfully romantic What They All Call Love. And, as always, there are few who can tug at the heartstrings with such aching sadness as Vince does here with All Those Years and There's Not Much Love Here Anymore.

In addition to the star's own stellar guitar and mandolin work, The Key includes such instrumental greats as the famed blind Nashville Sound pianist Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Grammy award winning guitarist Randy Scruggs, fiddler Stuart Duncan of The Nashville Bluegrass Band and steel guitarist John Hughey, who achieved fame in Conway Twitty's band, as well as Vince's. Patty, Alison, Lee Ann and Faith are augmented by such vocal greats as Sara Evans, Sonya Isaacs, Shelby Lynne and Dawn Sears.

The last time Vince Gill stepped up to the plate with a new collection of songs was in 1996 with High Lonesome Sound. That album hit a homerun by selling platinum and earning its maker three Grammy Awards. Vince now holds more Grammys than any other singer in Nashville history. His total of 17 CMA Awards is topped by no one else in the annals of country music. His five consecutive Country Male Vocalist and three consecutive Song of the Year CMA honors are also unequaled. All eight of his previous MCA albums are platinum or multi-platinum.

But if anyone in country music has defined humility, it is surely Vince Gill. It seems like the bigger he gets, the more down to earth he becomes. His generosity and kindness are legendary. His willingness to share and collaborate is documented by the more than 400 different artists he has sung and/or played with in the studio. He's always up for a good laugh, a steaming fast-food burger or a round of golf. He is the Anti-Star. As he sings in The Key To Life, his father Stan told him, "It's all for nothin' if you don't stay the same." And those are words that Vince Gill has lived by. The Oklahoma native was originally a sideman in such bands as The Bluegrass Alliance and Byron Berline's Sundance. He became the lead singer in Pure Prairie League in 1979, performing its hits Let Me Love You Tonight and Still Right Here In My Heart in 1980-81. He then returned to sideman work in The Cherry Bombs, backing Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash.

A move to Nashville in 1984 coincided with his first country recording contract. But during the next five years Vince was busier backing others in the studio or touring with Emmylou Harris than he was as a solo hitmaker. He finally caught fire after joining the MCA Nashville roster in 1989. His breathtaking string of chart-topping hits began in 1990 with When I Call Your Name and to date has included such percolating uptempo performances as Liza Jane, Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away, One More Last Chance, What the Cowgirls Do and A Little More Love; plus spirit-moving ballads like Never Knew Lonely, I Still Believe In You, When Love Finds You, Which Bridge To Cross and Whenever You Come Around. Records such as Worlds Apart, Pretty Little Adriana and Go Rest High On That Mountain are more than radio favorites, they are anthems that have healed us, taught us and inspired us. They are songs that show us what country music can be when it is at its best.

Today, Vince Gill stands at the threshold of a new period of growth and artistic development. His second orchestral Christmas album will ship this fall, the follow-up to his platinum Let There Be Peace On Earth of 1993. His first television special for CMT, Song and Verse, aired in June in conjunction with the launch of his 71-city tour, sponsored by the video channel. In the months to come, Vince will emerge as a record producer by guiding projects for longtime friend Patty Loveless and newcomer Sonya Isaacs. Through it all, you can bet on one thing. Vince Gill is a man who keeps even his deepest and most intense emotions close to the surface. That is why they infuse every note of music he plays and sings. And that is why The Key is the record that it is.

"Losing my dad last year made me remember all the great country records he raised me on," Vince reflects. "This is where my heart is right now; and I let my heart lead me."