13 Nov 11
Exclusive contest going on now for Where’s Eric! Magazine Subscribers. Plus, read an excerpt from The Where’s Eric! Interview with Vince Gill that will appear in Issue 43.
Where’s Eric! has a few autographed copies of Vince Gill’s Guitar Slinger CD and the Guitar Slinger Deluxe Edition to give away to current magazine subscribers. Magazine subscription will be confirmed. To enter, subscribers should send an email with the subject header "Guitar Slinger" to[email protected] with their full name and complete postal address in the body of the email by 15 December 2011. One entry per magazine subscriber. To subscribe or renew your subscription to Where’s Eric! Magazine, visit the Magazine Information Page.
ISSUE 43 SNEAK PREVIEW!
The Where’s Eric! Interview: Vince Gill with Linda Wnek and Barry Fisch
Vince Gill was born 12 April 1957 in Norman, Oklahoma. A multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, dobro and fiddle), his Grammy and Country Music Awards are almost too numerous to count. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry, with more than 26 million albums sold, his newest album, Guitar Slinger debuted to rave reviews. Vince has performed at all three of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festivals. An avid golfer, he helped create the annual Vince Gill Pro-Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament in 1993 in order to help support junior golf programs throughout Tennessee. Vince is also regarded as one of Country Music’s best known humanitarians, participating in hundreds of charitable events throughout his career. He is married to singer-songwriter Amy Grant.
LW: So what came first … golf or the guitar?
VG: The guitar by a long shot. I started playing golf at 7. There are some pictures of me with a little bitty parlor guitar that was around. I don’t know whose it was, if it was on my mom’s side of the family or what, but it was a little tiny guitar that had a little piece of cord – like for a lampshade – for a strap. And I’m dragging it around by the cord and I’m probably two years old. I know I wasn’t playing it well then, but I don’t ever remember a time not banging on one, playing on one, or listening to one. I don’t have a conscious memory of saying “I started when I was seven or four or five."
LW: Didn’t you start playing guitar with your dad?
VG: Yeah. He played a little bit. I thought he was Chet Atkins. I didn’t know he wasn’t any good (laughs). But, he played enough to sing along to.
LW: There’s a great story about how you acquired your first Martin D28 …
VG: I was 18 and barely out of high school. I took off that summer and if there was a sought after guitar in the world of bluegrass, it was an old D28 Herringbone, or maybe a ‘30s D18. They were the most powerful, biggest toned, biggest speaking guitars, you know. I was at a festival and I saw a guy walking by with a D28 case saying “For Sale”. I wound up spending every dime I saved up for my future on that guitar. So, I started out dead broke but had a great guitar. I still have it and it’s still in that same kind of pristine condition. To get it, I also had to get rid of my ‘70s D41 Martin. And I would love to try to find that D41 again.
LW: Didn’t you get a chance to play Duane Allman’s ’57 Gold Top fairly recently?
VG: The guy that owns it lets Allman Brothers Museum in Macon have it. It disappeared for a long time as Duane traded it for a sunburst or something. It went unaccounted for years until someone was able to document it as Duane’s guitar. I got a call out of the blue asking if I would like to play his ’57 Gold Top. “Well, yeah!” It has ’59 PAFs in it. He brought it to the last show I did in Macon. I don’t know if I ever heard a guitar that I felt so spiritual about. The mindbender of it was I knew those records and I knew that guitar’s sound as a kid sitting in my room trying to find the sound of the instrument. I loved those records very, very much. Then, to have in my hands in real time 40 years later or whatever it’s been – the way that guitar vibrated in my hands – to hear it in real time what I heard as a kid was really something. I got all tingly. It was almost an out of body feeling. It was fantastic! I didn’t want to quit playing it, I just kept playing and playing.
BF: Can you talk to us some more about your gear? What do you like to use most?
VG: Well, I like to use whatever guitar is the right guitar that makes the sound that I want to point towards. I play a lot of Strat stuff. I don’t play probably as much Tele as I used to. When I want to crank it up, a 335 or a Les Paul is nice.
I feel like the lucky little brother – Eric commissioned Gibson to rebuild his sunburst Les Paul. He got the first one and gave me the second one. I’m thrilled to death. It’s the one he played on Beano. Then, the week before last – he’s been working with Fender on his specs for a little Tremolux amp – and I got the second one of those. He got the first one. I’ve been feeling like “what did I do to deserve this?” I’m pretty excited! I want him to know how grateful I am.
LW: With your new record, Guitar Slinger, there’s a new sound to your guitar … you really put it out front.
VG: Yeah. I just want to play. I don’t have to tie things up in a neat little 3 minute box so much anymore. If I get some hits and get some radio play again, I’ll be more than grateful. But even as much as I’m playing on this record, I don’t think it gets in the way of the songs. I don’t ever remember having two minute long fades with me just going and going and going.
My manager, Larry Fitzgerald, when he heard this record said, “Something’s changed in the way you play. It’s freer.” He’s the one who wanted to call it Guitar Slinger. At that time, I don’t think that song was even going to be on the record so I said, “Well, we can’t call it Guitar Slinger and not have the song on there.” So we figured it out.
I’m in a great place in my life. I feel like I’m playing the best I’ve ever played. Singing the best I’ve ever sung. I’m writing better songs. That’s a neat thing to find out with a little bit of age that you continue to improve. It’s real inspiring to me.
LW: Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
VG: There’s a few. There’s one I’m crazy about – but not because of any kind of guitar playing as there isn’t any to speak of; it just has some fills. It’s called “Billy Paul”. It’s a story song. I’ve always loved Haggard, probably more than anyone else in the country music world. It’s the first time I think I ever really copped that in the right way. It’s really authentic like some of his great records. It was a great feeling.
Some of the playing on “When The Lady Sings The Blues” – there’s some stuff I’ve never played before and it was just to find something new to play. That’s always a good feeling.
BF: So you’re a Billie Holiday fan?
VG: I am, believe it or not! I bet you wonder how and why (chuckles). It was when Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams made the movie Lady Sings The Blues. I had never been exposed to that kind of big band, great orchestrated music. I was so taken with the music from that movie; I went to see that thing a hundred times. I was 12, 13. I would sneak into the movie theater and hide and watch it again and again and again. I was completely undone by the music but had no idea who Billie Holiday was. But that’s how things are supposed to happen. I always give Eric Clapton the credit for teaching me who Robert Johnson was. Someone comes along and thinks you’re great, but well let me show you where I got it from. That’s how you get to teach, leave a legacy and show people where some of this stuff comes from.
LW: When did you first meet Eric?
VG: At the Grammy’s in the early 90s. I was sitting with Ruth Brown and Bonnie Raitt. It was during a commercial and the lights were down. The next thing I knew, someone was standing in front of me, but backlit, so I couldn’t tell who it was. And he said, “I’m Eric. I just want you to know I’m a great fan of your playing.” I looked up and went, “CLAPTON? Are you kidding me?” It was really neat to get to meet him but we never got to have a conversation.
Our paths didn’t cross again until 2004. I was just sitting around the house and the phone rings and I pick it up and I hear, “Vince, its Eric Clapton.” I say, “Yeah, sure. Who’s yanking my chain? Who is this?” He started laughing and goes, “No, it really is.” I said, “Whatever you want, YES! The answer is yes” (laughs). He laughed and told me he was putting on a guitar festival in Dallas but only inviting guitar players that he liked. I was undone by that.
LW: It’s interesting to look at your career and Eric’s. He came out of The Yardbirds which had three great guitarists – himself, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page – and then on this side of the pond, there’s you, Albert Lee and James Burton working with Rodney Crowell’s and Roseanne Cash’s band … can you talk about that?
VG: I first knew of Albert before he played with Eric from playing on Emmy’s records. He was really someone that I emulated in a big way maybe to the point where it might have irritated him that I wanted to play like him so bad (chuckles). He played in a way that really spoke to me because of what I played previously with bluegrass music and a lot of open string stuff. The bounce and the rhythm of the way that he plays is unlike any other guitarist I’ve ever heard. The first time I heard him play – I don’t know if it was Head Hands & Feet or the first Emmy record – I went and got a Telecaster immediately. It made sense to my ears that kind of playing. I’ve always played more of the bluesy rock stuff with bending strings, cranking it up and all that kind of stuff.
James was even of an equal influence, even all of the stuff he played before Elvis with Ricky Nelson. He played so many sessions that people probably don’t know. He jammed with Merle Haggard, just tons of memorable guitar playing. He was probably the innovator of the whole chicken picking thing.
I always wanted to be a guitarist that was more than just that. I was before and I think I always have been a chameleon enough to borrow from all of them. I remember playing “Sunshine Of Your Love” when I was a kid and learning those solos note for note. But I love bluegrass, love the country side of things, but I was also influenced by guys like Larry Carlton, Robben Ford who comes from more a jazz place and a fusion place. I’m just immersed in the guitar.
LW: In September, you were in New York to tape an episode of CMT Crossroads with Sting. What was it like working with him?
VG: It was one of those times when you feel like “What are YOU doing here?” It’s the thought you have. You look over and think to yourself, “Dude, its STING!”
What I liked about it was the collaboration was a smart one and a good one. We both are so similar in that we’re both real serious about our music, we’re both musicians, we’ve both been in bands, we write our own stuff, we sing in the same register. It was seamless. His stuff is fairly complex and I was thinking “where am I going to find my way in here to play” but I got inside the music and figured out how it went. It was a great experience once again to learn something. As a musician, you never get tired of learning.
LW: Whose idea was it to cover an Everly Brothers song for Crossroads?
VG: CMT provided a few choices. It seems to me that more often than not on that show that the country folks are trying to “out rock” the rock people. Guess what? You can’t do that so stop it (laughs). But I saw that song and thought this would be neat because we could do something together like those brothers, Don and Phil. He liked the idea too, so we didn’t do some odd thing, we did something beautiful.
LW: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.
VG: My pleasure. It’s been a treat.
For more information about Vince Gill, visit his official website, vincegill.com. His most recent album, Guitar Slinger, is out now. CMT Crossroads with Vince Gill and Sting debuts in the United States on 24 November at 8PM on CMT. Here’s a preview of them performing “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”:
Linda Wnek began writing for and contributing photographs to Where’s Eric! Magazine in 1994. In 1999, she joined the magazine’s Editorial Team and now also serves as Web Content Editor for whereseric.com. She is a radio industry veteran working at sister-stations 77 WABC and 95.5 WPLJ in New York City. Barry Fisch, a record industry veteran, has been a regular contributor to Where’s Eric! since 1999. He’s now with Time Warner.
Copyright 2011 – Where’s Eric! All rights reserved. Article cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.
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