Country heavyweight Vince Gill to perform at Wilkes-Barre’s Kirby Center
Vince Gill has won 21 Grammy Awards from 44 nominations. That’s Stevie Wonder territory.
The songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and record producer has made an indelible mark on country music — over the course of a career that’s spanned more than 40 years — and he’s managed to touch on every shade of Americana along the way.
Gill will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Recently, Gill has released his 18th studio album, 2016’s “Down to My Last Bad Habit;” won a Grammy in the same year with Western swing outfit The Time Jumpers; produced two records for singer Ashley Monroe; and collaborated with Time Jumpers steel guitarist Paul Franklin on a tribute to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
His latest news?
Gill’s been brought on as a touring member of the Eagles, at least through the month of July. In the wake of founding member Glenn Frey’s death, the iconic country-rock group has invited both Gill and Frey’s son Deacon to sing Frey’s vocal parts during the bi-coastal Classic festival.
“I’m beyond flattered that I got asked,” Gill said. “Glenn was a great friend of mine for a long time. Sadly I’m getting that opportunity because of his passing. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I wish Glenn was here.”
Gill said he feels like the new kid on the block and is looking forward to being musical and helping out.
“Everybody is going to get their feet wet, and if it works, we’ll see if it’s something that has a future,” he said. “I think that’s the most important American band in history, and to help spread those songs across the country would be a great honor.”
Gill’s latest original installment, “Down to My Last Bad Habit,” is his most recent in a long line of masterfully crafted albums, a triumph that showcases his vocal versatility, songwriting acumen and soulful approach to his instrument.
“When you do this for as long as I have, you wonder when it’ll start to slip and go the other way,” he said. “To my ear, it hasn’t yet. I think I’m getting better at doing what I do. It’s even more poignant to me now … because I don’t have a whole life in front of me.”
The record pulls the artist’s many influences, showcasing gritty blues, articulate country and heartfelt balladry on an audioscape that seems to take a cue from each page of the American songbook.
“I think a song knows what it wants to be when it’s written,” Gill said. “The whole point of recording a song is to honor it and do what’s best for it.”
Coming off the Haggard/Owens tribute, “Bakersfield,” Gill said he was ready to work in multiple styles after having “scratched a great traditional itch.”
“For me there was only one real country song on this record, and it was the tribute to (country legend) George Jones,” Gill said of “Sad One Comin’ On.”
Gill notably sang at Jones’ funeral and became choked up during the performance.
“I think that what was most compelling about George Jones was how well he owned his own struggle,” Gill said. “He never denied his problems … and, to me, that was a great testament of truth. I am so drawn to truth in this stage of life.”
In producing Monroe’s albums, Gill said he follows the advice of the great country producer Fred Foster, who told Gill to “Just go frame the picture. That’s what your job is.”
“With Ashley, you just turn the mic on, and it’s pretty much all there when she opens her mouth,” Gill said. “She’s Dolly Parton good. Trying to make a song live where it’s supposed to live and do what it’s supposed to do is fun.”
Gill said his next two records will likely be one of his own and another with Franklin that will hearken back to traditional country and allow Franklin’s “steel guitar to shine.” But with multiple projects on the horizon, including the impending Eagles shows, he’s not expecting anything.
“I’m just ready, willing and able to serve,” he said. “I’m not a leader per se. I’m pretty good in the moment and good to chip in. I don’t have any great expectation of where this might lead. I’m going to answer the phone when it rings and respond.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Vince Gill
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Additional information: Tickets start at $48 and are available at the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.