nce Gill is no stranger to Cincinnati. The first time I interviewed him in 2006, he recognized the 513 area code in my phone number and knew it covered the Queen City. When I called him last week to talk with him again, the first thing he says is, “How is life up there in the land of Skyline Chili?”
Back in the day, after Gill spent some time playing Bluegrass music with Boone Creek and other outfits, he came to Cincinnati to join Pure Prairie League in the late 1970s, taking over for the departing Larry Goshorn.
“The band was based out of there and a lot of the guys were from there,” Gill says. “I didn’t join the band until 1979. I spent a lot of time in Cincinnati because during off time, everybody had a tendency to head towards home. I love that area of the country. I lived in Louisville for a while and in Lexington when I was 18 years old, when I was just getting started playing Bluegrass. So I know that area really well and have a lot of friends up there.”
Although Gill is not yet 60, he is already in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Known as a singer with many No. 1 hits over the years, he is considered a musician’s musician and his varied schedule proves it.
Gill is a world-class guitarist who collaborates on occasion with other top artists, plays a weekly gig in Nashville, Tenn., with the renowned Western Swing band The Time Jumpers and gets his mandolin chop in order every summer when doing the occasional Bluegrass gig.
When he comes to the Taft Theatre this Saturday, however, it will be a “Vince Gill & Friends” show where he and his longtime band share the stage with lesser-known talent deserving of recognition. Joining Gill will be Ashley Monroe, Charlie Worsham and his daughter, Jenny Gill.
“It is a lot about having some fun at this point in life,” Gill says of the current mini-tour. “These three young artists that are coming, one is my daughter Jenny. Ashley Monroe and Charlie Worsham are two young artists that have come along that I have the highest hopes for and the highest beliefs in. They are out there touring and traveling and paying a band and taking a bus and probably not making a penny when they go out and play gigs. So, I thought this would be fun if I took those three young artists and provided a band for them and we had a revue-type of show.
“We’re just going to be one big band and take turns singing songs and singing with each other and for each other and it should make for a pretty neat night of music. It’s my regular band and we’re going to back them up and they’re going to get a pretty good lead guitar player in me, hopefully, and a good harmony singer. … It should be a lot of fun.”
Gill co-produced Monroe’s most recent album, 2013’s Like A Rose, a project that featured an unlikely fan favorite in the song “Weed Instead of Roses.”
Edgy by Country music standards, the cut is an upbeat smoker on a couple of different levels, with lyrics like, “Lately I’ve been dreaming, you in leather, me in lace/Let’s put up the teddy bears and get out the whips and chains/Give me weed instead of roses, bring me whiskey instead of wine/Every puff, every shot, you’re looking better all the time.”
Monroe — who recently scored her first No. 1 single (on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart) with her duet with Blake Shelton, “Lonely Tonight” — originally wrote “Weed” when she was 19, hoping somebody like Gretchen Wilson would record it. Gill found the amusing romp in her catalog right before the Like A Rose sessions. Even though Monroe was hesitant about it, Gill insisted she put it on her album.
“I thought it was a great song,” Gill says. “What I liked about it was the song had a great sense of humor and it’s real life. Heck, it is legal in a lot of states and I’ve never seen pot hurt anybody. … I’ve never seen anybody hurt anybody or get violent. I’ll take weed over alcohol any day.
“I heard Willie Nelson talk about it one time, he was on CNN or something and somebody was talking to him about smoking dope, and he said, ‘You know the worst thing I’ve ever done when smoking dope is eat. Now let me tell you what I did back when I drank.’ It made a lot of sense. I love that old man. Anyway, I just thought it was a great idea for a song. I thought it was funny, and I have a sense of humor. I thought it would be a big hit record, but I was wrong.”
Though he seems to support recreational use of marijuana, Gill insists he’s never used the drug.
“No, I’ve never smoked any dope. I’ve never taken any drugs. That’s pretty rare for a musician, I guess,” he says with a laugh. “But, I don’t look down my nose at anyone who wants to or does. It’s not my place.”
As for this unique four-show run, while Gill knows he is the headliner, this is another chance for him to be supportive of other artists, something he has done throughout his career.
“I get to be a guitar player, like I love, supporting them, and I don’t want to call myself a mentor, but I just want to be a positive influence on young people,” Gill says. “Charlie is a brilliant musician. He reminds me of me in a neat sense, in that he writes songs and is a good player and a great singer. Not that I’m calling myself that, but he does all of the same things I do and he is really talented and trying to get a leg up and get a hit.” ©
VINCE GILL & FRIENDS hit the Taft Theatre Saturday. Tickets/more info: tafttheatre.org.