Need to Make a Song Great, Just Add Vince Gill

latimes.com
latimes.com

Whenever an artist records a new song, I always picture them leaning back in a chair in the recording studio with their producer; that intense look on their face as they listen to their new creation, thinking that they surely just struck gold and have the next country mega-hit on their hands. As happy as that artist might be with their new song, there is always something that is missing from it. “You know what would sound great in this song? Vince Gill.”

Gill’s country music career spans across years of multiple platinum-selling studio, compilation, and Christmas albums, over 45 single releases, many of which became top ten hits, and five of them which climbed straight to the number one spot. Despite being a successful solo artist, Gill is country music’s go-to person for background vocals, harmonies, producing, or just playing the heck out of one of the seven instruments he can play. Between tours, recording albums, frequently appearing on singles, albums, and soundtracks, Gill has become an icon in country music.

In 1993, Reba McEntire asked Gill to collaborate on her album, It’s Your Call. The duo recorded the song “The Heart Won’t Lie,” which went straight to number one. Gill first paired with McEntire on his 1989 album, When I Call Your Name. The two vocalists joined up for their duet “Oklahoma Swing,” which peaked at number 13 on the country charts. Since then the two have become great friends and collaborated on multiple projects and live events. 

Dolly Parton called upon Gill for her 1995 album, Something Special. Parton updated her classic tune, “I Will Always Love You” and turned it into an award-winning duet featuring Gill. The pairing reached number 15 on the charts, and brought home “Vocal Event of the Year” at the 1996 Country Music Association Awards. 

Gill appears on Terri Clark’s 2009 album, The Long Way Home. “The One You Love” was originally found on Clark’s 2003 album, Pain to Kill. For her 2009 release, Clark added “The One You Love” but this time, had Gill as a special guest featuring his tenor vocals on a new version of the track. “The One You Love” was never released as a single, but gained positive reviews and mentions for Clark’s album. 

Gill helped Sara Evans achieve her first number one hit when he lent his vocals to the title track for her 1998 album, No Place That Far. In addition, to the single, Gill also appears in the accompanying music video for “No Place That Far.” More recently, Gill also lent his vocals to Evans’ 2014 album, Slow Me Down. Gill can be heard backing Evans on the track “Better Off.”

It isn’t always just country music artists that knock on Gill’s door. In 1999, Barbra Streisand recorded a duet with Gill for her album, A Love Like Ours. “If You Ever Leave Me” was penned by Richard Marx and produced by famed producer David Foster, and Marx himself. Though their duet was not a charting hit, the album did go platinum for Streisand and gained positive reviews of their duet.

Country duo Brooks and Dunn recruited Gill and Sheryl Crow to add “a little something” to their 2005 album, Hillbilly Deluxe. “Building Bridges” which features Gill and Crow as guest vocalists went to number four on the country charts and earned the duo another successful hit in their musical library.

Kelly Clarkson has been edging her way into country music since she appeared on American Idol in 2002 singing the country mega-hit, “Does He Love You” with Reba McEntire. In 2012, Clarkson added three brand new tracks to her compilation album, Greatest Hits – Chapter One. One of those tracks was “Don’t Rush,” which featured Gill as a guest vocalist. The song peaked off at number 27 on the charts but gained Clarkson positive critical reception for her dabble into country music.

While recording the title track to the 2010 film Country Strong, producers called upon Gill to lend his iconic vocals to the soundtrack. Gill backed Gwyneth Paltrow on the title track, “Country Strong.” Adding Gill’s vocals to the recording gave the soundtrack more musical credibility in addition to the multiple country artists recruited to participate on the soundtrack. Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack, Ronnie Dunn, and Patty Loveless all lent their musical talents to the project.

LeAnn Rimes asked Gill for his assistance and musical input on her 2011 project, Lady & Gentlemen. The album was Rimes’ personal selection and personal take on country classics made famous by male artists. The album included Gill’s number two hit, “When I Call Your Name.” Gill produced and arranged Rimes’ version of his hit for her album. Additionally, Gill is a member of the western swing ensemble, The Time Jumpers. The Time Jumpers backed Rimes’ on the new version of her signature track “Blue,” also included on the album.

From backing vocals, production credits, writing credits, arrangements, or instrumental performance, Gill can frequently be found in the liner notes of multiple albums and musical projects. From country music superstars to new comers in music Gill is always there to lend his talents where they are wanted. No project seems to be big or small enough to keep this man from making music. 

Gill’s most recent project, Bakersfield is a collaboration with steel guitarist Paul Franklin. The album is a collection of songs from the library of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. The album topped off the country charts at an impressive number four. Gill currently has quite the list of tour dates listed on his website including Christmas at the Ryman with wife and country music artist Amy Grant this December, and future dates for an acoustic tour with Lyle Lovett starting in January 2015.

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