Vince Gill Talks His Road to 'Bakersfield'

Vince Gill Talks His Road to 'Bakersfield'
Vince Gill may be Nashville's most humble superstar, but on his upcoming new album, Bakersfield — a collaboration with renowned pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin — he gives free rein to his often overlooked guitar chops. The album pays tribute to the "Bakersfield Sound," and specifically, says Gill, to the songs of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens that defined it.

As Gill explains in a recent Exclaim! interview, the album grew out of his regular Monday night jams with Franklin's group, the Time Jumpers.

"We talked about making an instrumental record, but that idea ended up being pretty boring for both of us," Gill says. "When we'd play with the Time Jumpers, I'd throw in an old Merle song that I'd been singing all my life and the reaction would be pretty overwhelming, really. So that got us thinking about doing a whole album of those songs. The other thing is that I don't think there's a better era of music in which to showcase the steel guitar and the style I play with my Telecaster."

It speaks volumes of the level of musicianship involved that Bakersfield was essentially laid down in only two days. While Gill admits that he and Franklin were well prepared, having cut their musical teeth on this material, it's only been in the last few years that he's felt confident in trying to do such a spontaneous project.

"It was a long time before I got up the nerve to sing these songs," Gill says. "Doing things like playing Eric Clapton's Crossroads festival have been so invaluable in helping me feel a sense of validation. Here's Eric Clapton who, I'm not saying he wasn't paying attention to my career as a country music artist, but he saw the musician in me. I knew that my guitar playing wasn't the be-all-and-end-all of who I was, but that people would just eventually find out, and that was fine with me. I never wanted to ram it down their throats."

Canadian fans will get a good taste of Bakersfield on Gill's tour dates this summer. The musician says he will always be grateful for how Canadians embraced him early in his solo career, and as a Nashville Predators season ticket holder since day one, he's always happy to talk hockey with anyone.

"I have a deep well of appreciation for Canada," he says. "When I first started in the early '80s, Canada was about the only place that was accepting of me. It took me a long time to really garner much attention here in the States, and especially Nashville, but it seemed that from day one Canada was really receptive. I've never forgotten that, and I'll never quit coming up there."

Gill's entire touring schedule, including shows throughout Ontario and the Maritimes, is available on his official site here.

Bakersfield will drop Tuesday (July 30) courtesy of MCA Nashville.