Vince Gill and Amy Grant have been a part of Nashville music royalty for more than three decades. Both with stellar solo careers, they come together for a month each year at Christmas time for a holiday residency, “Christmas at the Ryman,” bringing beautiful harmonies to the iconic and historic auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
Grant talks about this special holiday tradition, “Vince and I have such different personalities and musical tastes, that this is the one time of year when we create an open and ‘come as you are feeling for family and friends.’ We can sleep in our own beds every night and we have ‘repeat offenders’ who come to our concerts more than once for something meaningful during the holidays.” Gill adds that he and Grant met at the Ryman twenty-four years ago when they were both performing at a benefit for the local Symphony. “The auditorium is known as the ‘mother church of country music.’ Amy really loves this time of year as Christmas music is what she loves to do,” he says with pride.
"Amy really loves this time of year as Christmas music is what she
loves to do,” Vince says with pride.
Continuing to enrich and expand her love of holiday music, in late 2016, Grant released Tennessee Christmas, marking her first all new holiday album in nearly 20 years. The album beautifully captures the joy, laughter, anticipation, and even melancholy the season brings. Grant, and her long-time co-writer, Chris Eaton, wrote an uplifting original song called “To Be Together,” after her daughter Sarah and her boyfriend were in an awful automobile accident. “During those tough hours in the emergency room and the days that followed in the hospital, that chorus cycled through my brain on repeat ‘coming home just the way you are, knowing this is all
that really matters, to be together’.”
Grant continues to say that she loves everything about the Holidays, from hosting traditional Christmas Eve gatherings with the family, to a big Christmas morning breakfast where “Vince is at the helm manning the stove.” One of her cherished memories took place soon after her mother passed away, on the day before Christmas when she asked her youngest daughter to take a ride to pick up Amy’s father who was suffering from Dementia and living in an assisted living facility. “We picked him up on Christmas Eve afternoon,” says Amy emotionally, “and drove to the home of one of my three sisters for a door bell ring and holiday song. She wanted to join us in the car, so we then went to visit our other two sisters, who also got into the car. All six of us drove around Nashville, with dad, reminiscing and enjoying the lights. It was magic!”
The total number of Grammys between Amy and Vince
The multi-award-winning performer, whose career includes six Grammy Awards, spans more than thirty years and stretches from her roots in gospel to becoming an iconic pop star, songwriter, television personality, and philanthropist. Born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, her first album was released in 1977 on the Christian label Word Music; soon after Grant left college to pursue a full time career in music. Her second album won a Grammy for its blend of gospel and pop and her crossover was completed with the 1991 album Heart in Motion, that reached number one on the Billboard Pop Chart.
Not one to count his successes, Gill has been awarded twenty Grammy Awards, more than any other country artist. Born in Norman, Oklahoma, his father, an appellate judge, taught him how to play the guitar as a young boy and he was soon playing with local bluegrass groups, including Ricky Skaggs. In 1976, Gill joined the California based Pure Prairie League. The group’s 1980 release, Firin’ Up featured six songs by Gill, including the No. 1 country hit “Let Me Love You Tonight.”
Fast forward thirty-five years to his 18th studio album, Down to My Last Bad Habit, which was released last February and features such tracks as the full-flushed out ballad, “I Can’t Do This,” the rollicking “Take Me Down,” to the twangy homage to the late George Jones “Sad One Comin’ On.”
“‘I Can’t Do This’” is the favorite vocal I’ve ever done,” he says with pride. “I’ve been making records for forty years and I’ve finally figured out how to sing. I enjoy not being rushed and finally trust my ears. Time is a beautiful thing and it took me two years to finish this album. Technology has kind of passed me by as I’ve always wanted to be a song writer and not a song interpreter.”
As a producer, Gill wanted every note to matter, and to feel equal to the others. He picks his musicians and guest vocalists much the way a film director makes a movie. “I’m always casting,” he explains. “I ask myself, ‘who is right for this part? Who will play it the best?’”
However, Gill recently became “the new kid in town,” when he was asked to join The Eagles for a series of Classic West to East concerts held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and at Citi Field in New York this past summer. Deeply honored at the invitation, which included the late Glenn Frye’s son Deacon as well, he was quick to talk about the melancholy honor, as Frye was a long-time friend of Gill’s.
“Sadly, I got this amazing opportunity, because Glenn is no longer with us,” he says. “What’s most important to me is that these songs need to continue to be heard again and again as they will live forever. The band initially thought about folding up their tent for good, but decided to find their way and I was so proud to be part of that journey. I hope that with his son and me joining the band, at least temporarily, Glenn is
giving the thumbs up.
“The first song The Eagles wrote together was ‘Desperado’ and I was overwhelmed that it was one of the songs they wanted me to perform during this series of concerts (which included The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan).” Original band member Don Henley introduced Gill as “one of the finest singers, the finest songwriters, and the finest guitarists America has ever produced.”
The first song The Eagles wrote together was ‘Desperado’ and I was overwhelmed that it was one of the songs they wanted me to perform during this series of concerts
Creating any chance they can to work in the same proximity of one another, Amy recorded Tennessee Christmas at what she laughingly calls Vince’s in-home studio, his ‘man-cave.’ “You open the front door and the piano and organ in the living room are all ready to record, and dozens of beloved guitars line the floor space and walls. The Leslie B-3 occupies the coat closet and the hallway is the vocal booth. I loved making that album as I went away from the lavish orchestrations and made the record for an audience of one.”
Never far from their favorite accessory, a guitar, Gill also produced Down to My Last Bad Habit with engineer Justin Niebank at the in-house studio and has accolades for his ‘man-cave.’ “Since I put this studio in the house, I think I’m playing, singing, and writing better than I ever have; and that inspires me.”
Busy careers and active family time doesn’t offer much in the way of relaxation, but the rock solid couple does enjoy several avocational activities. For two weeks every summer, Amy is deeply involved with her Barefoot Republic Camp where children are bused to her non-working and empty ranch to enjoy being outside in nature. “For the last three summers we have hosted 230 kids every day for two weeks who come from low-income housing, as well as affluent neighborhoods in the area,” she explains. “This is a faith-based, pre-structured camp that is multicultural and multiracial based on reconciliation. We even trailer in eighteen horses so that the campers can get an equine experience as well. My ranch has three historic buildings without running water, so we pitch tents and create community.”
Gill loves to play golf and believes, according to several pros, that he had enough talent to play professionally had he put as much into the game as he has into his music. “Golf has been as big a part of my life as music and I met Glenn (Frye) at a celebrity tournament. I’ve played all over the world and the game is a great escape as I don’t think about music while I’m playing golf.” This love has translated into Vinny’s Pro-Celebrity Golf Invitation, which has raised millions of dollars for junior golf in Tennessee.
Another love of Gill’s is his regular breakfast at Noshville, in Green Hills, just outside of Nashville, where he frequently noshes on ‘the usual’ which is bacon and eggs at the counter. “When the cook recently got sick and ended up in the hospital, I sent flowers and a card reading, ‘get well soon, I’m hungry.’”
It is also difficult to find down time with the family as they have five children between the two of them and Vince’s daughter now has her own two children. Grant says that her husband always has an unfinished music list, thus the in-home man-cave, so she initiated something she calls ‘Steak Mondays,’ “where I cook up a lot of steak, chicken and various side dishes. I send out a text inviting family members to ‘come-and-eat-it’ and sometimes we have a full house (with friends as well) and sometimes no one shows up. Grant ruefully likens the evening to a standing gig at a music club. “You may not go this week or next, but you’ll definitely attend before the end of the summer; perhaps even with friends.”
The multi-award-winning performer, whose career includes six Grammy Awards, spans more than thirty years and stretches from her roots in
gospel to becoming an iconic pop star, songwriter, television personality, and philanthropist.
2017 Winter Cover
Colorado Springs Living Well Magazine