Phil Vassar is as driven today as he was when he first left his Lynchburg, Virginia home to pursue – and realize – his dream of making his mark in Country music. The notion of starting his own label made sense as his next most logical move in a career that has seen the release of six albums, two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year trophies, countless hits as a singer and songwriter and a mantle full of awards. Excited at the limitless possibilities of starting fresh, he launched the Rodeowave label in 2011 to continue the work he started so many years ago.
Known as one of Nashville’s top tunesmiths, Phil was racking up hits on the radio long before he even began his own recording career. “Little Red Rodeo,” (Collin Raye) “My Next Thirty Years,” “For A Little While,”(both by Tim McGraw) “She’s Right On The Money,” (Alan Jackson) and “I‘m Alright” (Jo Dee Messina) are just a few of the songs he’s penned that other artists have recorded and taken to the top of the charts. Vassar continues to churn out incisive, soulful lyrics and infectious melodies that capture the heart and soul in the unique and special way that only he can.
In this latest chapter of his career, Vassar is not only debuting some freshly penned songs but he’s dusting off some vintage tunes from the vault as well and the wide range of material on this new project is a reminder of just how diverse and multi-talented an artist he really is. Known for up-tempo piano numbers that instantly get your foot tapping like “Carlene,” and “Six-Pack Summer,” and heartstring-tugging devotionals like “That’s When I Love You,” and “Just Another Day In Paradise,” Phil can also dig deep into heartbreak territory, as evidenced by the wrenchingly honest ballad, “April Fools” a song he wrote years ago that’s making its first appearance under the Rodeowave banner.
His latest single, “Don’t Miss Your Life,” was written on an airplane, and his inspiration was a retired businessman flying to see his family. “He told me about all of the things he had missed while building a business and supporting his family. I realized all of the things I had missed in my kids’ lives. I was looking at pictures of ‘moments’ in the lives of my daughters on my iPad and realized I wasn’t in any of them!”
For Vassar, his philosophy about songs has never changed during his time spent writing hits for himself and other artists, its important for a song to carry a message and make the listener feel something.
“Songs should evoke something, whether it makes you happy and puts you in a good mood, or makes you cry and feel desperation…you know, whether you’re going through a marriage, or a divorce, or you’re in love or you hate somebody, or whatever it is… songs should evoke something,” says Vassar. “And if it’s just having a drink with your friends in the hot tub, that’s just as good as any song for me! I mean, I’ve had hits with every kind of song – ballads, mid-tempos, up-tempos and silly kinds of songs. You can’t save the whales with every song you write, that’s too heavy for me,” he adds, laughing.
The Virginia native is definitely no stranger to a good time and he makes sure with every performance that his fans feel exactly the same way. Years of playing clubs and even owning his own nightspot at one point, have helped Phil cultivate the easygoing, fun-loving manner he has onstage and the infectious energy that infuses every single show he does. And he’s bringing that same enthusiasm and verve into his latest project, which he anticipates will definitely be more wide-ranging than his previous label outings for Arista and Universal Records South.
“There’s going to be a lot of different stuff on this new record,” admits Vassar. “I’ve always prided myself on writing a lot of different types of songs, while some people may like to play it safe, I prefer diversity. So that’s really what this whole project is about, this whole venture -- it’s about new energy and doing different things, getting away from the old ways and starting fresh, that’s what we’re aiming to do with Rodeowave.”
To help shake things up and infuse some of that fresh, new energy into his latest CD, Vassar enlisted the help of fellow Virginian and longtime buddy Ross Copperman to produce his first record for the new label. The newfound joy and freedom Vassar found in being able to record whatever he wanted without having to answer to anyone is evident in the wide range of tunes that are slated to appear on the album, from the inspirational, stirring mid-tempo ballad “Love Is Alive,” to the sentimental look back at what could have been, “High School,” and the infectiously fun, buoyant, sunny new single, “Let’s Get Together.” The song is a “’c’mon over, steaks are on the grill” party anthem for the summertime and is sure to be an instant hit with country fans ready to shed those winter coats and slather on the SPF.
“I’m definitely a summertime guy,” admits Vassar, regarding his penchant for penning songs about his favorite season. “Winter and snow is fun for a little while, I Iove all that stuff but I can see why people move south. We had snow up in Virginia where I grew up. We have the mountains there and the beach, so we have a little bit of the best of both worlds. But I’m definitely a summertime, jump-in-the-pool, jump-in-the-ocean kind of guy. “Let’s Get Together” sounds like every Sunday at my house…we grill out and have people over and get in the pool, and just have fun. In fact I wrote it with Tony Mullins right out there,” he says, pointing to his swimming pool just a few feet away.
That love for chilling out with his toes in the sand or in the water even influenced the name of Phil’s new venture, Rodeowave -- a fitting title for a guy who definitely has a country heart, but a laid-back, Jimmy Buffett soul. “I wrote a song, ‘Waves’ on a recent album, and it’s about being fed up with winter and being in front of your computer and just wanting to go sit on the beach. And that’s me to a ‘T.’ I’m just a beach bum, a country bumpkin beach bum! Our logo is a dude with a cowboy hat on a surfboard, which is kind of cool. And that’s me right there!”
The logo is a perfect one for an artist who has endured his share of ups and downs in life and the “biz” and now is ready to make some waves. “It’s absolutely the perfect time for me to do this,” says Vassar. “I’m not going out there to try and change the world, but for me, this is my thing, this is my little world that I can control now, and I’m really excited about this new musical journey and getting new music out to the fans. For me that’s what it’s all about.”