Phil Vassar Celebrates Two at the Top

Just another day in paradise? Not hardly. Tuesday (Dec. 5) was an especially paradisiacal day for singer-songwriter Phil Vassar as his family, friends and business associates gathered at the RCA building on Music Row to celebrate his two recent No. 1 singles.

The first of these was Vassar’s own chart-topping recording of “Just Another Day in Paradise,” a song he co-wrote with Craig Wiseman. Soon following it to the top of the charts was Tim McGraw’s recording of Vassar’s solo composition, “My Next Thirty Years.”

Although he has scored other No. 1s as a songwriter, “Just Another Day in Paradise” is Vassar’s first as an artist. His debut single, “Carlene,” went Top 5 earlier this year.

Meeting with reporters just before the celebration got underway, Vassar said he was in Dallas to open a show for Kenny Rogers when the news came through that “Paradise” had reached the summit. “I had a heart attack,” he said.

Among the hits Vassar has written for others are “I’m Alright” and “Bye Bye” for Jo Dee Messina, “Postmarked Birmingham” for BlackHawk, and “Little Red Rodeo” for Collin Raye. He said he has no regrets that he didn’t keep any of these songs for himself. “These songs are probably the reason I got a record deal,” he observed. “I think it took having hits as a writer to convince the record labels I could do it.”

Vassar admitted that it was wrenching — and confusing — to be competing with himself for the top chart position. “For a while there, I was afraid my song was going to knock out my song,” he said.

Vassar explained that he and Wiseman wrote “Just Another Day in Paradise” after “we’d both had this day from hell just getting to the [writing] appointment.” Once the song was finished and demoed, he continued, “we had the hardest time holding on to it.” He said Lonestar wanted to record it, noting wryly that the group’s album that might have included the song had just been certified triple platinum (signifying the sale of 3 million copies).

With years of club performing behind him, Vassar is taking his emerging stardom in stride. This year he has been touring with Kenny Rogers, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. “I was an entertainer and performer before I was a songwriter,” he pointed out, adding “Clubs are the best training ground for any entertainer.”

Rogers has been a particularly good mentor to him, Vassar said. “I got to hang out with him backstage and just pick [his] brain … He’s done everything and he’s still come out on top.” Rogers even “wrote things down for my show,” Vassar marveled.

In addition to writing, recording and touring, Vassar said he recently produced songs for the group Marshall Dyllon’s new album and for Chely Wright’s forthcoming one.

On New Year’s Eve, Vassar will play two shows at Boulder Station in Las Vegas. And in January he will shoot the video for his next single, “Rose Bouquet.” Recalling the great one-man shows of Elton John and James Taylor, Vassar said his long-range dream is “to tour with just a piano.”

At the party that followed the news conference, Billboard’s Wade Jessen told the crowd that Vassar’s achievements came during a year when only 19 singles made it to the top of the charts. Jessen also noted that Vassar was the only member of the “Class of 2000” — artists who made their chart debut this year — to have a No. 1 record.

“Just Another Day in Paradise” entered the charts in June, the month that Vassar’s record label, Arista, came under direct control of RCA. Vassar praised RCA chief Joe Galante and Arista’s record promotion team for keeping his record alive “when the craziness hit the fan.” “I could have been a trivia question real easy,” he said.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to