While torchy vocalist Pam Tillis has churned out a tub load of hit records throughout her years of music making, the confident singer/songwriter/producer seems to keep those extra-special-crispy ones coming in at just the right times during her career.
The latest mark on her long and winding hit-list — “All The Good Ones Are Gone” — landed on Planet Pam at a time when the singer was due a little sky-rocket petro. Not that Tillis was slipping by any means, but “All The Good Ones Are Gone” happened to be one of the best ones to come along for any country artist out there in a long time. For Tillis, the timing couldn’t have been better, as it also earned her a very well-deserved three CMA nominations — for Single, Video and Female Vocalist of the Year.
“I don’t know if I would use the word comeback, but it had been quite a while for me, and it just took me a while to find something else special,” says Pam. “I just feel like this record had maybe a little more impact than your average top-five record. I guess it kinda has that anthem quality to it. But I do feel like it really got people talking and paying more attention again.”
As many of Tillis’ songs do, it not only got folks talking, but got them singing along, as well as relating to the cut’s lyrics. People all over the world have identified with the story of being single, alone and feeling as if there’s nobody left who wears that “the one” halo. When a song has such an impeccable impact, you can bet your speaker tweeters that the artist who’s wailing it out will climb several rungs on the career ladder.
“I think it really helps,” explains Pam of a hit song’s influence, “because people look at you again as a contender. And this is very much a business that watches charts and watches record sales. So if you’re not on the top of the charts or selling records, it can make it a little bit more difficult to get that top-drawer material (for your albums). I don’t know exactly how much leverage it gives you, but I’d venture to say that it’s definitely some. It’s like the great songwriters would say, ‘Oh, she’s got a big, big hit out right now…she could also have a hit with my song.’ So that helps.”
“All The Good Ones Are Gone” helped to kick off Pam’s, newly released Greatest Hits disc in a tremendous way. Flaunting such hits as “Cleopatra, Queen Of Denial,” “Maybe It Was Memphis,” “Let That Pony Run,” “In Between Dances,” “The River And The Highway” and her 1991 debut explosion, “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” the project unveiled as many mixed emotions as hits.
“I do feel like I was ready for it, but it did catch (me off guard),” Pam ponders about having already released a Greatest Hits album. “Time has flown, so it was sort of bittersweet because you just go, ‘I can’t believe it’s time for this’ but then you know it is. So I kinda had mixed feelings about it. It also made me feel a bit nostalgic.”
But Pam’s bittersweet feelings of nostalgia may soon cultivate an even deeper realization when she and her famous singing dad, Mel, finally record and perform together. After years of entertaining the possibility of someday recording together, the two recently decided on a song that would work on Pam’s next album.
“We have cut one duet together,” she admits. “We haven’t finished the vocals on it, but we have actually cut one I think for the next record.” The two first sang together when Pops hired his daughter to sing back-up on his 1980 hit, “Your Baby Is An Outlaw.”
The father/daughter collaboration doesn’t just stop there either. The couple also has, as Pam puts it, “some fun things cooked up.” Pam has already planned to perform several dates with her dad in Branson, where he headlines at his own Mel Tillis Theater. A long line-up of Tuesday performances looks highly possible. Another first for the Tillis team is that Mel has also committed to touring several dates with Pam.
“I’ll be down there quite a bit,” she admits. “Then he’s going to come out on the road with me for a little bit — maybe four to six weeks next summer. We figured that if Reba and Brooks & Dunn can do it, then maybe we ought to,” she laughs.
Until then, however, Pam is working hard on completing her next studio album, as well as smiling about another first-ever accomplishment. In addition to writing and preparing for her own new album, the versatile artist has also been in the studio with Canadian vocalist Tarolyn Hart. Pam is producing Tarolyn’s disc for Sony Canada. The project marks the first time Pam has worked as a producer on a project other than her own. (Pam produced her last studio album for Arista/Nashville — All Of This Love.
“This is something that’s on the side for me,” explains Pam, “and something that’s not too time consuming. I just contributed a side to a young Canadian artist’s album. It was such a neat thing because it was such a group effort. There were several different producers on this album, so I’m in really good company. I feel like I’m still learning a lot about that part of the business,” she continues. “So I’m just a junior producer, but to be entrusted to do a record on somebody else is really a neat thing.”
Something else that’s a neat thing for Pam is having a fan base that’s so truly devoted as hers. From the time Pam was singing commercial jingles for such companies as Hardee’s and Equal sweetener and even trying her hand at crooning out pop and jazz music, to becoming one of country’s top female vocalists ever, they’ve stuck with her. For Pam, that feels just as good, if not better, than it ever did.
“I think you appreciate it more and more the longer you go on,” she explains. “On a certain level, they make you. It’s a symbiotic relationship — you make the music for them and they make it possible for you to make the music. Just to know that what you’re saying and doing is touching them or moving them is just a thrill. When you can still look out and see people singing along and they know every word and every lick on the record, that means you’ve made a connection. In a nutshell, it’s just a wonderful thing to have fans.”
Off stage, however, life for the pretty songstress has been much more of a sacrifice when it comes to the line between fans and family. Pam is married to fellow songwriter Bob DiPiero and has an 18-year-old son, Ben.
“If you talk to anybody in this business who’s being candid, they’re going to tell you that it’s hard as heck,” she states. “It’s been a lot of sacrificing on my family’s part, and you really try to make up for it. But my son just turned 18 so he’s independent, and and it’s all different for me right now. I was fortunate that I didn’t really start traveling on the road a lot until he was older.
“It’s just not easy, and I really don’t know how much longer that I’ll keep the level of activity up that I’m engaged in right now,” she adds. “At some point, I think you have to go, ‘I’d like a life!’ But I’ve done what I had to do, and there’s a price tag for everything. I just think the sacrifice has been more on my family’s part than mine.”
If she could do it all over again, would the former CMA Female Vocalist make any changes?
“There’s just a fine line between taking things serious enough and taking things too serious,” she admits. “Because I was not an overnight success, once I got that second chance, I guess I just kinda went crazy with it all. So I think the only changes I would make would be to have relaxed and enjoyed it all a little bit more. It’s not that I’m not taking things seriously now, but I think I’ve just got a better perspective after a few years in the business.
“You know there are going to be the ups and downs,” the 40-year-old songstress concludes, “and you know that there are going to be things out of control. So you just don’t let them drive you as crazy. You just kinda learn to say, ‘I’m going to do everything I can do, and that’s the only thing I can worry about.’ Then enjoy all the good things.”