You’ve always heard that Vince Gill is the classiest act in country music. He proved it again last week during the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.
Gill took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium to address country music’s top radio programmers and personalities and regale them all with a song to close the Universal Music Group showcase in the beloved Mother Church of Country Music.
With all the discussion about the changing landscape of country radio, it would have been the perfect opportunity for a legendary singer, songwriter and musician to share his thoughts — good or bad — on the topic and do so without repercussions or consequences because, let’s face it, he’s Vince Gill. He’s everyone’s favorite. He’s the grand ambassador of Nashville. He can pretty much do whatever he wants, including tell it like it is when duty calls.
And for a legend whose presence on country radio tragically isn’t nearly what it used to be, he justifiably could have been the master critic and curmudgeon with his words. No one in that auditorium — including the programmers — would have blamed him.
But that’s not Gill. And that is what makes him great.
He chose to thank country radio for all they do and have done — for him personally and for the next generation of artists pouring blood, sweat and tears into their careers each day.
“It’s fun to see a lot of these young artists that have come out here,” Gill said following performances by Mickey Guyton, Chris Stapleton, the Brothers Osborne, Canaan Smith and established acts such as Keith Urban, Eric Church and Dierks Bentley. “All of them are filled with hopes and dreams … a million years of being in the room trying to write songs, learn to play and all that.
“And they come out and do what they do for you guys. You’ve got a lot of people’s hopes and dreams in your hands, and you’ve done an amazing job with it over the years, and I know you catch a lot of grief a lot of times.”
Gill would know. At one point, he was one of those hopefuls with a massive dream — a fresh face and voice just looking for a chance to change the landscape of country music.
“I made my very first record 40 years ago when I was in high school – my very first record – and they played it!” he chuckled to thunderous applause.
“You have no idea what that did to a young kid,” he said. “Just the fact that I believed it could happen, and then it did. … I just wanted to thank you for that because what you did for me from day one was you gave me a belief in myself, and that is a great gift to give any of these people that played for you today.”
What a moving moment.
And just because he’s championing the next generation of artists doesn’t mean he’s parking the guitar anytime soon. No, Gill is still aiming and more than ready to rattle the cages of country radio, teasing, “I’m not gonna quit sending you records — ever.”
As for whether country radio stations play his music, Gill assured them, “Just rest assured that it’s OK either way.”