Vince Gill has never been a stranger to the Grand Ole Opry ever since his 1991 induction, and now he’s encouraging the newest members to follow suit.
“I just try to encourage all of them,” he tells CMT.com. “I say, ‘If you’ll invest in this place and the people there, it’ll last way longer than your career will, in a sense. You’re going to have a hot streak, then it’s going to cool off. You might have another one, but you might not.’ I tell them also, ‘Don’t come here when nothing else is going on. When you’re really killing it, when you’re doing great, the place will benefit because you come.’ And it does.”
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Gill gives props to contemporary artists like Dierks Bentley and Carrie Underwood for making regular Opry appearances, while lamenting that his own generation of artists – with the exception of Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart — don’t often drop in. Nonetheless he celebrates the wide range of artists who do perform on America’s longest-running radio show, week after week after week.
“I love the fact that you can go out there on a Friday or Saturday night and hear a 90-year-old guy, Jesse McReynolds, play the mandolin, and a 20-year-old kid playing his first hit, and everything in between,” he says. “You can’t find a show anywhere in the world that does that. It’s pretty powerful that the Opry represents all of it and doesn’t only focus on what’s popular and groovy in the music industry of today. It respects all eras and all people.”
He adds, “It’s really neat to see how it’s evolved and how welcoming it is. Everything and everybody. They have comedians, Americana music, all kinds of folks who are playing there. They’re not so narrow-minded as to only have traditional music on the Opry. They have everything. It’s awesome that they’re open-minded.”
Gill performed at the Opry over Labor Day weekend to offer songs from his new album, Okie. He says he takes a cue from Opry icon Roy Acuff, ensuring that the door to his dressing room is open at all times.
“I never close it,” he states. “I watched Mr. Roy, who never had his door closed and jam sessions in there all the time. … When I am out there, they always give me Roy’s dressing room, because I never would let ‘em close the door. It meant something to me. I just have a reverence for all those guys. And I think I did because of bluegrass. Because I knew who Roy Acuff was, Flatt & Scruggs, Monroe, Jim & Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, and all of it.”
Gill was on hand when the Opry inducted its newest member, Luke Combs, in July. So, how does it feel when a fast-rising artist like Combs cites a legend like Gill as an influence? “Well, it surprised me that I was Luke Combs’ first concert. I didn’t know that. It makes you feel great and old all at once,” he notes with a laugh.
“And both are good,” he adds. “I ain’t going back. I can’t, so I won’t want to anyway. I like right where I’m at. I like the moment. I’ve always lived in the moment pretty comfortably and it’s never really gone too far away from me. I’m just grateful to be anywhere.”