The last we heard from Vince Gill, he was paying tribute to two of his biggest influences — California country pioneers Buck Owens and Merle Haggard — on Bakersfield, a CMA-nominated album of duets recorded with pedal steel extraordinaire Paul Franklin. The tables will turn this November, though, when Gill receives the tribute treatment from an all-star crop of musicians at the 62nd annual BMI Country Awards.
Scheduled for November 4th at BMI’s Nashville headquarters, the ceremony will include a presentation of the BMI Icon award. Previous recipients include Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Kris Kristofferson. That’s mighty good company for Vince Gill, who will receive the award on the basis of a 35-year career that includes 20 Grammy awards and 26 million album sales.
It’s a lifetime achievement award, in a sense… but that doesn’t mean Gill is ready to throw in the towel. Bakersfield peaked at Number Four on the country charts, as did Gill’s last solo album, Guitar Slinger. He’s still a marketable artist — and, when he spoke with Rolling Stone Country in May, he said he plans on being an active one too.
“I get mortality now,” Gill said. “I get that I have much less time left than I had, more than likely. And that makes you feel a little bit different. But I’m not afraid of it. I want to get as old as I can. I hope I’m one of those guys who retains their voice. Some singers, they get a little bit older and they can’t push as much air and sing quite as good, and push to keep pitch. But I’m feeling pretty good about that, and my fingers feel good, and I write better songs now than I ever did — as you should, as you get older.
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“My body tells me I’m not the same guy, but I don’t see an old guy in the mirror,” he continued. “I still see that 22-year-old kid riding buses and playing the guitar and singing. I’m sure at 20 I’d look at a 60-year-old man and say, ‘Wow, that dude is old.’ But I don’t feel it. I want to get as old as I can; I’m not afraid.”
In the meantime, Gill is wrapping up a string of fall dates with the Time Jumpers, a Nashville-based Western swing supergroup that also features Franklin on pedal steel. The band will make an appearance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco on October 4th.