“I’m the guy who loves being in the supporting cast,” Vince Gill recently admitted to Rolling Stone Country — but he’s also damn fine at playing leading man, a role he’ll reprise with a new album, Down to My Last Bad Habit, out February 12th.
Gill announced his first solo release since 2011’s Guitar Slinger via NPR this morning, where he premiered a new track, “Take Me Down,” featuring Little Big Town on harmony vocals (listen to the song below). Co-written with Richard Marx and rising Nashville singer-songwriter Jillian Jacqueline, it’s a chugging mid-tempo number that evokes the yearn of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” the composed adult-contemporary sheen of Marx and a twangier take on David Gilmore-esque guitars — delivered with Gill’s unmistakably warm and sultry croon.
All of Down to My Last Bad Habit‘s 12 songs were co-written by Gill, with a few trusted collaborators like Ashley Monroe and Leslie Satcher, and also features an appearance from rising star Cam on “I’ll Be Waiting for You.” Based on the track listing, the album seems to both begin and end on a weepy, reflective note: it opens with “Reasons for the Tears I Cry” and concludes with “Sad One Comin’ On (A Song for George Jones),” both of which he wrote solo. Gill and Jones had a close relationship — the Possum affectionately called him “Sweetpea,” something he revealed at the legend’s funeral in 2013, during which he performed “Go Rest High on That Mountain” with Patty Loveless and admitted he “fell apart like a three-year-old.”
In the years since Guitar Slinger, Gill has not been dormant — though as one of the genre’s most celebrated performers and pickers, he rarely ever his. He plays routinely with famed Western swing ensemble the Time Jumpers, released the Buck Owens and Merle Haggard tribute Bakersfield with Paul Franklin, and most recently lent vocals and licks to Chris Young’s new LP, I’m Comin’ Over.
“I want to make a record of all these songs I’ve written that are darker than they should be,” Gill told Rolling Stone Country last summer about his new direction in the studio. “Subjects that most people go, ‘Oh, I don’t really want to hear a song about abused children. . .’But some of these things, I think they need to be talked about and put out there.” Gill’s been openly contemplative — not critical, per se — of country’s recent lack of substance, and Down to My Last Bad Habit will undoubtedly explore more serious subjects than booze and trucks, with plenty of room for another vital corner of his wheelhouse: the love song.
In February, Gill will hit the road with Lyle Lovett for their Songs and Stories Tour, which will give both artists a chance to showcase their stripped-down, acoustic sides and put songcraft itself on full display. He’ll also return to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in December with wife Amy Grant for their annual Christmas at the Ryman.
“Music is like having a conversation,” Gill said in a recent conversation with Young for Rolling Stone Country. “All musicians inspire each other, and they’re all geared to play something that matters. A lot of people play to impress, but the really gifted ones play to move. That’s the greatest point of ever doing this. I don’t want to impress somebody, I want to move somebody.”