(CSC) 1. Thanks for the chat! Let’s discuss your brand new album “Only Me.” This record features some very special guests on it…..
Yes it does! ...From Willie Nelson to Darryl Singletary and I guess people are not aware that that's Diamond Rio singing on the background on "Once a Day." That’s what made it so much fun to create; it’s not only just people that I admire but also great friends, so I had a blast creating this record!
(CSC) 2. You chose to record both bluegrass and country for this album, explain your reasoning to do so and why it was important.
Well we were on the Grand Ole Opry the very night after the passing of George Jones and they asked everyone if they could sing a George Jones song and I chose "When the Grass Grows Over Me." As I'm singing on the stage and we're singing the song on the Opry, the concept just kind of came to me how cool would it be to make a project to record "When the Grass Grows Over Me" and some really traditional country music, and I thought that would be so fun.
Then thinking of the logistics of that because we were already into a project of recording a bluegrass album and I'm thinking we'll just make it half and half. I didn't know how many songs but I knew that I wanted to do this. There's also this demand for the songs from my "Country's Family Reunion” appearances. So it was really easy to pick the rest of the songs because people are always requesting them. "Beneath Still Waters" has become our most requested song just from seeing that on "Country's Family Reunion,” and they would ask if I had recorded it; now that song is recorded and it is on the “Country’s Family Reunion” DVD.
That was how the concept became and it also has become an illustration for me because growing up in a musical family, that when I was five we had a television show and a radio show and made our first recordings. The music that we played, it was my mom and dad, grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends and this music that we were playing was considered country music. There wasn't any segregation between Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells or Jimmy Martin. It was all the music that we played. That same sentiment has carried over into what I do now and pretty much of what I've always felt that there aren't these lines as far as what I do or what I think, that people would say as a teenager, “your voice is so country, you should be in country music.”
Then I had the opportunity to record with James Stroud on Giant records in mainstream country music, managed by Jack McFadden. I look at those as my musical college years where I learned the best from the best. As soon as we started recording this album they brought me in the office and they said "Can you get the bluegrass out of your voice?" So I was really conflicted for quite a while. Am I country or am I bluegrass? They said I was country, but they want me to get the bluegrass out of my voice. To me it’s all the same. I don't hear any segregation in any of this because I thought my voice was the same no matter what.
Well George Jones; he answered this question for me, probably unknowingly. So that's why George Jones is the common thread throughout this entire project, the inspiration for the new country music and bluegrass, the inspiration to do "When the Grass Grows Over Me" for "We Must Have Been Out of our Minds" with Darryl Singletary.
I had put my first bluegrass band together then soon after the Giant record days and we opened some shows for George Jones. We were in
(CSC) 3. What has been most gratifying about the creative process of this album when you look back at its completion?
Well to hear people say that they love it and that they love all of both CDs no matter what. That chronically it all still goes together; that’s very rewarding. I mean right now the music is coming in and people are just now getting their copies, the preorders are just going out and so people are hearing it for the first time. I'm getting texts and phone calls that say I love this album, I love the way it’s put together!! People tell me that they put both CDs in and let it randomly search, you know just play a random mix and they enjoy the country and the bluegrass mix together. That was exciting for me and interesting to me that they still work like that.
(CSC) 4. So how does one live up to the title of being called the “Queen of Bluegrass?”
(Laughs) Well hopefully I've grown into that title because that was proclaimed very early on in 2000. It’s become a very fun title to have when they introduce us. There was a guy that texted me from Iowa and he said "Hey Queen" its like ok it’s just become part of what we do. Kind of like Martha White, we've been sponsored by them for thirteen years now and some people call me Martha and that’s great; they can call me whatever they want. I’m just thrilled that it’s good; it’s just become synonymous with us.
(CSC) Where does the Queen hold her court? Every night on stage? (Laughs)
(RV) (Laughs) Ha ha… I guess so, I guess so. It’s so fun though, it really is.
(CSC) 5. Growing up and performing with your family band, do you feel like that prepared you for future success as an entertainer?
Absolutely! From the TV shows to the radio shows, everything that we did, my dad picked me up from school every day and we played until dinner and after dinner. Then our friends came over and we played until bedtime. So it was a continuous life of music that has evolved into a career. People will say, when did you say, “okay I want to do this as a career,” and there really wasn't a time until only five years ago I finally became comfortable with, “yes this is making a living for our family,” because it was just something that we did before and it was really hard to say this is what I'm really going to do because I didn't really ever say that before. I would be playing no matter what; I love music so much that I would be playing at no matter what level.
(CSC) 6. How many instruments do you play, and do you have a particular favorite to play?
I play most any string instrument, some better than others. Mandolin I've played that the longest so that's probably the one I'm most comfortable with. I also play twin fiddle and I play guitar. Tim Crouch usually plays two parts, so you're really hearing triple fiddles, I love it when he does that because I love the triple harmony. It's so much fun to hear. I'm so glad this is something new to some people, that some people are not that familiar with. It's introducing a whole new brand of music!
I'm most familiar with the mandolin though, I'm most comfortable with that. That's probably my favorite. Depends on what mood I'm in too. Sometimes in the mornings I will just grab a fiddle and play some fiddles. It's usually to some Waltz’s or slower songs. Mandolin I'm most comfortable with so if I'm going to pick up an instrument it's probably going to be that. If I'm going to write a song, I’ll probably pick up the guitar; which is why I started playing the guitar in the first place, to start writing songs.
(CSC) 7. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist with as many tour dates as you, how in the world do you find the stamina and energy to play?
You know you have to love it and I absolutely love it! I love the touring and I love the people. It’s just something that you really have to love. You have to also love the people you are traveling with. They all share the passion for the travel and for the music. As long as you have that, it just makes it work really well.
(CSC) 8. Getting back to the record, you covered many great country classics but two that stand out is “I Need Somebody Bad Tonight” and “When The Green Grass Grows Over Me.” Obviously Jack Greene and George Jones were very special to you. Having lost both of them in 2013, what does their legacy mean to you?
Well they were great friends and their music was so very important to country music and the history that they bring. See that amazes me that I can say I went to George Jones's house and I sat in his sitting room. It was actually kind of awkward because when we went there they took us to his bedroom and he was in the bathroom and the door was open. The guy said, “Your friends are here,” and he said, “I'll be right out!” Oh my goodness and you know, Jack Greene. They were very, very special friends. I was always amazed each time I was standing in their presence. It was like oh my gosh! These are some of the greatest artists in country music. So it is very special to me to get to create music that continues in their legacy.
Enjoy PART II of the interview with RHONDA VINCENT:
(CSC) 9. You are so dedicated to playing the Grand Ole Opry regularly. Why is that important and how would you react if you were asked to become a member one day?
That's a goal. It’s something I grew up with. When we were in the car after our shows, we would listen to the Opry and the Midnight Jamboree. It was so staticky that you could barely hear it but still you hung on every moment that the static was gone that you could hear in between the static and hear what was being played and who was singing. Marty Robbins was taking it so late, it went on well past midnight and knowing that the people were at the Midnight Jamboree and the people were waiting for him to get off the stage. The audience was absolutely enthralled in Marty Robbins and his performance.
(CSC) 10. Can you recall the very first time you visited the Grand Ole Opry? What or who were some of the members that made an immediate impact on you?
The two major memories that I can see… Number one, the first time I was there I was probably four years old. My father had a car wreck and he broke his neck and wasn't expected to live. He couldn't carry me because he walked with a cane. We went to The Ryman and the line was all the way down the street, I mean it went on forever and we got in the line to go to the show that night. I remember we were there in the afternoon and somebody that was there in line with my parents, I'm sure they didn't know us and the line was so long that he put me up on his shoulders. I suppose he felt bad knowing that Dad couldn't hold me or carry me, so he put me up on his shoulders and we walked around the line. So I can remember being up on this man's shoulders and looking down the street at the very long line to the front to the door, which is the west door of the Ryman Auditorium.
The only performance I remember because it was so unique, I remember Stringbean being on stage. I remember he was in a black and white striped suit and the pants were so short. The top of his pants come down to his knees. I remember seeing him and hearing him. Other than that I don't remember who was there. That has to be one of my first memories, ever; going to the Opry at the Ryman.
The next time we went to the Opry we visited the Opry house and I remember Lester Flatt was on there and Marty Stuart. My father's dream was for me to get to meet Marty Stuart. We saw him from afar but there was a guard there; he tried to push me where I could meet him but the guard got a hold of me and pushed me back of course.
(CSC) 11. When you think about the lack of traditional country music on the airwaves, what are your personal thoughts in regard to the way the industry is headed?
Well I think its there. The proof is Willie's Roadhouse on Sirius XM. There are outlets for where you can listen; in fact I have my own favorites like WSM that still plays traditional country music. Then you have Classic Country Radio out of Xenia Ohio and they play on Saturdays and Sundays Chubby Howard who played steel with Box Car Willie. He has a show playing some of the most obscure and most awesome country music I've ever heard. That’s one of my favorites on my tour, I listen to TuneIn radio and I absolutely love that. I know there are those outlets and with the internet you can pretty much listen to anything you want anytime you want. So I love that we have the internet. It does a disservice in other ways but for the fact that I can listen to country music anytime I want it, I do love that we have the internet, we have Sirius XM and there are stations around the country that still play classic country music thankfully.
(CSC) 12. With the upcoming launch of your good friend’s world tour… tell us how you and Dolly Parton first came to meet and become dear friends!
Well that’s not something you ever expect; you don't ever expect to meet Dolly Parton. I dreamed about that for many years and never ever expected that I'd ever meet her but always loved her. I saw her when I was at the show and I was very close to her in the 70's when I was about 8 years old. I have a picture of her up on stage when she played the Frontier Jamboree in Marceline, Missouri.
The way we connected was thanks to Carl Jackson. Carl was in the studio with her for her "Slow Dancing with the Moon" in 1992 and she said "Who should we get to sing the other part on this?" He said "You should get Rhonda Vincent." I came home and this is back when we had the color phones and the red light’s blinking and I hit the button and it said "Hi this is Dolly Parton and I want you to come to Nashville and sing with me.” Thinking it’s a joke I called the number back and I thought what mean friend just left this on my machine and it was truly her. Carl had told her I was going to be in town the next day but it was actually the day after that that I was supposed to be there, but we packed a bag and drove overnight and I was in the studio the very next morning at 10am.
I’ve been fortunate enough to record and perform with her; she’s performed on my records and appeared in the video for “Heartbreaker’s Alibi.” Then in 2005 I had a life threatening illness that had me in the hospital and I had to have surgery, I came home from the hospital to find Dolly Parton standing in my living room; she said, “I had to come and make sure you were okay myself.” That was very, very special; something you would never expect. She usually does the unexpected and that’s the really great thing about her.
(CSC) 13. Moving forward, other than being asked to become a member of the Opry (laughs), what is another goal that you would like to achieve in 2014?
Well I’m working on promoting this new project, and continuing to stay healthy and happy, and do what we do. I heard Charlie Daniels do an interview and they asked him what he’s most proud of in his accomplishments, and he said that he has kept thirty people gainfully employed for maybe almost forty years now. How cool is that! When I heard that, that kind of changed my outlook on what I want to do and accomplish. Many of the guys in my band have been with me for ten or twelve years, so I feel like I’m following in that same pattern. How fun would that be to say thirty years from now, “Wow these people are still in my band!” (Laughs)
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