With about six weeks left to go in 2018, Vince Gill already has his sights on one potentially impossible weekend next May.
On the last Saturday of the month, the veteran country artist’s youngest daughter will graduate from high school. The next day, he hits the road again with a band he has been moonlighting with over the last two years. Perhaps you’ve heard of it — the Eagles.
But here is the kicker. The Eagles show is in Belgium.
“So, yeah, I’ll be a wreck,” Gill said with almost whimsical dismissal.
By now, complex logistics have become standard operating procedure for the bluegrass-bred country journeyman. A singer with a pristine high tenor voice, a songwriter capable of stirring but conversational detail (check out the masterful title tunes to his multi-platinum selling “When I Call Your Name,” “Pocket Full of Gold” and “I Still Believe in You” albums for proof) and an absolutely wicked guitarist, Gill’s country career has earned him 21 Grammy Awards.
But take a look at all the activity surrounding that success and you get an idea of what an astonishing complete career he has maintained.
There was Gill’s early work, including a mid ‘70s tenure in Kentucky with Bluegrass Alliance and (for a split second) Boone Creek followed later in the decade by a country-pop turn with Pure Prairie League. Then there are his current pastime projects: the Nashville swing brigade Time Jumpers and the 2017 invitation to join the Eagles in the wake of co-founder Glenn Frey’s passing.
“I’m getting my licks in while I can,” said Gill, 61, who performs Sunday at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville.
“I’m just at the mercy of the calendar. I wanted the Eagles to have priority of the schedule this year. Once their dates got in place, I said, ‘This month, we can go out and knock around with my music.’ My guys love to go out and play. It made for a busy year for me, but at the end of it all, it’s still OK.”
The prioritized work with the Eagles — Gill played with them in Rupp Arena in April — has become something of a second career for Gill. The singer was part of an entire country music generation that looked to the band as a major artistic influence. To actually become part of the Eagles’ ranks, though, proved daunting.
“The Eagles, to me, were every bit as important as George Jones and Merle Haggard were. They had a big hand in impacting the way country music went after they showed up. Country didn’t embrace them in their day. But you can’t deny the overwhelming impact they’ve had on the future of the country music world.
“I think the hardest thing for me in joining was that I could sense the guys not being sure if this was going to be OK. That’s an odd place to play from. But that’s cool. I get it. I’ve been a fan of that band for 45 years, too, and I don’t want to hear anybody but Glenn sing ‘Lyin’ Eyes.’ But that’s not possible anymore, so I did sense a little trepidation at first. Then it was all gone after the first chorus of ‘Take It to the Limit.’ That was the first song I sang lead on. It was like you could hear the whole room breathe and say ‘It’s going to be OK.’”
While his work with the Eagles focuses on the past, Gill’s own music looks ahead. His last solo album, 2016’s “Down to My Last Bad Habit,” became a Top 5 country hit and his 15th Top 10 country album. A new, as-yet-untitled record is due out next year with touring to follow around Eagles dates in Australia and Europe.
“What’s interesting to me is, at 61, knowing with fail that I’m better now. I’m a better songwriter, I’m a better singer and I’m a better player. So these records are important for me as I progress. To me, they’re sung better and played better and written better than the ones in my heyday. Of all those hits, these songs are better.
“I understand the reason they are not big hits and all that. I had my run in the sun and everybody gets shown the door eventually. But in my heart, I know I’m getting better. That’s the neatest thing of all. That’s perspective I respond from. I never did this because I thought I’d be famous. I did this because I was just born to play music.”
If you go:
When: 7 p.m. November 18
Where: Norton Center for the Arts, Newlin Hall, 600 W. Walnut in Danville
Call: 877-448-7469, 859-236-4692