by Joey Amato
Vince Gill and Amy Grant are two of the most recognizable names not only in Nashville but in music. The couple donates hours of time to local organizations and is about to embark on their annual residency at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Aside from being icons in their respective genres, the pair is also vocal about their support of the LGBT+ community. This past June, Vince Gill participated in Ty Herndon’s Concert for Love & Acceptance and drew a standing ovation from the crowd. I had the chance to speak with Amy and Vince about a variety of topics and walked away with a stronger understanding of the type of incredible human beings they are.
Vince, there aren’t a ton of male country artists who are openly supportive of the LGBT+ community. Why do you choose to be and why did you play Ty Herndon’s concert this past June?
Vince Gill: Well, I like Ty. I think life is best lived when it’s friend first; when you operate from a friend first mindset. His openness and lifestyle doesn’t enter my mind. I always liked him, and he asked me to come do something so it’s just about saying yes to a friend.
Did you have any concerns about backlash?
VG: No, I’m not too worried about that. I’ve received backlash in high school for being a musician. I got backlash for having long hair in the golf community. I got backlash for marrying Amy. There’s a whole lot of better things to do with your time than worry about somebody else. When I heard those words, we are all created equal, I believed them. I don’t care if it’s race, relationships, politics…none of that is reason enough to discount another human being. I believe that we are all in need of love and being loved. If we would live without so much judgment, the world would be a much better place. Kindness is the most important word we can use in our love for one another.
Amy, has the Christian community ever judged you for supporting the LGBT+ community?
Amy Grant: I don’t think so. From the time I was in high school, I always felt like people on the fringe were drawn to my music. That can be somebody who identifies as gay or people who feel like they are on the outside looking in. For varying reasons, I felt the same way in different times in my life.
What would you tell LGBT+ people who identify as Christian but aren’t being embraced by most churches in Nashville?
AG: I have heard that comment from several friends. It’s hard to give advice to somebody that feels marginalized. There are times I’m sitting in church and I feel uncomfortable. I believe there’s fellowship everywhere, but I don’t know how to find it for everybody. A lot of depression can be attached to loneliness. Feeling lonely is a great indicator to be with somebody. But, not reaching out through social media, as that compounds loneliness. Years ago, I opened up my farm for the day and it was the coolest group of people. It included teachers, doctors, conservative couples, same-sex couples and one transgender individual. We just talked about life and said, ‘what if all of us brought the message of hope and love back to our communities.’ It was incredible. The greatest thing about having people in your circle that don’t share your perspective is it broadens your perspective. The importance of being able to listen to each other is the most beautiful kind of unity.
Let’s shift topics for a second. Vince, what is it like being an Eagle?
VG: It’s surreal to be honest. It’s probably the most pivotal band of my youth. You got the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Eagles. You just can’t believe the quality of those songs. That’s the most impressive thing about it. It’s how good the songs are. Getting to sing songs like “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take it to the Limit,” and “New Kid in Town” with the guys that created them is overwhelming. On top of that, one of my favorite guitar players of all time is Joe Walsh.
What’s your favorite song to perform with the band?
VG: Oh man, there’s so many. It’s a whole night of great songs. I love playing “Rocky Mountain Way” with Joe and I love hearing Don sing “Desperado.” When I joined the band, I asked Don what the first song he ever wrote with Glenn Frey was, and he said “Desperado.” They didn’t write five or six really bad songs first. It goes to show you how much that partnership was meant to be.
Amy, what is it like being married to an Eagle?
AG: I saw the Eagles for the first time in 1975 and loved them. It’s a great reason to wake up every day.
What is your favorite Eagles song that Vince performs?
AG: Either “Take It to the Limit” or “Heartache Tonight”
Vince, you and Don Henley recorded a cover of “Sacrifice” for Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s tribute album. How did that come together?
VG: I don’t know the chain of how it all came down, but I’ve known Elton for a long time and Bernie Taupin and I have grown to be great friends over the past couple of years. The real ask came from Bernie. The country influenced record were all Bernie’s asks more so than Elton’s. He asked if I would do something with Don Henley and I said, ‘you need to make the questions harder. Of course, I would.’ All this happened before I started playing with the Eagles.
You’ve collaborated with a ton of artists over the years. What has been your favorite collaboration?
VG: I think I’ve collaborated with over 1,000 artists in my life. I have a few that stick out that were fun to do. Gladys Knight was one that was powerful because I wound up being the first white guy on the cover of Jet Magazine. Anytime you color outside the lines a little bit, those are the most fun. Certain voices are undeniable together. Me and Patty Loveless are that way. That’s what’s so unique about what I’ve done is the diversity. I can weave my way into any musical space.
Amy, you gave your gay fans a gift a few years ago with In Motion, a remix album of your biggest hits. What is your favorite song off that album?
AG: I loved hearing every creative twist on every one of those songs. It was just a blast. I had a bunch of requests to do that kind of record and I was glad I did.
Your last album was Tennessee Christmas. Do you have any plans to release new music?
AG: I’m not diving into the studio but I’m writing pages and pages of life. Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll turn 58. I love this perspective on life and I think it would be a crime to not buckle down and write about my life now. There’s something beautiful and freeing about being who I am, whatever that is. I’m just trying to let my inner monologue speak.
You are about to kick off your residency at the Ryman. What can fans expect this year?
VG: If you try to reinvent the wheel, you make a mistake. People want to hear “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” every year. If you leave some of those songs out by trying to be unique then you do a disservice to the people that count on things that are familiar. A lot of people like coming to something like that because of the familiarity. They know they can hear a certain song they love.
AG: One thing that is different is we will have Rodney Crowell with us who has a very non-traditional Christmas record. That starts the evening off differently.
How long have you and Vince been doing the Ryman shows?
AG: We have done several different configurations of Christmas shows, but our first Christmas shows ever were in 1993. I met Vince doing a Christmas show for the troops during Desert Storm. That’s the first time I heard him sing in person and because of that, I asked him to record House of Love with me.
What is your favorite part of the Ryman residency?
AG: Loving Christmas and sleeping in my own bed. It feels like family. It’s a great way to end the year.
Vince, I’ve seen you perform at so many charitable events around town over the years. Why do you choose to be so involved in the Nashville community?
VG: It’s where I live. Why not try to make it better and do your part? It’s not hard to say yes to somebody and help them out. That’s what it’s all about. To me, that’s the point of being a decent human being. I just think it’s the proper way to live. It’s unselfish and I like how that feels. It’s as simple as a Christmas gift. Does it feel better to give a great gift or receive a gift? When you have someone say, ‘this is the greatest gift I’ve ever received,’ there’s no greater feeling in the world. And the same thing holds true in your community.