Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 29, 2001

An interview with country singer Phil Vassar

By Ryan Gueningsman

Although country singer Phil Vassar has no direct Winstock connections, he performed at Fan Jam 2001 in Shakopee Sept. 16. Following his performance and fan club meet and greet, he invited me, and several people from KIA Radio in Iowa, to come on his bus to talk. Once on board, we were offered refreshments and were invited to relax, hang out, and talk music.

Even though country music newcomer and Virginia native Phil Vassar is just starting to make waves on the country music charts with his own songs, that doesn't mean you haven't heard him in the past if you listen to country music.

Vassar has written many top hits for singers, such as two-time Winstock performer, Jo Dee Messina ("Bye Bye," and "I'm Alright") and BlackHawk ("Postmarked Birmingham"), as well as Winstock 1996 alumnus Collin Raye ("Little Red Rodeo").

Other top songs that Vassar has written include Alan Jackson's "Right on the Money," and Tim McGraw's "For a Little While," and his current single "My Next Thirty Years." We began talking about what inspires Vassar to write his songs.

"I really wish I could tell you, cause I'd do it every day," Vassar said. "I just get ideas from everyday life. Whether it's my own life, or my friends, or anything. I think I've probably lived every single thing I've written, so that's basically where it comes from."

Although Vassar just "pulls 'em out of the air," his ability to come up with the idea for a hit song is not something that just anyone can do ­ and especially as many times as he has.

As demonstrated by his first hit single, "Carlene," he uses the piano to write and make his ideas come to life.

"Most of the time I use the piano to write, just because I can play it better than the guitar. I have written some songs too, though, on guitar. Somebody asked me one day how many songs I've written, and I really have no idea, I would definitely say hundreds though," Vassar said.

A question Vassar gets frequently is "who is this Carlene girl?" It just happens "Carlene" was inspired by super model Cindy Crawford, who was the valedictorian of her class in high school, and Vassar himself, who was the quarterback of his high school football team.

Although Vassar has had a number of hits already on his self-titled album ­ "Rose Bouquet," "Carlene," "Six-Pack Summer," and "Just Another Day in Paradise" ­ asking an artist to pick a favorite song on his own album is like "asking a parent to pick a favorite kid," Vassar said.

"My favorite song on my album is whichever song is out," Vassar said joking. "It's like trying to distinguish between your favorite kid. I don't know if you could really do that. You do like some songs more than others, but I guess I like them all."

When Vassar was in Shakopee, his latest single, "Six-Pack Summer," was on the charts and doing well.

"It's at number seven right now, but I don't think they'll put out a chart this week with the tragedies, and with what's going on. But it's done really well," said Vassar.

Along with a full tour schedule, Vassar is working on his second album.

"We had a lot of fun making our first record, and we're in the middle of our next one now," Vassar said. "Hopefully, we'll just keep on going, keep on having hit records, and keep on touring."

Touring is something that has built Vassar's fan base very well. Placing a piano center stage for his live performances, Vassar just steps on the stage and does what he does best ­ connect with the crowd, get them into the music, and make them want more.

"I think we've done about 750 dates this year," said Vassar joking. "That's what it seems like, anyway. I know we've done over 200 though. It's been a lot. It's a lot of fun, though, too. I just love what I'm doing, I'm having a great time, and I hope everybody keeps on playing my records so I can keep on doing it."

Vassar also found out recently that he is nominated for the CMA (Country Music Association) Horizon Award. Although he was nominated for the ACM (Academy of Country Music) Top Male Vocalist Award back in May, he lost out to keith urban.

"I was nominated for the ACMs and lost, I might as well go for 0-2," said Vassar laughing. "No, it's totally an honor. I was kind of shocked, really. I figured stuff like that was like a year away, so we'll just see what happens."

Vassar will perform Saturday, Nov. 10, along with Sara Evans and Kenny Chesney, at the Midwest Wireless Center in Mankato. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available through Ticketmaster.


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