After earning a degree in business in his home state of Virginia, Phil Vassar loaded his Pinto station wagon and headed to Nashville like so many others.
He feels he was one of the lucky ones.
He made his debut in the late 1990s co-writing singles with the likes of Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina. He’s continued to churn out soulful lyrics and melodies in a career that now includes eight albums and three songwriter of the year awards.
Vassar said in a phone interview last week he and his band “like to run around on the stage and have fun” while in concert.
Vassar is the headliner performer in this week’s Clovis Music Festival, taking the stage Saturday night after the Kentucky HeadHunters.
Have you ever been to Clovis?
I’ve been through Clovis, but I’ve never stopped there. Actually, my keyboard player in the band (Clay Corn) is from Clovis.
What do you want the audience to take away from your show?
We don’t have a set list. We haven’t had one for a while. We just run around and have a great time. We take a lot of requests.
I think mostly I want people to feel uplifted when they leave the show. I had someone at one show tell me, ‘I wasn’t in a good mood when I came to the show. I am now.’ That’s what it’s all about.
How does the song writing process work for you?
It happens in so many different ways. On the plane I write a lot of lyrics. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and sing it into my phone. There’s really no right or wrong way.
I like to get up in the morning and have a couple cups of coffee and sit at my piano. That’s probably my favorite way.
Sometimes it’s back stage at a concert, with the whole room rattling and something comes to me.
If you could play with any artist or band one time, who would it be?
The Beatles for sure. That would be awesome, being the piano player for the Beatles.
Best country song of all time?
“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones.
After a tough day, and you just want to listen to comfort music, who do you listen to?
I have a lot of music on my iPod and phone. Usually I just hit shuffle. But I like to listen to George Jones, Earth, Wind and Fire, the Police. I just love music.
You said you are going to record your first album in five years. What’s it going to be like?
You just want it to sound different. With everything going on, it’ a good time to write songs. I want it to make people emote something; laugh, cry, have a drink.
How has your music and performing changed as you’ve matured?
I think the pressure is off. You just don’t understand (when you’re younger) that you just need to do what you do. Then you learn to just do what you do and I love doing it.
— Compiled by Managing Editor Rick White