Phil Vassar has had some big-time country music hits. With his first new album in five years on the horizon, he thinks he might have some more in him.
Vassar, whose list of No. 1 hits includes “American Child,” “Bye Bye” and “Carlene,” will bring those songs and some of the new numbers to Harvester Performance Center on Saturday.
“It’s really different music,” Vassar said of the repertoire on an album tentatively scheduled for an early 2016 release. “I really feel like I’ve evolved as a writer. It’s not like it’s unrecognizable, but I really do feel like it’s some different stuff, and different than kind of what’s going on out there now, which is really kind of what I aim for.”
Part of the Lynchburg native’s break had to do with family. The singer/songwriter of “Don’t Miss Your Life” called The Roanoke Times earlier than scheduled on Aug. 19, as he planned to pick up his daughters from school. Earlier, he had posted a throwback photo to Twitter. He was holding aloft his oldest during the 2001 video shoot for “American Child.”
“Crazy my little girl is starting her first day as a Junior in High School!” he tweeted.
He hits the road pretty hard in summer, but with school starting, he has scaled back his schedule. He dropped some weekend dates so he can go to football games and see Haley, 17, cheer, and Presley, 11, dance. Both are at the same Nashville, Tennessee-area school, he said.
The time flies, he said. “It really, really does. Once you have kids, you really do see how fast it goes.”
The recording break also had much to do with watching some trends pass. He has written 50 new songs, but did not want to be caught up on the industry whirligig. He has watched the tailgates and light beer trend, and likes some of the resulting music, but that’s not his thing.
“You guys try to out-redneck the other guy,” he said. “I’ll let you guys do that, and I’ll just take a little break. So it’s been really nice for me, but I’m really proud of what I’ve written now. It’s a good time to have another record and make another splash, I’m excited about that.”
He is negotiating a joint venture with a major label, and he is collaborating with some of Nashville’s up-and-coming songwriters. One of them is Botetourt County native Matt Ramsey, whose band, Old Dominion, is making a splash of its own these days.
Ramsey hooked up with Vassar about 2003, after Ramsey — then an employee at Lynchburg Stained Glass — gave Vassar’s sister, a former stained glass employee, a demo disc. Vassar signed Ramsey to his publishing company. Since then, Ramsey has co-written some hits, including The Band Perry’s No. 1, “Chainsaw.”
Ramsey, his Old Dominion mate Trevor Rosen, and Vassar combined for at least two new songs, and Vassar has been playing some of them live.
“Matt’s just a super, super talent,” Vassar said. “I don’t think there’s a band better than these guys. Not even close. It’s exciting to see what’s going on with Old Dominion.”
UPDATE 3:14 p.m. Sept. 4, 2015: We asked Ramsey for some comments, which arrived after deadline. Here's what he had to say:
"Phil's music is always good. He always puts his heart all the way in there and it really shines through in his writing. Maybe he hasn't put anything new out in a while, but he will always have an audience. His fans are amazing and loyal and I know they will be excited to hear new Phil Vassar music!"