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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Vince Gill

Bill DeYoung

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Wednesday on The Catalyst Sessions, country music superstar Vince Gill reflected on the turn of events that resulted in his being asked to tour with the Eagles. He had been friendly with Don Henley and Glenn Frey for many years; after Frey’s death in 2016, Gill says he was surprised – and honored – when Henley asked him to sing his late partner’s songs on the road.

He also knew Joe Walsh from Eric Clapton’s annual Crossroads Guitar Festival, where they’d both performed onstage, along with other hot-shot players from across the genres.

Still, his first Eagles show – in front of 85,000 people – came with some apprehension. It was, Gill said with a laugh, “beyond daunting. It was terrifying.

“I could feel it from the crowd in that first gig. I could feel the apprehension, and the tension. I could feel this reserved kind of ‘What’s this country guy doing up there with my favorite rock band?’ Projecting what they think I might be, or because I’m a country guy. That’s gonna be two strikes.

“The first song I’m singing is ‘Take it to the Limit.’ I sing the first verse and the first chorus, and everybody just goes (sigh). Collectively lets out this breath. It was palpable; I could feel it from these people. And they all go ‘Hey – I guess we’re gonna be OK.’”

The 21-time Grammy winner also spoke candidly about Merle Haggard and Guy Clark, songwriters he loved and respected (and worked with) and both of whom also passed away in 2016.

He talked about his 40-plus-year friendship with Rodney Crowell; and about a virtual performance the old friends will give this Saturday (Aug. 1), with Emmylou Harris, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Because of Covid, there will not be an audience present.

Gill has done several of these empty-house shows at the Ryman. He said he was asked ‘Isn’t that weird?’ His response: “No, I’ve had paid gigs where nobody showed up. It’s nothing new.”

Today on The Catalyst Sessions: Mark Sforzini, the executive and artistic director of St. Petersburg Opera Company.

Streaming weekdays at 7 p.m. on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on our YouTube channel.

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