Phil Vassar’s last album, Traveling Circus, was released in 2009—the day his label shut its doors, giving it no chance at radio. “I’m not bitter or nothing,” he jokes. Since that time, Phil has been touring, writing and recording all in preparation for the release of his current album, American Soul.
When asked if the current state of country music affected the way he created his new album, Phil tells Nash Country Daily, “I don’t really listen to it that much. I try not to listen. I mean, I listen to some of it, but I find myself as a writer—I don’t want it to sound like anything. I want it to sound like myself. One of my buddies goes, ‘Man, that sounds a lot like a Phil Vassar song.’ I’m like, ‘Well, that’s what it’s suppose to sound like, right?’ I don’t want it to sound like any other. I’ve heard a lot of trucks and a lot of tailgates and beer and it’s like a lot of the same thing. I think we did that a thousand times ago. I don’t want to be lumped into some clichéd thing. I just want it to be—I like good music. I like good songs and I mean everybody’s got their style and this is just my style.”
Style is just what you’ll find on American Soul—complete with Phil’s signature piano licks he’s become known for. Written by Phil and Tom Douglas, the title track is the first single from the new project.
Nash Country Daily sat down with Phil and asked him to give us the first thing that comes to his mind when hearing the song titles from the new album. This is what Phil had to say about five selections from American Soul.
“American Soul” – “Tom [Douglas] and I wrote ‘American Soul.’ We were just sitting around. For me, writing is a thing about being comfortable. You find your comfort zone. I loved what it was about. And in this day and age, America is a really just a jacked up place. Man, I love it. It’s citizenship here is just really crazy, but that’s what I love about it. It’s different and at least in this country you can debate your issues. In a lot of countries you can’t really debate it. It’s this way or we take your head.”
“I’ll Meet You There” – “I wrote that song with Layng Martinez, one of my dear friends and of course he’s a Hall of Fame songwriter. We were just sitting around and kind of talking about what we’re talking about today—the world and everybody’s got their opinions. It’s like look, we’re all different. We’re all different people. We all get to that place taking our own paths and different roads. I think that’s what ‘I’ll Meet You There’ is—we’re here and there’s there. There’s that point, but between here and there we have our own ways of doing things. I think that’s what the song is all about. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record actually. I think it says it all.”
“Mississippi” – “‘Mississippi’ is flat out fun. I wrote that song with Jeff, my band leader and my friend Billy Alcorn. We were doing shows in the south and there was this hippie girl—she was just dancing, holding a beer, and singing all these songs. I’m like, I got to write a song about that. Then it was just so cool. We do that song live and people just go crazy. It’s so much fun. My daughter made that point. She goes, ‘Dad, the cool thing is everybody’s gonna know you know how to spell Mississippi.’ Maybe it’s educational.”
“2nd Avenue” – “‘2nd Avenue’ was that post-breakup thing where you’re sort of in limbo, and you’re kind of sitting there, and you have the memories—It’s a continuation of life. We broke up or we’re over, but things are gonna be okay. You just kind of wonder, do you ever think about me? You do wonder if that goes through somebody else’s mind, because you know you certainly do. I’ll be thinking about this or something will bring up a thought of someone and you just kind of wonder.”
“Sure Feels Good” – “‘Sure Feels Good’ is just fun, you know. I wrote that with Matt Ramsey, and Trevor Rosen— the Old Dominion guys. We’ve been friends many, many years. We all have been in relationships with women who absolutely are just—You just never know what the hell you’re gonna get from one day to the next on that whole deal. It’s like you wake up like, is this a good day or is this a bad day? I mean women are mysterious creatures. I grew up with my mother, and my grandmothers, and my sisters, and nieces. I’m the only man in my family so it’s all women all the time. It’s just, keep your mouth shut. That’s what I try to do.”