Vince Gill might rank as a superstar solo act, but he’s just as happy sharing the stage with a dozen or so musicians, as he is with western swing band the Time Jumpers.
Most Monday nights, the decade-old group plays at a club in downtown Nashville. And while it features Gill on vocals and electric guitar, he says, “We’re all equals. There’s no huge egos and I get no special treatment, which is what I love about it. I’m out there on the bus just like everyone else. It’s just a great band full of great musicians, and we all do it because we love the music, not because everyone’s got stars in their eyes and wants to be famous.”
Gill admits he never expected to be in a band again. “But they’d call me up over the years and ask me to sub for one of the guitarists, so I’d go down and have the greatest time.”
After a couple of players eventually left, Gill was asked to join full time. “I didn’t hesitate, and it’s turned into something real special and one of those great satisfactions. It’s become a passion project and I’m a better player now and I’m learning because I’m playing stuff I don’t normally play.”
Paul Franklin, the band’s pedal steel guitarist, says he “wasn’t too surprised” when Gill joined. “As everyone in town knows, Vince does what he wants to do, but I am surprised he’s made as many of our gigs as he’s made — his attendance record is far better than mine.”
For Franklin, Gill brings, “so much to the mix. He’s a musician first and foremost — a phenomenal guitarist, a great singer and songwriter, and he also has that gentle but sly sense of humor, so it was a natural fit for all of us.
“It’s also telling that, while we do some of his songs, we don’t do any of the famous hits. He prefers to play all the ones he never released.”
Five of those will be on the band’s self-titled debut album that will be released Sept. 11 by indie label Rounder Records, home to Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. “We recorded it at my home studio, where I cut my last album (2011’s ‘Guitar Slinger’), and it turned out great,” Gill says. “The studio’s a real comfortable place to hang and make music, and the album’s hardcore country, with lots of featured fiddles and steel guitar. And judging by the crowds we get every Monday night, I think there’s a lot of people out there hungry for this kind of music.”
Gill says a major tour to promote the album release is, “unlikely at this point, as everyone in the band is a pretty busy session musician on the side.” He adds, however, that the Time Jumpers will be doing some select shows and music festivals in the months ahead, including a high-profile appearance in October at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
“We’re all getting too old to go back on the road full time,” he says, half-jokingly. “So playing the club once a week is more our speed, and what’s really cool about it is that you never know who’ll drop by and sit in with us. We’ve had people like Sheryl Crow, Jordin Sparks, Keb’ Mo’ and Emmylou Harris all show up and perform, along with older stars like Jack Greene.”
As for the future of the Time Jumpers, “We’re all pretty open to whatever happens,” says Franklin.
“If the album takes off, great,” adds Gill. “And if it doesn’t, we’ll keep doing it anyway. “It’s just so much fun.”
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