EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The music business has never been more volatile than it has been in the past decade but one thing that has stayed steady is Phil Vassar’s career. He’s been a regular at the top of the charts as a songwriter for artists like Tim McGraw, Collin Raye, Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina, David Nail and more and then as an artist. The idea of starting his own label only made sense as his next move in a career that has seen the release of six albums and two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year awards. Vassar launched the Rodeowave label in 2011 with plans to release an album this fall and possibly add more artists to the roster beside himself in the future. Vassar recently took some time to talk to Nashville.com and here’s what he had to say.
Nash: A lot of well-established artists like you are starting their own labels. With the changing landscape in the music scene, was that a no brainer? Tell us about your new label.
Vassar: For me it’s perfect. I’m a singer/songwriter, I’m an artist. I don’t need anybody to tell what to record or what to wear. I can handle that. I realize people are trying to hold on to their gigs. I get it. It’s changed though. It’s a great time. I think you’re always going to have big labels, your Sonys with all these catalogs of great old stuff but for everybody else it’s a free-for-all, and I think it’s cool. I’m not scared of it. I probably should be.
Nash: When you were on a major label you didn’t always have the last word. Now that you’re the boss, how did you pick the songs for your new album?
Vassar: I always wondered why I let somebody else pick my songs, I mean, it’s what I do, I’m a singer/songwriter. Everything was by committee from the mailroom all the way to the top and it just didn’t make sense to me. I’m always writing and I’m always recording and I pick what I like. It’s kind of putting the power back in the hands of the artists.
Nash: How did you come up with the logo for your label, a surfing cowboy?
Vassar: That’s just me, I’m a country beach bum. I thought it was kind of fun.
Nash: Would you ever consider putting someone else’s song on your album?
Vassar: I’ve got a lot of great friends that are great songwriters but it just doesn’t happen that way for me. I just record my songs and I put a record out. I mean I write so many songs and I could never record them all. I like having other people record my songs too.
Nash: Do you like to write with the same writers or do you like to mix it up?
Vassar: I’ve written with so many people over the years but now I’m doing all this stuff, I’m a dad, I got two girls, I’m touring so I don’t really write with that many new folks. I write with Craig Wiseman, Charlie Black, Jeff Steele, TomDouglas, a lot aof really good writers and every once in a while someone else will come in to the mix. I really don’t get to write that much anymore.
Nash: Your new single, “Don’t Miss Your Life,” was inspired by your two daughters. Tell me about that.
Vassar: I was talking to this guy on a plane who had just retired and he was going to see his grandkids. And he said “I didn’t get to see my kids when they were growing up because I was always working and traveling, I missed everything.” And I said wow, that’s me. I started looking at their pictures on my phone because they’re always sending pictures and I said, wow I miss a lot of stuff! I’m not in any of these pictures. And it really bummed me out. So I started writing it on the airplane and I came back and finished it with my buddy Charlie.
Nash: I guess it will get even harder to see your kids starting this new label?
Vassar: I’m with them as much as I can be and hopefully I won’t be traveling as much and we’ll have other artists that will be doing this.
Nash: If your daughters wanted to get into the music business would you be all for that?
Vassar: Oh my Lord! (Laughs) You know what ever they want to do is going to make me happy. They’re both incredible singers. They’ve grown up with it. They don’t know anything else. They both play piano, they both play guitar, they dance, they sing.
Nash: Well thank you very much for talking to us and good luck with the new label.
Vassar: I’m excited about it. It’s a different day isn’t it? Things sure have changed in the last ten years. Thank you.