Vince Gill won his 19th Grammy in February, with his four-disc collection of original songs “These Days” taking home country album of the year.
The album also was nominated in the genre-crossing album of the year category; it was the first time Gill was nominated in one of the all-encompassing Grammy categories.
I talked to Gill about his experiences at the Grammys in a recent phone interview. He said the country album win was gratifying. He said he was disappointed that the album didn’t win the best album title at last fall’s CMA Awards, losing out to George Strait’s “It Just Comes Natural.”
“It kind of capped it off in a really pretty great way ‘cause the people who are Grammy voters … it’s a little more all encompassing than just the world of country music. It means a lot,” he said.
He said he admires the Grammys “music first and popularity second” mindset.
When I asked him where he keeps all his golden gramaphones – he has the most of any male country artist – he had a funny reply ready.
“I’ve got them nailed to the hood of my car,” he joked with a laugh. “No, (they’re) just around the house here and there. They’re all put away right now because I’m building a studio at the house and everything’s in boxes.”
Most importantly, he gave more insight into his line of the night at the Grammys. When Gill accepted the country album of the year prize from Ringo Starr, he said: “I just got an award given to me by a Beatle. Have you had that happen yet, Kanye?” The line was repeatedly with a kind of shocked relish in People magazine, on MTV’s Web site and in many other media outlets.
Gill said it was amazing to get an award from the Beatles drummer, and he used the opportunity to gently take the wind out of the sails of rapper Kanye West, who is often outspoken when he thinks he deserves an award.
“It was amazing. … I wouldn’t have said anything had I not started walking up those stairs and going, ‘That’s Ringo Starr that’s about to give me a Grammy.’ And it really, it kind of bowled me over. And it was, you know, the moment was fun for me, but funny, too, in what Kanye had just said and in a way kind of dissed the rest of us that were nominated for the big album of the year category, when he said if he didn’t win then he thought he should (or) that Amy Winehouse deserved to win it. And I said, well, now, then, hold on there young brother,” he said with a laugh. “And so you know, I wouldn’t have said anything if it hadn’t have been Ringo and then the opportunity, and I said ‘well, this might be funny, watch this.’ And it all happened just as I walked up the steps did any of that come to me. It wasn’t preplanned or I didn’t have a (plan) – I never do.”
He said the best part was that West seemed to get a kick out of the line, falling back in his seat and laughing.
“I think he understood it was a great chance to make a joke and make everybody laugh, and it did. … It was fun. It took the wind out of his sails but in a fun way, in a sweet way. And he didn’t mind I don’t think.”
Gill was in town Thursday to play a benefit concert for his elementary alma mater, Cleveland Elementary Arts and Science Specialty School, and receive Oklahoma Today magazine’s 2007 Oklahoman of the Year award.
But it was a quick trip to his hometown. He had to get back to Nashville, where he is set to play the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday.
This is an expanded version of a story that ran in The Oklahoman on Friday. To hear an audio clip of Vince Gill playing the first verse of “House of the Rising Sun” at the pre-show press conference, click here.
Country star raises funds for old school
More than four decades after making his musical debut in his grade school auditorium, Vince Gill returned to that scuffed wooden stage to once again strum and sing “House of the Rising Sun.”
“I don’t sing as high as I used to in the second grade,” he joked.
The auditorium also wasn’t named after him back in 1966.
The country music star returned to his hometown Thursday to play a benefit concert for Cleveland Elementary Arts and Science Specialty School, 2725 NW 23. The sell-out show, titled “Vince Gill: Back in Class,” raised nearly $95,000 to refurbish the auditorium, the first place he played music in public.
“It hasn’t changed a whole lot,” Gill said at a press conference before the show. “The scale of it is so drastically different from when you’re a 6- or 7-year-old kid. You know, this looked like Madison Square Gardens in here when I was a kid. And now it just looks so tiny.”
Honoring a star
The program for the concert included presenting Gill, 50, with the 2007 Oklahoman of the Year award from state magazine Oklahoma Today. He also was to be recognized by the governor, the tourism department and Oklahoma City Public Schools on what was to be dubbed Vince Gill Day.
The Country Music Hall of Famer said he was thrilled to be named Oklahoman of the Year, but more excited that the magazine gave him a chance to help his old school.
“I realize I carry this place with me everywhere I go,” Gill said. “As I go on through my life, it’s a comfort to know that that red dirt is in my blood.”
The Cleveland student body showed its appreciation by preparing a warm welcome for Gill, who spoke and played a few songs at a school assembly. The entire student body sang along when he played “What You Give Away,” and Principal Mary Coughlin said “there wasn’t a dry eye” among the teachers.
Gill received the Cleveland Bulldogs “Pick of the Litter” student honor, and wore the dog biscuit-shaped medal around his neck over his untucked button-down shirt.
“The assembly was so sweet. I was trying to the think of the last time I played for a bunch of grade school kids, and you know, it might have been here when I was in second grade,” he said. “But their enthusiasm was really amazing. … I felt like Hannah Montana.”
His message to the students: “I just told them to dream. Tell a kid to dream and they won’t disappoint you.”
Cleveland fourth-grader Harrison Langston said it was his first time to see a famous person up close and inspiring since Gill went to his school.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “Vince Gill is very amazing and really talented and he’s such a nice guy … to come back to his original school.”
The 10-year-old said the auditorium renovation will help make Cleveland a better place to learn.
Oklahoma Today Publisher Joan Henderson said the goal of the benefit was to raise all the money for the auditorium project in one day. Tickets were $495.
The auditorium needs a new sound system, lighting and curtains, Coughlin said. It was fitting to name the auditorium for Gill since he made it possible for the project to be started and hopefully finished this summer.
“It’s amazing … for him to be so willing to give back to us and let us do something in one night that might have taken five years,” she said.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was quick to share the credit with the people who were willing to pay the stiff ticket price.
“I show up to sing the songs, but they put the dollars in the bank to really create this, so I hope they’ll understand that they’re all a part of this,” he said.
Gill seemed to relish the symmetry of the day, from finding his old music classroom to inviting an aspiring guitarist on stage with him during the assembly. He even laughingly promised to play “House of the Rising Sun” during the concert.
“It’s my closer. It worked in ’66, it should work in 2008,” he said, laughing. “I had no idea that as a second grader that I was singing about a house of ill repute, so hopefully I can get away with now that I’m almost 51.”
Matt Price, George Lang and I discuss the highlights of the spring movies in this NewsOK podcast.
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Indy race on
Spring blockbusters primed to hit theaters
The sun is getting brighter, the weather is getting warmer, and the choices at movie theaters are getting better.
Spring is here.
With the summer movie rush starting a little earlier every year, movie studios are preparing to roll out some of their potential blockbusters, from the anticipated big-screen version of “Iron Man” to the fantasy sequel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”
But spring 2008 undoubtedly will be remembered as the season of Indy, with the long-awaited “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” taking everyone’s favorite archaeologist on another adventure over Memorial Day weekend.
The date for fans’ fourth outing with Indy is as firmly embedded as any fossil in prehistoric rock, but movie studios often tinker with opening dates for smaller films. Check local movie listings before venturing to the cinema.
Based on actual events, “21″ focuses on MIT students who win big in Las Vegas after their professor (Kevin Spacey) teaches them to count cards. Eight years after directing “Boys Don’t Cry,” Kimberly Peirce returns with “Stop-Loss,” about a soldier (Ryan Phillippe) who refuses to return to Iraq when the Army orders him to report back for battle. David Schwimmer of “Friends” fame makes his directorial debut with “Run, Fat Boy, Run,” in which the responsibility-dodging Dennis (Simon Pegg) trains for a marathon in the hopes of winning back his ex-fiancee (Thandie Newton). “Batman Begins,” “Fantastic Four” and other comic book flicks are spoofed in “Superhero Movie.” Naturally, Leslie Nielsen is involved.
George Clooney directs himself, Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski in the screwball comedy/period sports film “Leatherheads.” Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin star in the fantasy “Nim’s Island,” in which a girl whose father goes missing recruits her favorite author to help with the search. Director Martin Scorsese helms the documentary “Shine a Light,” about rockers the Rolling Stones. Singer/pianist Norah Jones makes her film debut in “My Blueberry Nights” as a woman who takes a cross-country trip to heal from a tough breakup. Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz also star. A group of friends on a Mexican holiday encounter an evil force in “The Ruins.”
Keanu Reeves plays a veteran cop tracking the people who murdered his former partner (Terry Crews) in “Street Kings.” Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie and Common also star. Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Page star in the Sundance hit “Smart People.” “The Counterfeiters,” based on the true story of the Nazis’ program to create fake foreign currency, won this year’s Oscar for best foreign language film. A ruthless killer stalks a group of high schoolers who years ago caused an accidental death in “Prom Night.”
A college professor who moonlights as a forensic pathologist for the FBI (Al Pacino) gets a death threat indicating he has “88 Minutes” to live. In “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” a heartbroken guy (Jason Segel) takes a Hawaiian vacation to get over his TV-star ex-girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). But Sarah shows up at the same resort with her new beau. Jackie Chan and Jet Li star in “The Forbidden Kingdom,” in which a kung fu-loving American teen (Michael Angarano) is magically transported to ancient China. A group of medical students (including Alyssa Milano) compete to commit the perfect murder in “Pathology.” Hong Kong actor-writer-director Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle”) offers family-friendly sci-fi comedy in “CJ7.” Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Amy Sedaris star in the Sundance hit “Snow Angels,” a drama about an awkward teen, his former baby sitter, her estranged husband and their daughter. A Mexican boy (Adrian Alonso) and his mother (Kate del Castillo), an illegal immigrant in the U.S., try to reunite in “Under the Same Moon.”
The sequel to the hilarious 2004 stoner comedy “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” “Harold and Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay,” has the title characters (John Cho and Kal Penn) on the run as suspected terrorists. In “Deception,” an accountant (Ewan McGregor) becomes the main suspect in a big heist and a woman’s disappearance after an enigmatic lawyer (Hugh Jackman) introduces him to a secretive sex club. Former “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” co-anchors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite for the comedy “Baby Mama.” A wimpy con man (Rob Schneider) headed for prison hires a martial arts guru (David Carradine) to teach him to fight in “Big Stan.”
Inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) dons a high-tech suit of armor and becomes the superhero “Iron Man” after a near-death experience. Jon Favreau (“Elf”) directs this Marvel Comics adaptation, which also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Samuel L. Jackson. In the ultimate example of counter-programming, the romantic comedy “Made of Honor” stars Patrick Dempsey as a ladies man whose best friend (Michelle Monaghan) asks him to be her maid of honor.
Emile Hirsch and Matthew Fox play rival race car drivers in the Wachowski brothers’ (“The Matrix”) colorful take on the classic anime series “Speed Racer.” David Mamet (“State and Main”) writes and directs “Redbelt,” about a mixed-martial arts instructor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who rescues a celebrity (Tim Allen) from a fight. “What Happens in Vegas …” stars Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher as a couple who get married after a drunken night in Vegas and are forced to stay together when they learn he has won a big jackpot with her quarter.
In the sequel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” the Pevensie siblings return to magical Narnia, where they are enlisted to oust an evil king and restore the rightful heir to the throne, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). The documentary “Young @ Heart” follows a chorus of senior citizens touring the world performing the music of the Clash, Coldplay and James Brown.
When we last saw adventurer/professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), he was riding off into the sunset in 1989′s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” His return almost 20 years later is the year’s most anticipated film. Not much is known about the plot of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but the all-star cast includes Ray Winstone, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Karen Allen and Jim Broadbent.
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Missy Higgins “On a Clear Night” (Reprise Records)
Missy Higgins’ sophomore album avoids slumping on the strength of her throaty voice, tuneful songs and finely crafted lyrics.
With her piano skills and pixie looks, the Australian singer-songwriter drew comparisons to Vanessa Carlton when she hit the U.S. music scene in 2005. Her follow-up to “The Sound of White” includes a couple of piano ballads, but sounds more reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan. Higgins’ accented, enigmatic vocals, acoustic guitar strumming and earthy lyrics drive her second disc.
The opening track, “Where I Stood,” was featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but despite a few clever turns of phrase, it is a fairly bland breakup song. The feisty, hip-hoppish “100 Around the Bends” keeps her on a predictable course.
But the album picks up with the perky empowerment anthem “Steer,” the sexy, bluesy “Secret” and the earnestly lovely ballad “Warm Whispers.” The bouncy beat of “Peachy” contrasts interestingly with the sharp-tongued, scolding lyrics pointed at an ex-lover.
For the most part, “On a Clear Night” effectively showcases Higgins’ distinctive voice, musicianship and songwriting skills, the elements that make her stand out from the rest of the pop music crowd.
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
The lovely and lyrical collide with the bloody and brutal in the heartbreaking “Atonement.” Director Joe Wright and Keira Knightley of 2005′s “Pride and Prejudice” reteam in this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel. It is set in 1930s Britain on the cusp of World War II.
Knightley plays Cecilia Tallis, the strong-willed elder daughter of a wealthy family. She and the housekeeper’s son, Robbie (James McAvoy), feel a passionate attraction.
Over the course of a hot summer day, the pair’s smoldering feelings ignite. But Cecilia’s younger sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan), an aspiring writer with a crush on Robbie, witnesses and misunderstands their encounters. The girl’s vivid imagination spins ugly presumptions.
When the sisters’ cousin Lola (Juno Temple) is sexually assaulted, Briony claims she saw Robbie fleeing the scene. Robbie is hauled off, leaving Cecilia devastated.
Briony’s lie shatters their lives. Robbie joins the army from prison and is sent to war-ravaged France. Wright’s long tracking shot of the chaotic evacuation of Dunkirk is astonishing.
Cecilia and Robbie are determined to survive the war and rekindle their love affair, while Briony (now played by Romola Garai) is desperate to atone for her lie.
The chemistry between Knightley and McAvoy sizzles, while Ronan, Garai and Vanessa Redgrave impress with their turns as Briony at different ages.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, two “making of” featurettes.
(Unfortunately, it doesn’t include an interview with composer Dario Marianelli, who won an Oscar for the awesome score.)
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
‘Run, Fat Boy, Run’ trots out laughs in Schwimmer’s debut
New York-born actor David Schwimmer makes his feature film directorial debut with the entertaining British comedy “Run, Fat Boy, Run.”It sounds weird, but the actor formerly known as Ross from “Friends” proves he has a good eye and fun sense of humor.
But the formulaic film owes most of its charm and hilarity to its star and co-writer, Simon Pegg (“Hot Fuzz”). The English funnyman manages to make his slacker character a loveable loser worth cheering on.
Pegg stars as Dennis, a paunchy, chain-smoking goofball who leaves his gorgeous, pregnant fiancee Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar because he is afraid to get married.
Five years later, Dennis still desperately loves Libby, but their involvement doesn’t go beyond his role as the fun-loving but sometimes unreliable father to their son, Jake (wonderfully precocious Matthew Fenton). Dennis stays perpetually behind on the rent for his tiny, junky apartment, works as a lowly security guard at a women’s clothing shop and still dodges grown-up responsibilities at every turn.
But he gets a wake-up call when Libby starts dating Whit (Hank Azaria), a handsome, wealthy American hedge fund manager. Dennis knows his window for winning back Libby could be slamming shut, and he is desperate to prove his worth to his ex and son.
When he learns Whit plans to run for charity in a London marathon, Dennis vows to run, too. He hopes to show Libby, Jake and himself that he actually can finish something he starts. His promise seems destined to go unfulfilled until his best pal, Gordon (comic standout Dylan Moran), bets big money that Dennis will finish the race.
Gordon puts the “not fat but unfit” first-time marathoner on a training regime.
The zany supporting characters, Pegg’s goggle-eyed reactions and uproarious gags keep the laughs rolling.
The script by Pegg and Michael Ian Black won’t win any awards for originality. But the movie trots out many laughs and exudes a warmth that doesn’t get too fuzzy.
From Thursday’s The Oklahoman. To hear an audio clip, click here.
A lesson in giving back
Vince Gill concert to help school where it all started
When Vince Gill thinks of home, he can’t help but remember his old elementary school.
After all, it stands just across the street from the Oklahoma City house where he grew up and his mother, Jerene Gill, still lives.
“The playground is our front yard in a sense, so it’s a big picture of me thinking about home. … It was my view from my window,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn.
The country music luminary will return today to Cleveland Elementary Arts and Science Specialty School at 2725 NW 23 to play a benefit concert.
The concert will be in, and raise money to refurbish, the school auditorium. That particular room has special significance for the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/musician.
“That’s the first place I ever played music in front of anybody that I can recall,” he said, adding that he has memories of “carrying my guitar over there and playing it for an assembly, probably in second or third grade.”
As for the song he played, he said his mother believes it was “House of the Rising Sun,” and “I wouldn’t dispute her,” he said. But he laughingly admits it was an odd choice. He likely had no clue back then that the song is a cautionary tale about a man entangled in drinking, gambling and brothel-visiting.
“That’s quite a subject for a kid,” he joked.
The event is designed to honor Gill as Oklahoma Today magazine’s 2007 Oklahoman of the Year. The magazine, which is part of the state Tourism Department, featured him on the cover of its January/February issue
“I’m pretty flattered. I think they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, really,” Gill said with a laugh. “They could have found many … more deserving candidates than me.”
But Oklahoma Today Editor-in-Chief Louisa McCune-Elmore said Gill, 50, has been a perennial candidate for the honor. He has earned the nickname “Brother Benefit” for his willingness to help good causes.
When the magazine staff met with Gill to plan his Oklahoman of the Year event, the star suggested the benefit concert, she said.
“It’s just a very inspired idea, and I’ll tell you what, this is going to be one kind of fabulous concert.”
Gill has sold 26 million albums and last month won his 19th Grammy award, the most for any male country artist. He accepted the “best country album” prize from Ringo Starr – and got in the line of the night by jokingly asking often-cocky rapper Kanye West if he had gotten an award from one of the Beatles.
“It was amazing. … I wouldn’t have said anything, had I not started walking up those stairs and going, ‘That’s Ringo Starr that’s about to give me a Grammy.’ And it really, it kind of bowled me over,” Gill said.
The grade school auditorium seats about 220 people, making it an intimate venue for the show.
“What you kind of yearn for as a performer, I think, more than anything is that connection, that intimacy that happens when you’re in a smaller place,” said Gill, who will have his family in the audience. “This’ll be fun. It’s just going to be me and a guitar and a piano player.”
The goal is to raise all the money to refurbish the auditorium in one day, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the project. With tickets running $495, the show has raised more than $80,000, said Oklahoma Today Publisher Joan Henderson. Only a few tickets remained on sale Wednesday.
Cleveland Principal Mary Coughlin said the auditorium needs a new sound system, curtains and lighting. The estimated cost for the project is $75,000 to $100,000, and raising it in one day is an unusual feat.
“It’s a great lesson for our kids in giving back … and remembering from where you came,” Coughlin said. “The kids are excited; that’s the best part.”
Gill is quick to pass along the credit for the benefit’s success.
“Granted, I possess something that allows people to come and pay money and see what it is, but … it’s a few hundred other people that are gonna spend their hard-earned money to come and spend the night there. They’re the ones who are doing it, not me,” he said.
IF YOU GO
‘Vince Gill: Back in Class’
When: 7 p.m. today.
Where: Cleveland Elementary Arts and Science Specialty School, 2725 NW 23.
Beneficiary: All proceeds go to renovate the school’s auditorium.
Information: Call 230-8450.
In this video, Angi Bruss and I talk about the show “Vince Gill: Back in Class,” which will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at his old grade school, Cleveland Elementary Arts and Science Specialty School. For more on the story, check out my story in Thursday’s The Oklahoman.
As I reported last week, Ada native Blake Shelton is featured on the cover of the April 7 issue of Country Weekly magazine, which hit newsstands today.
The story is titled “Blake Shelton — Life, Loss and Love.” In it, he talks about the divorce he went through while working on his latest album, “Pure BS,” and the death of his older brother, Richie.
The story also includes photos of Shelton’s 1,200-acre ranch near Tishomingo, which he bought last year, according to a news release.
Lambert lives on her own farm about six miles away. But according to the release, Shelton says in the story that they’re taking their relationship slowly.
“I’m not in any hurry to get married again,” he tells Country Weekly. “She says she’s not in a hurry to get married. For once, I just want to enjoy bein’ comfortable with where things are in my life and how they’re flowin’ along right now.”
Here’s what Lambert, a proud Texas native, had to say when the Austin American-Statesman asked her last fall why she made a home for herself in Oklahoma:
“He’s 6 feet tall with dark hair. He’s my boyfriend. I know it’s practically betrayal to live in Oklahoma, but I miss my boyfriend. I love coming home to him.”