NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Singer Vince Gill is a standard bearer for traditional country music, thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of the genre and his masterful guitar skills, but he only included one true country song on his latest album.
"Down To My Last Bad Habit," out Friday just before Valentine's Day, is actually a collection of love songs influenced by rock, blues, jazz and pop, but he couldn't help paying tribute to his friend, the late, great George Jones on the final song, "Sad One Comin' On."
"I fall in the world of a country music artist, but this record doesn't really have a whole lot to do with country music," Gill said during an interview at his home studio in Nashville.
Gill's previous album, "Bakersfield," with Paul Franklin, was an ode to the West Coast country sound of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and every week he plays country and Western swing with The Time Jumpers. So when he started piecing together songs for his first solo album since 2011, he felt he didn't have to stick to country music.
"I think at the end of the day when you are being creative, you just try to serve that song and honor that song with what it should be, wherever that points you," Gill said. "(There) shouldn't be any limitations on where it winds up."
Gill admitted he didn't intend to write an album full of songs about romance and heartbreak, but over his 40-year career, those songs have always been fan favorites, such as his 1992 Grammy-winning hit, "I Still Believe In You," and "Look At Us" from 1991.
"There was no intent of a common thread of love," Gill said. "But to me, at the end of the day, those are kind of the best things to write songs about. Whether it's the melancholy side of love, or the beautiful side of it, that's where all the angst comes from anyway, from love."
Gill brought in some of country music's skilled singers to amp up the romantic intensity for a couple of duets on the album, including Little Big Town and new country singer Cam.
Cam sang on "I'll Be Waiting for You," a song that she said Gill told her he had written about his wife, Christian music singer Amy Grant, before they got married.
"He wrote this song 15 or 16 years ago, and he's been trying to find someone to duet with him that amount of time," Cam said. "I love things that really ring true on a personal level and the fact that this song is talking about he was going to wait for her. And they are together. It was so sweet."
Gill and Lyle Lovett will team up again for a special acoustical tour starting on Feb. 17 featuring the two singers swapping songs and stories.
Follow Kristin Hall at twitter.com/kmhall