Country, roots, and Americana music fans will have a reason to jump with joy tonight, Thursday, September 29, when Vince Gill, one of the most awarded and lauded country artists of his time, bounds over to the Granada Theatre with his Western swing band the Time Jumpers, courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures. What started as a garage practice session has become one of the most renowned acts on the country circuit, with more expert musicianship in their single 10-piece act than on entire festival bills. I spoke with Gill about the Time Jumpers’ departed singer Dawn Sears, modern country music, and time travel.
Your newest album, Kid Sister, is a tribute to former member Dawn Sears, who passed away in 2014. How has her loss affected the band? Dawn was the singer extraordinaire of this band for a long time, and also she was my lifelong friend for over 20 years. With the Time Jumpers, she was the focal point, a real showstopper. Now that she’s gone, we don’t have that anymore, and it’s kind of tough when you don’t have the engine pulling the train.
The album has an almost cinematic quality to it. How did you achieve that? The reason this band started was our love for Western swing music, which was popular in the ’30s and ’40s; there’s a base to it that is intended to sound timeless. We’re not following the current trend of what modern country music or modern pop music might sound like — we are consciously trying to make a new song sound old.
How do you see the Time Jumpers in relation to modern country music? If you look at the average age in this band, it’s 60-plus. We’re not 25-year-old kids trying to make our mark and chase what everybody else chases. Country music is always kind of trying to be something that it was but also something that it wasn’t, in a sense. We certainly don’t feel like we’re trying to compete in the modern world. We know our place, and we know what we love.
How do you feel about all the awards you’ve won? Being gracious and grateful is a lot easier than being so sure of yourself that you think, “Oh, I’m going to win again,” which is not a wise way to think. … I think at least half of the Grammys I’ve won are because of something I did with someone else. It’s collaborating with people and writing songs. It’s not the amount of awards I’ve won that I’m proudest of; it’s the diversity of how far-reaching the bands I’ve played with are. From Alice Cooper to Barbra Streisand, I’ve covered a lot of crazy ground, and that’s what I like the most.
Why is music from the ’30s and ’40s relevant today? Would you go back to that era? I’m thinking that people would say an artist should want to be in an era if he loves it so much, but no, I don’t think so. I’d say no; we need him now, in this era. You need to harken back to different generations to inspire the future.
If you could jump back in time to any era, when would you go? Oh, golly, I don’t know if I would. I like being here. I’m an in-the-moment guy. I wouldn’t change anything, either. I’ve made some mistakes, and I’ve learned from them — I could change them, but then I wouldn’t be here with this moment. I’m good with right now.
Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers play on Thursday, September 29, at 8 p.m., the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). For more information, call (805) 899-2222 or see granadasb.org.