Carter Winter & Phil Vassar - Kanza Hall

by Kathleen Bee

     As I walked into Kanza Hall on Thursday night, I wasn't sure what type of crowd to expect at this show. Once we got in, I knew this was going to be a great performance because people of different age groups were there.

     The music started promptly at 8 pm with Carter Winter. He is an up-and-coming artist and has a style similar to Kane Brown. Winter's set included a variety of music, from covers of other artists to original songs that he had written. He was a great choice to open the show to get the crowd ready for the rest of the evening. I thought it was cool to have a new artist on tour with a seasoned artist who is familiar with the music industry.

     In between sets, I had the opportunity to sit down with Phil Vassar and learn about how it all started, the process of putting together his album, song writing, and how they make the tour fun!

     In high school, Vassar started teaching himself how to play the piano and, with practice, got better. He started playing at piano bars in Nashville and other venues when he got out of college. He says that playing the piano bars in Nashville was, “Awesome, then I bought the bar, then I owned the bar for years.” His bar was where he was able to share his songs firsthand and was able to perform with his friends, who later recorded his songs. He says, “a lot of people would come and I would try out new songs.  I would write a song and try it out and all of my buddies, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Jodee Messina, would come sing with me, Colin Ray, all of these people would come in and sing with me at my place.”

Photo by   Kathleen Bee

Photo by Kathleen Bee

     The bar was the starting point for his career. He says, “That's kind of how it all happened for me, that's how I met all of these guys. Garth, when I came to town, and Kenny Chesney. Kenny and I, we have known each other forever. I really literally tried to talk them out of cutting my songs.” He wanted to save them for his own records at the time, but it was the artists who made hits out of his music that got him started in the music business.

     Vassar's new album American Soul comes out on December 2nd and he has been sharing several of the new songs throughout his tour. He said that they have been waiting to get the new album out for several years and it's finally out, “just in time for the holidays, it's a great stocking stuffer.”

     Vassar explained his process when working on an album. He will write and record songs in the home studio with his guitarist, Jeff Smith. Vassar says, “that way we can sit and create, we have cut songs three or four times different ways.” Some of the songs just have Vassar and Smith playing while others will be sent out to a drummer to lay down a track. He says, “From the beginning of this record to the end of it, it's just all over the place and that's what I like about it. You don't go, ‘oh everything sounds alike’ and I don't think that is the case in this thing.”

     To get into specifics for his new record American Soul, 40 or 50 songs were cut for this album. Vassar said that “Stay With Me Tonight” was a last minute song added to the album. “We just wrote it and cut it,” he explained.  One of his favorite songs "Big Time" was written 15- 20 years ago and he is finally ready to share it.  As for how he selects the right songs for the album, Vassar says, “You know I just think you do, I have so many songs. I have hundred and hundreds and hundreds of songs that you will never hear.”

Photo by   Kathleen Bee

Photo by Kathleen Bee

     Vassar strives to be different and wants to be his own artist. He has his own label, management company, produces and writes his own records. He does an amazing job at making the music and American Soul is his ninth album to be released. He is most himself when he works on his music and performs it the way he wants to.

     When Vassar took the stage at Kanza Hall, I was in awe! This man has such raw emotion and you can see it when he performs. There was no set list for the night. Before he came on the stage his manager told everyone in the crowd to tweet their song requests and use the hashtag #NoPhilter.

     This was such a clever idea and kept the crowd on their toes wondering which song would come next. He played songs that were new, old, and covers from other artists. He started off with “Good Old Days”, his hits “Just Another Day in Paradise” and “Six-Pack Summer” and then covered a few new tunes, “Mississippi” and “Sound of a Million Dreams”.

     Vassar was very interactive with the crowd and got down to business. You could tell he wanted the audience to really enjoy the show. At one point, he was singing on top of the piano! I really enjoyed looking around the crowd and seeing everyone singing along, it was a great turn out! He closed with “Purple Rain” by Prince and performed an encore of his own song, “American Child”.

     I would definitely recommend seeing Phil Vassar in concert. He is an unbelievable performer and puts on a show that you will not forget!

     Don't forget his new album, American Soul, releases on December 2! Check it out, you will love the wide variety of styles and songs.