An Interview with Blues Singer Rhonda Vincent by Mike Spain

Rhonda Vincent currently has the top album on Billboard’s Bluegrass Charts. She is known as the Queen of Bluegrass and after winning more awards than any other bluegrass artists it is easy to know why. Rhonda Vincent and her band the Rage are wrapping up their 2012 tour with a show in Brunswick, Maryland tomorrow Sunday November 18, 2012. The Rage is made up of Hunter Berry on mandolin and fiddle, Mickey Harris on upright bass, Aaron McDaris on acoustic guitar and banjo, and Ben Helson on acoustic guitar. Rhonda was gracious enough to set some time out of her busy road life to answer a couple of questions about her influences, touring, her band, and her upcoming show. A down to earth Rhonda Vincent was more than happy to answer my questions beaming with love and passion for what she does.

Rhonda Vincent. Courtesy of Rhonda’s website.

Mike: You have been called the ‘Queen of Bluegrass.’ Who were some of your biggest influences?

Rhonda: Well I grew up in a musical family up in northern Missouri so my family was my greatest influence and their influence was pretty much anyone on the Grand Ole Opry  from Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, to Dolly Parton to anyone that  we heard on there. My dad picked me up from school everyday and we played until dinner and after dinner friends came over and we played until bed time. So talk about an influence it was just on the job training in this very intense type of music that just kind of took hold. I take everything that I learned from my family. When I was five we had a television show, a radio show and we made are first recordings so if you could just imagine all of this different experiences throughout my lifetime. It was the perfect thing to train me for what I do today and the career that I love and I feel I get to live my dream each day. It established this love for what I do.

You and your band have won over 80 Bluegrass Awards which one are you most proud of winning?

You know it is just a collective thing of each one is very special. I would never want to say this one is more special than the other. Each one in a different point of my life was a very special accomplishment. We work so hard and love what we do. I think it is basically someone saying great job versus just sitting and gazing and oh my goodness look what we have won we constantly move forward. We are on the road over 250 days each year, over 140 days now, 2004 we were on the road more than 300 days, 1880 playing days, and that just got insane. Trying to find that perfect balance of playing music, traveling, touring, awards, families, and everything together I think equals happiness.

What do you like most about touring?

I think performing and the people. I discovered long ago on my first visit out of the country that no matter where you go the air is the same, the sun and the grass all of that is the same but is the people that make those places very special. We have people who are traveling thousands and thousands of miles. We have a couple in Centerville, Iowa who have changed their retirement and they are liable to be anywhere we are on tour. They were in Ohio on Saturday and Illinois on Friday. They were in Europe and all of our shows in France and Switzerland a year ago and they travel all over and it is great to have this enthusiasm. This is their lives and they follow what we do and beyond that it is not just coming to shows, to hear the music. We are very connected with the folks that come and see us after the show we might share a meal together or online send a message on Facebook, we have a very active website on Facebook at ‘Rhonda Vincent Official’ – like Jim the gentleman from Iowa, who messaged “travel safe have a great time.” Life is good.

Can you tell me a little bit about your band The Rage?

I travel with an award winning band they are amazing, they share the same passion for the music and for the travel. Because that’s the only way it really works traveling with people you really enjoy being around. You can make it really miserable or really great. I have worked sand had my own band together for like 13 years now to find that perfect balance of great people and great musicians. Each one is just incredible in their own right. The fiddle player has been in the band eleven years now. The bass player has been in for 10 years, guitar player is a college graduate, the banjo players four years in the band, and we have a brand new member who just joined in January, a dobra player he has a college degree from East Tennessee State and is the very first recipient of a Bachelors of Arts degree in Bluegrass Old Time Country Music, it is just a great group of guys.

Your latest release Sunday Mornin’ Singing is a gospel album how did that come about?

I’ve always wanted to do an all gospel project. I was under contract and the folks I was under contract with were not crazy about me doing an all gospel project. So in 2010 I started my own label and this was on the top of my list of things to do. Like a personal project for me. I didn’t want to go into the studio and say here is a collection of gospel songs. I felt like I wanted to go to my home church in Greentop, Missouri and that’s what we did. We brought in a film crew, a recording crew, special guests, the band and we spent three days in the Greentop Methodist Church. It just became the number one album on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart. There were a lot of challenges and it became more rewarding because of that I think. We got to the church and it was a 100 year old church and it was the end of June early July and it didn’t have any air conditioning. It was literally 100 degrees in the church at any given moment during the whole process. It took a bit more dedication. Like I am going to stay in this church even if I was absolutely miserable but it was  music and people came together , the fans were there, my parents hosted a festival over the Fourth of July and they were like “I’m so sorry we didn’t think about it. We didn’t know it was going to be so hot.” But those people stayed here 8 hours each day.

It was a CD 16 songs that just came out. There will also be aDVDbut that has been even more challenging. That’s why it hasn’t come out yet. There is light at the end of the tunnel so hopefully soon.

With the album being a gospel one is the set list just gospel or how are you putting together the set list?

We do a little bit of everything. We do some of the gospel material. We do a medley instrumental that features everybody that is absolutely incredible. When you come to our show it is a high energy show. We love what we do and I think that comes through. There is your traditional bluegrass, there will also be songs like “You Can’t Take it with You When You Go” it was a number four video for me on CMT some of the country ballads, gospel music something for everybody.

The Brunswick, Maryland show is the final stop of your current tour anything special planned any surprises?

It is! We might include a Christmas song or two that is what I’m thinking. We did a Christmas Album a few years ago and they are always fun. We take Thanksgiving to the New Year off to be with families. The final shows we look forward to so we may do a Christmas song in addition to all the other songs we do.

What would you tell people who might be curious about going to your show who are not familiar with your music and are coming to your show?

Come out to a show. I hear a lot people will say my wife likes bluegrass and I don’t, or the husband likes bluegrass and the wife doesn’t, or someone who gets a ticket from a friend. They always love what they hear. If you haven’t heard us before come with the expectation of having a good time. They leave loving our music I’m pretty sure you will.

Rhonda Vincent. Photo courtesy of Rhonda’s website.

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage perform at Brunswick High School for one night only on Sunday, November 18, 2012. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the show starts at 3 pm. For ticket information check out the website, call (301) 371-5582.

Rhonda Vincent’s website.


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