If anything, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent are double trouble. In a good way, of course. The pair recently swept the SPBGMA Bluegrass Music Awards, a near-replica of their performance at last fall’s International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, where they claimed seven trophies. On March 31, they’ll release the followup to last year’s critically-acclaimed debut disc, aptly-titled Dailey & Vincent. The duo called from Nashville’s downtown YMCA to discuss their new album and touring plans for 2009 (and beyond). Sponsorships welcomed.
Brothers from Different Mothers is your second album together. Were there any shifts in approach or attitude this time around?
DV: We wanted to make the recording quality better. We’re trying to give the best performances we can give. We capture what’s in our hearts and capture the CD in a different light, to make it something that the audience will purchase and play over and over again.
“Head Hung Down” is a fascinating starting point—a man stuck in the rain trying to catch the train home to his beloved. The perfect introduction to a bluegrass album, don’t you think?
DV: Yeah. (laughs) Why we chose the song is, we recorded the whole record, but we didn’t have an upbeat barnburner to start the album. We were kind of stuck in the studio and we talked to Robert Gaitley and he actually had a song he thought would work that he’d written. He sent us over an mp3 of the song and I wrote down the lyrics, and within about an hour we’d laid out the arrangement. It’s amazing what technology we have these days.
JD: Darrin’s just great about sequencing the record. We want to record the best possible songs for the album, but he knows how to make it all fit.
Brothers is dotted with stories of struggle and strife, but, as is often the case, the misery is married to a more upbeat sound. That tone seems to tie in with your deeply-felt faith. How does that particular theme weave itself through the album?
JD: Faith plays a major part in what we do. Ever since the start of bluegrass, gospel has been accepted as a part of the format. Every day we seek counsel with our Lord. Then, we have our manager, our publicist, our attorney that we seek counsel from. We just want to make something we believe in wholeheartedly. Gospel fits what we do in Dailey & Vincent and it fits what bluegras is about. Even back in the days of Bill Monroe in ’41 or ’42 when he made “What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul,” gospel was a big part of bluegrass. (Ed. note: “Exchange” was first performed by Monroe in 1936.) Even now, if you go to a bluegrass show, 30% or 40% of the shows are gospel.
We definitely have our faith in the Lord, but I want everybody to know that we’re not perfect. We have our hopes and our doubts and our fears just like everybody else.
DV: The only time I’m perfect is when my wife is mad at me. (laughs)
JD: Make sure you write that down!
(The pair erupt with laughter.)
JD: You’re probably wondering what you got yourself into right about now.
Settle down now. We have a few more questions to go.
Last night I was reading the New York Times review of your show at Joe’s Pub in New York City last week. In what ways would you like to branch out to different audiences like the one in New York as you move forward in your careers?
JD: That’s one of our main goals and objectives this year. It’s real important for us to go out on our own and reach new audiences. We’re actually talking about going back to New York City in November or December. We’ve had emails from three different people who’ve said that they’re going to tell all their friends and they say, “They’re gonna love you guys!” We’ve got a street team now and we definitely want to broaden our name awareness, whether that be in Boston or Chicago or wherever. We’re gonna find ways to do it, to get to people that might not normally get to hear bluegrass music.
The other big thing, we’re trying to do our own Dailey & Vincent concerts. We need to have those hard ticket sales and establish ourselves that ways. We go anywhere from performing arts centers to theatres, opera houses. In 2008, we had 60 of those shows; in 2009, we have 70 scheduled, and by 2010, we’re hoping to be close to 100. We love doing the bluegrass festivals and shows; the bluegrass fans and Dailey & Vincent are so loyal and we couldn’t ask for more. But we’d like to build that fanbase and gather the excitement for a Dailey & Vincent show.
With all the touring, plus the time it takes to polish up all those awards you’ve been winning, I’m amazed you have time for a daily run.
DV: We’re trying to run the fat off. (laughs) You know, with the road life and the traveling—we’re doing 10-15 shows every month. Shows are 500-600 miles away from each other, and it’s hard to keep in good health, so we try to walk and run and stay healthy.
The nice thing about the bus is that we try to keep good food on that, but we have chocolate chip cookies and candy bars and M & M’s and that kind of stuff. We make sure that our bus is drink-free, smoke-free and drug-free. Just give me a Diet Mountain Dew and I’m set.
JD: And I’ll take some sweet tea.
DV: Make sure you quote all that. We need to get a sponsorship! (laughs)
We just have a ball on the bus. Three different musicians are out with us—Jeff Parker on mandolin, Joe Dean on banjo and vocals and Adam Haynes on fiddle. They’re just characters and a half, it’s a lot of fun. We have a really great time out there.
On Brothers, you’ve recorded the Gillian Welch/Dave Rawling song, “Winter’s Come and Gone.” How do you recreate that dark, desolate mood in the studio?
I picture myself sitting in some small apartment, 300 square feet, no electricity, in Boston or New York City and you see the redbird, then the bluebird and then the blackbird outside your window and you feel just miserable. I go to that place I’ve thought about that apartment in the big city at the end of winter.
As far as Gillian and David, we haven’t really talked with them all that much. We’d like to get to know them more. We’ve done a couple things with them at the Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, but that’s about it. We’re just huge fans of theirs and now we’d rather not record an album without one of their songs.They wrote a song on the first album, “By the Mark,” that was just named Song of the Year by the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association). Artistically, they’re just wonderfully talented people. They just have that old-timey, traditional feel to their music.
Speaking of collaborations, the most important aspect to Dailey & Vincent, the real foundation, is the friendship involved.
JD: We just get along so great. Darrin has his responsibilities in this business. He takes care of the touring arrangements and the studio times and organizes the interviews. I look after the finances; I take care of the business arrangements and go to the bank once a week; I write out the shows in terms of the set list and what songs we’re doing that night. We try not to get in each other’s way. It really works that we have our own jobs. We’re the final two that make the decisions. We have meetings with our advisers to determine if we’re meeting our long-term goals.
JD: You know, if I went into the studio and tried to turn on the board or the microphones, the thing would be broke in about five minutes. It takes both of us to make it work. He works harder than anybody I know. He’ll never stop until it’s finished. It could be 3:00 in the morning and he’ll be saying, “Five more minutes!” He has this great focus.
DV: I mean, when we started this band, I knew that he could sing really well, but he’s got so many great qualities and it works so well together.
Some artists might scoff at comparison to artists who came before them, but you’ve been openly gracious about your influences, especially the Statler Brothers. Tell me about their impact on your music and career management.
DV: We’ve learned a lot about the business and music organization from them.We’ve had lunch with them, we’ve had dinner with them. We appreciate their music and we’ve got to them and we’ve been very blessed to do so. One really good thing that’s happened is we’ve gotten to them and learn how they ran their business. We have such high respect for Don Reid and Harold Reid and Jimmy Fortune and really looked up to them.
The coolest thing that’s happened is when we went out to Stanton, Virginia to meet with them. They said they had no idea that the songs they’d written would fit into the world of bluegrass. That just made me about want to bawl.
JD: Me, too. You know, they were curious about us as well. Can you imagine that?! (laughs) I thought they were gonna laugh at us, like, “Are we that country?” (laughs)
DV: (laughs) We talked about different techniques and how we recorded. They wanted to know what worked with our fanbase and what songs we chose and how we handled the business side. We’re just really blessed.
What’s the future of bluegrass, in terms of style, in terms of sound? Where do you see the genre going and what is your part in preserving it?
DV: We want to stay close to the same music, in terms of the basics of bluegrass. We’re trying to get away from the “straw hat, haybale, singing through your nose” style that a lot of people think of. We’re working on bringing better gear, having better quality in the studio in terms of sound and production. We’re out there trying to show that it (bluegrass) is cool. We’re continuing to push ourselves with better songs and fuller-sounding music, but we want to maintain the special nature of bluegrass and all its traditions and pay tribute to all the artists of the past like Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, the Louvin Brothers. Even the Alison Krauss-Robert Plant album that just won a bunch of Grammys, it’s bringing a new audience to the music.
Back in ’02 being on the Down from the Mountain tour was a great experience. And when we toured with Ricky Skaggs opening for the Dixie Chicks, too. We did about 21 or 22 shows out there and he (Skaggs) did so much to get out to a younger audience and we want to try and do that in our careers, too. We just want to keep the momentum going.
While bluegrass may fade in and out of the mainstream, the consistency of its content is always there.
DV: That’s exactly right! The traditions are what makes it so special.