She began performing with her family band The Sally Mountain Mountain show at the tender age of five. A few decades and armloads of IBMA awards later, Rhonda Vincent is one of the most respected vocalists and instrumentalists in modern bluegrass music.
Her fans can now enjoy her inimitable live show right from the comfort of their own living rooms. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage: All the Rage, Volume 1, her first live release in over a decade, is available now at major retailers, at RhondaVincent.com, and of course, at her live shows. Ms. Vincent graciously took time out of her busy schedule to speak with Country Universe on the phone about the new release.
You released Ragin’ Live in 2005 and the live Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ in 2012. Why was this the right time for a new live release?
It was the right time because my constant quest had been to put together the ultimate group, the ultimate band of great people, incredible musicians. And people are also coming to our show saying after the show, ‘I want a CD. I want something that is exactly what I just saw.’ And we didn’t have that. And these guys are so amazing. We’ve worked to attain this pinnacle I feel like we have reached. And so I thought it was important that we document that. We have it on a DVD. For those who have never seen it before, you can put this DVD on and say, ‘Wow!’ You can know that this is so authentic that it’s exactly what you’re going to see when you come to the show. There’s that excitement, the authenticity, the passion, the love of what we do. And I think all of that comes through on there whether you’re listening to the CD or watching the DVD.
For those who may not know the members of The Rage, what can you tell us about the talented guys you share the stage with?
Well, they have a lot of years between them. Hunter Berry, the fiddle player, has been in the group for fourteen years, joining when he was seventeen years old. June 8th of 2010 I like to say he made his greatest dream come true and made me his mother-in-law, married my oldest daughter Sally, so it’s kind of a family affair also. Mickey Harris, he comes from a musical family in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and he too is about to celebrate his fourteenth year as a member of The Rage. He’s on bass, sings a lot of harmony. Then we have Aaron McDaris on banjo – he’s been in the group for eight years. He is from Missouri, so we have a kindred spirit, and is one of the world’s best banjo players and was raised by a preacher so he brings a nice inspiration to our group. We have Josh Williams – he was in the group previously. He was on Ragin’ Live. He joined us four years ago. One of the most talented guys that I know. All of these, they play everything; they sing every part. Josh plays everything equally well. He’s just this amazing musician and an amazing artist. And then we have Brett Burke, who very soon in a few days will have been here for five years.
So there is a longevity; there is an experience. You know you could put a band together, but until you’ve performed together, just some of things, the trials and tribulations you’ve gone through, it just gives you this experience and then a kind of a security. Because when we go onstage we don’t have to think, ‘Is Aaron gonna know how to kick this song off?’ You get a new member – you don’t know where they’re gonna be. You don’t know if they’ll remember how to kick off a song, especially a brand-new member. Now there’s an experience. We can go onstage without a set list and they could call out songs. They know all the songs. And it’s a wonderful feeling. That’s a wonderful security for me, to be able to do that. But they’re at the top of their game. They’re world-class musicians, and this was the perfect time to display that and to have something that just shows you exactly what we do.
What kind of experience do you want to give your fans when they attend a Rhonda Vincent and the Rage live show?
You know, we were talking about that this morning. They come to our show, they get to see a concert. It is so far beyond just a concert. We find after the show it’s an experience. And now we get to stay in touch on social media like Facebook, like Rhonda Vincent Official. So we stay in touch. It’s like ‘Hey, come join our family.’ And I get an email or a post from a guy each and every morning. David – he’s in Missouri. And he says, “Good Morning, Rhonda. Please remember to drink your water.” This is just like Mom calling or Dad and Uncle David calling and saying ‘You know what? Remember to drink your water today! Good morning! How are you doing?’ So it’s just like having an extended family.
Do you have any of your own particular pre-show warmup rituals?
I guess I probably do. A lot of it is just quiet time and making sure everything is prepared. I’m usually one to get dressed and make sure of everything moments before the show. Mickey always says I come running in on two heels. There’s a lozenge, it’s kind of preventive, for my voice called Vocal Zone. I order them from England, and it’s something that’s been a wonderful tool to make sure my voice is in the best condition it can be in. Lots of water. The last few things I do is have a Vocal Zone and put some lipstick on. We don’t do warmups or anything like that. To me, if I did that I would wear out my voice and then it would be worn by the time I got out there rather than fresh. But I know a lot of people, they do a lot of vocal warmups and things like that, but we don’t do anything particular like that.
The songs on this release really represent an interesting diversity of eras and styles. What can you tell me about how you create your set list for a live show?
I really think that comes from growing up in a musical family that, when I was five, had this TV show and radio show. It was my grandpa, mom and dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. And there was a mix of styles. There was country music. Aunt Katherine sang like Kitty Wells. My dad might sing a Bill Monroe song. Grandpa Bill might sing Hank Williams, Sr. Uncle Carl sang a Jerry Martin song. So it was just this melting pot of everything – gospel music, country music, bluegrass music. That kind of carries through to what I do. We try to have something for everyone.
My dad was always the leader and he introduced everything. Everyone had a turn. Everyone is featured. People tell me that’s unique. Not every band does that. People are not featured like that. That’s something that my dad always did. We never worried about when or if we were going to get to sing. Everyone got a turn, and I don’t care who you were or what your what your song was. You’re going to get a turn. So I approach it kind of the same way. Everybody’s going to get a turn, so nobody’s going like ‘Hey, I want to sing’ or ‘Make sure you feature me.’ There’s not that sort of a competition, I guess. It removes that from there, because they know at some point they’re gonna be featured. I told them that when I hired them. It’s like, ‘Look, you’re gonna be featured.’ You never know when it’s gonna be or how it’s gonna be. But we create our show. We’re gonna do everything from hard-drivin’ bluegrass to maybe a country ballad like “You Can’t Take it With You” that was the number four video on CMT. And then we have gospel music. So we have something for everyone from the baby to grandma and every place in between, so our demographics are pretty wide. I’m very proud of that. I’m so glad that we have something for everyone.
I see this live album is called “Volume 1”. Are you hinting at something there?
I am! That is a complete hint. We had twenty-nine songs. When I got into the video editing, they said “Twenty-nine songs is too many. You’re looking at 150-160 minutes, so we need to divide this.” And that’s how All the Rage really came about, the title, because Volume 1 is a feature. I made sure everyone was featured. There’s original songs that they wrote. That one became a focus on the band. There will be a Volume 2 because we basically did fourteen songs on Volume 1. There will be fourteen songs on Volume 2. Volume 2 is more focused on fan favorites like “Jolene”, “Beneath Still Waters”. The band is on there and there’s some features. Brett Burke, I believe, plays the dobro chimes on the Volume 2. But it will be more of our fans’ favorite songs. So it’s a little different approach. It was all filmed at the very same time. Something else that I’m very proud of on this, it was filmed, we did not go into the studio and re-record any of this. It is authentic to what was performed that night.
What are some of your favorite live shows that you’ve attended as a fan?
You know, my favorite of all that I was so impressed with would have been, back in the eighties-nineties, I went to see Linda Ronstadt, and it was here in Nashville. What still impresses me to this day is she didn’t play an instrument, she had one mic, she didn’t even hold the microphone. She stood with her hands to her sides and sang and had this incredible band, and it was so amazing. I saw her on Sunday night. Come the next Friday I saw James Taylor. I saw them both in the very same week. I loved them both. I’m a huge James Taylor fan. But Linda Ronstadt, I was so impressed that she could stand there, not play anything, and just have such an incredible show, because James Taylor was out here and he played instruments. He played guitar. It’s like, how could someone stand and captivate an audience like that? But that woman could do it.
One of my favorite live shows to be part of was the Dolly Parton Heartsongs. I got to spend ten days with her and we had to perform shows live at Dollywood with her and that was an amazing experience.
When you look back on your years in the music industry and on all that you’ve achieved, what have been your proudest moments?
I heard Charlie Daniels do an interview and it really brought to life some of my proudest moments, not necessarily onstage. Obviously, there’s the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman…There was just so many wonderful experiences. But he said one of his greatest achievements was to keep – and these people have been in his band for forty-plus years – to keep thirty-plus people gainfully employed forty-plus years was his proudest accomplishment. And I look at that the same way. It’s like I’m working towards that. These bands members have been here fourteen years, and to have this wonderful business, it’s been an extended family. I’m so proud of them. We’ve won awards and we’ve performed together in some wonderful places and had incredible experiences. When I look at all of that together, I think how awesome that that is. And two of them are my son-in-laws, so to get to travel with family and have this wonderful experience with them is just kind of an icing on the cake.
Do you have a signature song?
Probably two or three of them. “Kentucky Borderline” in on this, and that was Song of the Year in 2004. If we don’t play that at a show, someone’s going to yell it out before the end, usually for the encore. So, “Kentucky Borderline”… “Mule Skinner Blues” I’ve been signing since I was nine, which is another reason that’s on there. That’s another one that’s requested. And beyond that is “Jolene”. A lot of people, if they don’t know the others they still request “Jolene”. So those are probably, I would say, my three most popular signature songs.
What’s in store for 2017?
I’ve been working on eight different projects this year. Three of them I’ve just completed with Volume 1. So I have five more projects. Volume 2…we did a live DVD at the Ryman auditorium July 14 of this year that I’ve been working on, and it was with legends of bluegrass. Mac Wiseman is 91, Jesse McReynolds is 87, and Bobby Osborne is 84, soon to be 85, and his brother Sonny surprised us all. So I’m working on that. That is a very, very special living history DVD. I don’t know for sure if it’s gonna be on TV or not, but for sure DVD. And then I’ve been working on an all-duet project with Daryle Singletary. I was singing with him yesterday. So a lot of things. I mean, I’m touring on top of all of that. Always looking for new opportunities, so we never know what’s coming up next!