Interview: Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary Fulfill a Dream With New Album, ‘American Grandstand’
Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary have been friends -- and collaborators -- for years. Once labelmates on Giant Records, in the 1990s, the two have sung on each other's projects and remain close. But it wasn't until this year that the two singers decided to do an album together.
American Grandstand, a record of duets, was released on Friday (July 7), on Vincent's own Upper Management record label.
"I think it’s an epitome of how we feel about traditional country music," Singletary tells The Boot of the 12-track record. "It’s some of our favorite duet songs that were done by some of our favorite artists. And then, it’s also some songs that are brand-new that we tried to channel those heroes and legends from before us to do a great, traditional, country-duet record."
Vincent began her Upper Management label in 2010, as a way to release music on her own terms without the constraints of a big company. It was then that she and Singletary began talking about a project of their own, but they had to wait until the timing was right.
"We’re in different places in life," Vincent concedes. "He has twin 6-year-old boys, a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter. My daughters are married, out of college ... He’s home with the kids. Before, when he first came to town, he was at the honky-tonks, and I was home with my kids. So we are polar opposites in that respect."
American Grandstand is a nostalgic look back at the earlier days of country music, featuring classics such as "After the Fire Is Gone," "Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man" and "Golden Ring." Even before the album's official release date, the music was already proving to be exactly what their fans want: Vincent and Singletary's initial pre-order for the project sold out weeks before the album's release, which hasn't happened since Upper Management opened.
"Obviously we want people to like it and we want it to sell, but we just wanted to make great music," shares Singletary. "We just love it. We love the music. We love singing together. And that’s the biggest thing.
"I don’t know that we’ve ever just sat down and looked across the table at each other and said, ‘This is what we want to get out of this.’ We just wanted to do a record together," he continues. "We just wanted people to hear us singing together on an entire project, versus one song on my CD or Rhonda’s CD."
When both singers left their labels before the new millennium, as country music was shifting from more traditional sounds to pop-influenced tracks, neither Vincent nor Singletary was fazed by the changes. Instead, their focus remained solely on making the music they wanted to make.
"I was finding my way, but I was doing traditional country music," recalls Vincent. "That was a different time frame. If I looked at the music I wanted to do, it would be the music [Singletary and I] do. The music industry was moving into more of a mainstream; Shania [Twain] was coming out about that time, but it was more mainstream. I was putting together my first bluegrass band. It was so natural; it was so fun. It was being in the right place at the right time ... We are going to sing no matter what. It’s as natural as breathing."
Adds Singletary, "I credit all my talent to the good Lord. I never worried about making a living. I knew my talent was God-given. If one door closed, then another would open, whether it be in this business or not. And I never really worried about it. God will always provide, and He did."
Although they've both found success as individual artists, both Vincent and Singletary agree that the release of American Grandstand is the fulfillment of a dream they've each carried for a long time.
"We were in the studio singing and challenging each other," Vincent says. "That was a defining moment. We knew there was some magic in our voices together. I would sing something different because of Daryle, and he would sing something, and we had this connection in singing."
Vincent and Singletary plan on performing several shows together in support of American Grandstand, but they've already had perhaps their most important show to date, when they recently sang together at the Grand Ole Opry. Although both regulars on the revered stage -- Vincent has logged more than 180 appearances -- it's still the pinnacle of success for them as artists.
In your mind, you think you’re still that teenager, having such fun.
"That’s what I moved here for," reveals Singletary. "All the glitz and glamour -- I’ve never won an award. My biggest thing was, I wanted to play on the Grand Ole Opry, and I’ve been fortunate to do that, many times. I feel like I’ve been so blessed, just to be able to make the music that I love and that I moved here to do. I moved here to sing traditional country music, and I’ve been, thank the good Lord, successful and not had to change."
Although she's been at it for decades, Vincent -- dubbed "the New Queen of Bluegrass" in 2000 by the Wall Street Journal -- still feels much like the young girl who performed with her family, as part of the Sally Mountain Show band, before launching her own solo career.
"In your mind, you think you’re still that teenager, having such fun," Vincent says. "I didn’t think I thought about it until I started having a grandpa come up and say, ‘I can’t wait to hear you sing, but my granddaughter can’t wait to see what you’re going to wear.’"
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