Singing together for decades, Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary join forces on the all-duet project, American Grandstand, which was released July 7th. The twelve song set contains both new songs, as well as wonderfully done renditions of traditional country duets such as “Can’t Live Life” and “Golden Ring,” that remind the listener of the great pairings of decades ago. A few days before its release, Rhonda Vincent graciously took the time to talk about the record, the need for traditional country, and more.
Daryle and yourself are friends who have sung together before, but this is your first album of duets together. What was the impetus to record this project?
Daryle is one of the greatest singers, and I love getting to sing with him whenever I have the opportunity. We have sung together quite often to the point where if we would both be somewhere people would always ask if we would sing a duet. It got to be tradition, or expectation, so we started talking about how much we did love singing together and thought about doing an all duet project. In music today, there may be a duet sung here or there, but I don’t think anyone is doing anything like this or has done anything like this, in years. I think this album fills a void and we’re really thrilled to get to do that.
Was it a long-time planning or did the two of you decide to do it and then the album came together quickly?
I’d say the record came together in the course of the last nine months to a year. Once we decided to do it, we put it into play and worked every waking moment on it. Daryle and I are polar opposites in the sense that my kids are grown and married, and Daryle has four small children under the age of six, so the challenge became about finding a time when we could be in the studio together. Daryle took one afternoon and began singing on his own, but soon called saying making the record that way was not going to work. When two people sing together, there is a whole different dynamic than if they recorded their parts separately, and as soon as we got in there together, it sparked something incredible. Recording together brought this entirely different vocal dynamic to the entire project; we challenged one another and gave one another new ideas and inspiration. We had fun doing all of these vocal acrobatics to the point where the engineer said, ‘Ok great, now that we got that over with, let’s get back to singing’ because we just went crazy singing every line out of the ordinary (laughing)! We had a great time and every time I sing with Daryle, it’s equally as fun. I just love it.
Sounds like musical chemistry!
In addition to the covers, there are a few originals, including the title track, American Grandstand. Did you write it specifically for this project?
It’s a crazy thing. The album was pretty much done, and we were talking about doing a video for “Up This Hill and Down.” I thought we could do an American Bandstand type video where we’d have Bill Cody be like Dick Clark and we’d call it “American Grandstand." I looked up the word grandstand, and it said to “seek applause,” and that definition fit us so well, that I sent the idea to Daryle. He said he loved it and we should make it the title of the album, but we also felt it didn’t make sense because we didn’t have a song referencing that. Then, quite by accident, while we were shooting the cover, I got the idea for the song and started writing, thinking it would be the title song of the album. I called Daryle asking if we wanted to record it, which was intimidating because it’s basically asking someone if they like your song, and he replied, ‘Whatever you think.’ So we recorded it, and then it was time to finish the album cover and I needed to know if we were going to actually use the song. I never felt like I got a 100% yes response from Daryle, so I finally called him saying that we were at the point of having to move one way or the other and he said, ‘It’s my favorite song on the album"...and I felt like, ‘Oh my goodness why didn’t you just say that earlier!’ (laughing).
It would have saved a lot of doubt! The first song released was “One” (previously made famous by country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette). Why did you choose to release that as the song to introduce people to the album?
We met at the studio and sat and listened to songs to get ideas for the ones we wanted to record. That one, in particular, Daryle suggested, so we got the lyrics, started singing, and instantly realized there was magic there - our voices intertwined on that song like no other and we knew we had to do it. We had further confirmation when we went on the Opry Country Classics at the Ryman in April of 2016. We received a wonderful response from the audience, but the added response from the people backstage was incredible – everyone loved it and the next morning Bill Cody selected it to be played on WSM. It was the first song we recorded for the album and has since become the centerpiece of the record.
Like "One," there are other classic country duets here recorded by well-loved singers. How did you approach recording the songs and making them your own?
We wanted to pay tribute to the original artists, but knew the songs had to meet a certain quality to pull it off. We didn’t go back and listen to the songs line for line because we were familiar with them and wanted to make it the way we would sing it, but we did take liberties with songs, like “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man," which was surprisingly hard to sing. Our approach to that song was different, but I've had people tell me that was their favorite track and when I asked them if it bothered them that we changed it up, they responded they didn’t even notice! That was amazing to me because we changed that song the most, but I guess the frame is still there.
Now I have to go back and listen again!
Currently, my favorite song is "Golden Ring;" do you have a favorite?
I love all of the songs or else I wouldn't have recorded them, but I have to say “As We Kiss Our World Goodbye." It is such a beautiful song from Billy Yates, who wrote so many songs for George Jones. It turned out to be a wonderful correlation that we would record one of his songs.
Now that you’ve done a country duets album, do you think you would want to do more country records?
I did a couple of country albums years ago, but my main focus is Bluegrass. I have the luxury of being on the Country Family Reunion, and being a part of the Country Family Cruises where I get to sing country music, so I really have the best of both worlds.
I’m just thrilled Daryle and I got to do this project together. I am excited because there is definitely an audience for people who want to hear this traditional - some people are calling it retro – country style. I think for obvious reasons, the mainstream will tell you there’s not an audience for it, but I think there is - and we shouldn't discount them. I’ve seen some incredible traditional artists, like the Malpass Brothers, coming onto the scene, which is so exciting. I encourage folks to listen to these artists and for the artists making traditional country, I encourage them to keep on writing new songs and releasing fresh new music. I think there needs to be more of it and I am on a crusade for people to find it and hear it.
To purchase American Grandstand visit HERE
For more information on Rhonda Vincent visit her official website
For more information on Daryle Singletary visit his official website