Interview: Country Music Icon Pam Tillis

Pam Tillis talks with Afternoon DJ Amanda about her latest record, her legacy, and what fans can expect from her upcoming performance at the RWB Music Fest:  

AT: Pam – thank you so much for being here with me today, I wanna go ahead and dive into your latest album – you released it 2 years ago – it’s called Looking For a Feeling and it has some of your best writing yet!   

The album features some of Nashville’s greatest songwriters – including yourself – but you also have Matraca Berg, Waylon Payne, and Tia Sellers – so many outstanding writers. What can you tell us about this album and the journey it’s taken you on?   

PT: It had been quite a while between projects. I’ve always been the kind of artist that never wanted to put out an album for the sake of putting one out. I just always wanted to have some kind of an emotional need to put it out. This one was on the back burner for a long time. I was writing songs, and they were evolving, and I was kind of waiting to see what kind of form they would take. After a while, I started realizing there was a little bit of a lot of my influences from when I was a teenager popping up.   

I’ve done one other album that was influences; I did an album of all of my dad’s songs. But there was a whole other side of my musical experience growing up that I hadn’t really explored. There was a little bit of a ‘70s rock thing going on. Some of the stuff that I grew up in my early formative years listening to Neil Young, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell, a lot of Bonnie Raitt, people like that. Early Emmylou Harris. Those were some of the influences that ended up being a big part of this record.  

AT: In the early 90s, you were one of the first artists signed to Arista records, and country music experienced a time like no other! There were so many opportunities and exposure- looking back, what were the 90s like for you?  

PT: The ‘90s were a great time. I mean, just incredible. You can’t plan some things, some things just happen. There was a moment in time when women were like a juggernaut. All of a sudden, there were all of these great female artists at one time. And prior to the early ‘90s, there were some stigmas in country music. They thought maybe women didn’t sell concert tickets, they wouldn’t play female records back-to-back on the radio. There were definitely some sexist views in the industry, and all of a sudden there were these undeniable female successes. It was women talking to other women, some great singer-songwriters. That’s when I happened to be doing my thing and it was a really cool wave to ride.  

AT: Many of today’s artists like Carly Pearce, Ashley Mcbryde, and Miranda lambert consider you one of their musical influences. And I know you’ve worked with a lot of up-and-coming artists in Nashville. How does it feel to be an inspiration to these artists?   

PT: Well, it feels amazing. I have my generation heroes. But you know, you are shaped by that. There’s something about your, I think, especially your teen years, that you’re just so open to incorporating musical sounds and styles and ideas. Everything’s a new discovery, and it’s just this great impressionable age. And I guess, for me, my music hit the airwaves when some of these young ladies were coming of age, musically. I just think Ashley McBride is amazing. Miranda is amazing. Any small part up I had in those girls’ upbringing is a good thing.  

AT: And this Saturday is a big day – It’s the RWB Music Fest in Jasper that features Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, Ricochet, and Wade Hayes. Pam, you are on the lineup as well – what can fans expect from your show?  

PT: We’re gonna be doing an acoustic set. And this is something that I’ve been doing for a while. And I’ve got two young women with me there, they’re seasoned pros, some of the best players I’ve worked with, and I’m excited to bring them with me. The acoustic show is very different than the full band show, a little bit more storytelling and some stories behind the songs and just a little bit more conversational in tone, a little bit more intimate, and it’s a show that I enjoy a lot.  

AT: Following you on social media, it seems like you are always up to something creative and fun. What’s next for you? Anything you are working on that you can share?  

PT: The big push is I’ve got a really full touring calendar between now and the end of the year. So, I’ll see what else I can fit in between shows. But mainly, that is definitely the focus.  

AT: Are you doing any songwriting these days?  

PT: A little bit of writing on the side, working on a Christmas project that we started a little bit late, we might share a teaser of that this year, but it might be next year before the entire project was completed. And yeah, that’s gonna keep me busy.   

AT: So many exciting things! And I am so happy because at our station, we get so many requests for Looking For a Feeling. Every few weeks, somebody will pop in and say ‘Hey, can you play something new from that record?’ Our listeners in this area, are familiar with that record. We are so excited to see you this Saturday in Jasper, Indiana, at the RWB Music Fest.   

PT: Anybody out there listening, I just would invite them to message me or comment on Instagram or Facebook and let me know what songs they’d like, and what songs they’d like to hear from the new record. That would be fantastic! 

Find tour dates, music, and more at PamTillis.com 

 

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