Vince Gill On Criticism He Receives for Playing with The Eagles

photo: Myriam Santos

One of the most curious, and maybe one of the most cool developments in music over the last couple of years has been Vince Gill becoming a late career member of The Eagles. It wasn’t a development that came with a lot of fanfare or explanation. With the passing of Glenn Frey in 2016, everyone, including the remaining members, thought it was the final bow for one of the most successful American bands of all time.

Don Henley stated in 2016 shortly after Glenn Frey’s passing that the band known as The Eagles would never perform again. But in 2017, some shows were booked for select appearances, and organically, Vince Gill just sort of appeared in Glenn Frey’s spot, along with Glenn’s son Deacon. Soon the Country Music Hall of Famer started appearing with The Eagles for all of their live tour dates, and now Gill is considered a bona fide member of the band.

“It’s not something you can dream up, think about, or any of that stuff,” Vince said in a recent interview with the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. “Don [Henley] told me in confidence, ‘You’re the only guy I wanted, that I would have done this with.’ Which meant the world to me. We had become friends through working on his ‘Cass County’ record. I sang and played on a bunch of that. And I knew Glenn [Frey] very well in the 80’s. We shared the same manager when The Eagles were broken up. And Joe [Walsh] and I met at the Crossroads shows, and we wanted to do a band like the Traveling Wilburys together.”

Not just a gifted singer, Vince Gill has always been one of country music’s secret weapons behind the guitar, and his willingness to not need to be the center of attention has made him the perfect collaborator. “I’ve been wise in knowing when and when not to speak,” Gill says of his place in The Eagles, and just what a privilege and honor it is.

But as can be expected, not everyone is fond of Vince Gill’s fill-in duties. Gill might be skilled and accomplished in country, but that doesn’t always mean he receives proper respect from Glenn Frey fans, or fans of The Eagles in general. But Gill isn’t bitter about the criticism. He understands it as much as anyone.

“It’s different. It’s not as good as the original,” he says. “I don’t sing like Glenn, and don’t pretend to. I see a lot of people making negative comments about me being in that band, and I get it. It’s my favorite band too. I don’t want to hear me sing ‘New Kid In Town.’ But the other option is not possible.”

Similar to how Vince Gill has always been a preservationist in country, and always tried to use his platform to keep important names top-of-mind—whether it was his close friend Keith Whitley after he passed away, or steel guitar Paul Franklin when he collaborated with him on the 2013 record Bakersfield, or his many appearances with the Western Swing revivalists The Time Jumpers—Vince Gill is just trying to help keep good American music alive by lending his name and effort to it.

“I’m just trying to do my part to keep some great songs afloat,” he says of his place in The Eagles.

The band’s “Hotel California Tour” that was scheduled for 2020 and postponed due to COVID-19 has been rescheduled for 2021. It will be Gill’s 2nd full tour as an official member of The Eagles when it resumes.

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