Years ago, Vince Gill remembers, he went to his record company and proposed the idea of doing "a box set of all new music. Everybody said 'We don't think that's a good idea.' Okay. But it's always bee

Years ago, Vince Gill remembers, he went to his record company and proposed the idea of doing "a box set of all new music. Everybody said 'We don't think that's a good idea.' Okay. But it's always been in the back of my mind." Now it's top of mind for the Nashville veteran.

On Oct. 17, Gill releases "These Days," a set of 43 new songs spread across a four-CD set with each disc representing a particular style -- country (subtitled "Some Things Never Get Old"), acoustic and bluegrass ("Little Brother"), rock ("Workin' on a Big Chill") and more polished soul- and jazz-influenced material ("The Reason Why").

Gill says the project started in 2005, when he began writing and recording music for what he expected to be a conventional, single-disc album. "I was just trying to be musical," Gill tells Billboard.com. "I had a real great creativity thing going on, a real great vibe, so I just kept experimenting and cutting songs. I looked up a couple months later and said, 'Well, now you've done it. You've cut 31 songs. Now what are you gonna do?'"

Gill went to MCA Nashville chief Luke Lewis with a plan to release three separate albums two or three months apart. Lewis surprised him by suggesting that Gill cut enough additional songs for a fourth disc and put them out as a box set. "The beauty of this is that it wasn't intended to be this," he says. "This happened honestly. It just kind of unfolded."

Gill also loaded "These Days" with guests, including his wife, Amy Grant, along with Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Rodney Crowell, Phil Everly, the Del McCoury Band, Emmylou Harris, John Anderson, Lee Ann Womack, Jenny Gill, LeAnn Rimes, Gretchen Wilson, Guy Clark, Trisha Yearwood, Bekka Bramlett, Michael McDonald and steel guitar virtuoso Buddy Emmons.

He kicks off a 27-date tour on Oct. 17 that will feature more than three hours of music and a shifting array of 17 musicians to cover the scope of the album. Gill is considering filming some of the shows for a future DVD but has no firm plans yet.

And what about a follow-up for such an ambitious project? "Probably the only thing left is a polka record -- great gospel polkas or something," he says with a laugh.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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