Two years removed from his last solo album, Vince Gill recently started recording his next studio disc, which has a tentative early 2006 release date.

Two years removed from his last solo album, Vince Gill recently started recording his next studio disc, which has a tentative early 2006 release date. It's the follow-up to "Next Big Thing," which debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.

"I'm hard at work and having a great time with it," Gill tells Billboard.com. "I produced my last one by myself and found it to be pretty invigorating and slightly lonely. I wanted to take care of the slightly lonely part, so I'm co-producing it with the engineer of the record, Justin Niebank, and one of the musicians, [keyboardist] John Hobbs."

Life is good for Gill, who recently enjoyed the thrill of a lifetime when longtime idol Eric Clapton decided to record his song "One Day" (co-written with Beverley Darnell) for the classic rock guitarist's recently released "Back Home."

"It was awesome," Gills says. "What an amazing boost for me at a time where [radio] is a little more reluctant to play my records and what not. To have that tip of the hat of somebody of his stature has been freeing to me and kind of life changing. I brought a song that he loved and with that came his respect. And that matters."

Another frequent Gill collaborator is his five-time Grammy Award-winning wife Amy Grant, with whom has he toured during the holiday season for the past few years. However, Gill says the two artists are taking this year off, due to Grant's busy television shooting schedule for her new NBC show "Three Wishes."

Instead, Gill is hitting the road by himself just for fun this fall, beginning Friday (Sept. 30) in Newport News, Va.

"I just miss playing," Gill says. "And I think the mindset of the only time to tour is when you have something to sell is not really conducive to me. I love playing and people have invested in my career for a long, long time and it's fair to say I feel like I need to go out there and play music for them because they like coming. [Plus], it's a pretty good band and I'm not a bad singer."