Phil Vassar Launches 'American Soul' Album With Unique Campaign Celebrating American Ideals

John Shearer/Getty Images for Webster Public Relations
Phill Vassar performs at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 12, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn.

The season of giving is already underway, and with the Dec. 2 release of Phil Vassar's new album, American Soul, the country singer/songwriter is not only donating to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital but also giving fans the opportunity to win prizes, including a trip to Nashville and an in-person songwriting session with Vassar.

“I’m always looking forward to writing a song, and I think will be really cool,” Vassar tells Billboard. “It’s fun to write songs with people that love to write or want to learn how to write.”

The Virginia native first tasted success in Nashville as a songwriter -- penning such hits as Alan Jackson's “Right on the Money,” Collin Raye's “Little Red Rodeo,” Jo Dee Messina's “I’m Alright” and “Bye, Bye” and Tim McGraw's “For a Little While” and “My Next 30 Years.” He was named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the year in 1999, and the next year released his self-titled debut album on Arista and began scoring a string of hit singles such as “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “Six Pack Summer,” “That’s When I Love You,” “In a Real Love” and “Love is a Beautiful Thing.”

American Soul is Vassar’s ninth studio album and he credits his team for coming up with an innovative marketing campaign featuring eight days of giveaways that celebrate “American ideals.” “A lot of it was Amy and Craig and Abby, my team,” he says of manager Amy Millslagle, PR/creative director Abbey Boutwell and indie publicist Craig Campbell of Campbell Entertainment Group. “We sat around and talked about how to launch the record. We don’t really get a lot of airplay anymore, so we have to do different things to try to find different alternative ways to get everybody’s attention and be relevant.”

They decided to have different contests that tied into celebrating different American ideals:

Philanthropy: On 12/1 and 12/2, 10 percent of album sales were donated to St. Jude in support of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids.

Individualism: On 12/3 and 12/4 participants could win prizes from Calypso Lemonade.

Education and History: On 12/5 and 12/6 two individuals will win a trip (airfare and hotel) to Music City with tickets to the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, Copper Kettle brunch and more.

Dreams: On 12/7 an aspiring songwriter will win an in-person writing session with Vassar.

Patriotism: On 12/8 an active duty military couple will win a trip (airfare, 2 nights at Nashville's Omni Hotel) to Nashville with dinner, pampering from Surreal Hair Studios, show tickets, and more.

Hard Work: On 12/9 fans can swing by Carl Black Chevrolet's Nashville, Orlando and Atlanta locations to pick up free music and enter to win Phil Vassar swag. Get more details at philvassar.com

The title track, “American Soul,” is a celebration of American life co-written by Vassar and Tom Douglas (Miranda Lambert’s “The House that Built Me,” Collin Raye’s “Little Rock”). “Writing with Tom is such an adventure,” Vassar says. “We really write similar. We were just talking about stuff like the high top Chuck Taylors [Converse shoes] and Clint Eastwood and Dr. Martin Luther King, and all this stuff that made America. It was like a little history lesson and we were talking about all these things and records like the Isley Brothers and Motown and all the things about America. It’s like a big melting pot, a Super Bowl. Writing with Tom was so fun. He’s a genius and I love that guy.”

Vassar says some of the songs on American Soul were written recently while others were older. “I’ve got a lot of songs that have been sitting around,” he confesses. “There is one song, ‘Big Time,’ that Craig [Wiseman] and I wrote years ago that I’ve always wanted to do on a record and then there are songs like ‘Stay With Me’ that I just wrote after the record was done and put it on.”

Vassar co-produced American Soul with longtime vocalist/guitarist and collaborator Jeffrey Smith. He announced the album release and performed songs of the new songs at the Nov. 15 launch of Music City Beer Co. and their flagship beer Music City Light. Vassar is an ambassador for the beer brand. The artwork for American Soul, a painting by acclaimed artist Jason Irwin, is being featured on Music City Light six-packs.

“They were like, ‘Look we want an artist ambassador and we want you to be that guy.’ I said, ‘I’d love that!’ Music and beer and two great things,” Vassar says with a laugh.

Vassar is hoping the Music City Beer partnership and the promotional contests will help point people towards the new music. “My hopes are to release a lot more records,” Vassar says. “As a singer/songwriter you just want new music out there. Hopefully, some of my buddies will cut more songs. That was my first intention as an artist anyways because I was having all these hits in the early '90s and then Arista said, ‘Let’s do a record!’ And I said, ‘Well there’s nothing to lose; maybe I’ll just have some really nice demos for everybody to record.’ Then I actually had some success and had hits, so now I’m really gearing towards having songs recorded by other artists and doing my own records and my shows.”

Vassar maintains a busy tour schedule year round, and will wrap up 2016 at the Franklin Theater, just south of Nashville with shows on Dec. 30 and 31. In addition to writing, recording and touring, Vassar continues to host Songs from the Cellar, a series filmed in his wine cellar that features artists talking about music and wine. “We’ve had Tommy Shaw from Styx, Big & Rich, Old Dominion, Hunter Hayes, not to mention songwriters like Tony Arata, Jeffrey Steele, Mike Reid and Tom Douglas. It’s a really cool thing,” Vassar says of the web series that also airs on Sky’s Keep It Country channel in the U.K. (They are currently negotiating with TV outlets in the U.S.) “Steve Cropper did it and told stories of writing ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of the Bay’ and ‘Midnight Hour.’ Brenda Lee was talking about how they brought ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ to her. She was 12-years-old when she sang that. It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing to just be in the room with her. I’ve always been in awe of her. I’m a history buff and she is musical history. That woman is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. You can’t get in another Hall of Fame. Her insight in the business is just genius. We had so much fun!”

All in all, Vassar is just looking for new and innovative ways to satisfy his restless creative spirit, and he’s having the time of his life. “People ask, ‘Where have you been? Did you just retire?’ I never retired,” Vassar says. “I work harder than I ever did now, but without going the normal route of doing radio or a label. I’m doing my own independent singer/songwriter thing. There is definitely a market out there for us, so we’re still doing shows and doing okay. To me, it’s like old school stuff. You tour and tour and put music out and hope somebody hears it. That’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re out on the road touring all the time, playing new music, writing new music and hopefully we’ll be doing it a long time. I’m always going to be that person that believes if you write good music then you are doing the right thing.”