It's hard to fathom, but piano man Phil Vassar has been a mainstay at country radio for thirteen years - since "Carlene" hit the charts in 1999. Nobody is more surprised by that fact than the singer himself.
"Holy smoke, that's crazy," Vassar exclaims.
Vassar is currently on the airwaves across America with the touching "Don't Miss Your Life." Like the bulk of his singles, Vassar penned the song, and told Billboard that it comes from a deeply personal place -- about his family, and some of the times he has had to be away from them. He says in spite of that, his relationship with his children is his number one priority.
"It's the most important thing," he stresses. "When it's all said and done, that's what you have. That's your life. My kids, if I could be with them every minute of every day I would. My job carries me away so much. Talk about a song that I wrote from my heart, that's one of them."
The single -- currently at No. 32 on the Billboard Country Songs chart -- is also his first record for his very own label, Rodeowave Entertainment, which he started less than two years ago.
"We're having a good time doing it ourselves," he said. "With our promotion team, a lot of them are people that I worked with at Sony, Arista, and Universal. So, it's cool to have such a great team around me that I've worked with for so many years."
When asked about the positives of putting together his own label, Vassar said that artistic freedom was at the top of the list. "I think that's huge because we get to create. As artists, you get put in a box and told what and when you record. Artists need to be able to create when they write songs, and be in charge of their own creativity- not someone who handles thirty-five acts on the roster who sits in an office and has no idea what is happening on the road with them."
He simply feels it's the right move for this time in his career. "It's just a different day now with the onslaught of all this social media, and such a different world," he said. "I think it's going to be good for the people because they are going to be able to get their music, and have access to it instead of the labels telling them when they can buy a record."
That record should be ready for fans this fall, and the Virginia native can't wait for them to hear the new material. "I think it's some of the best songs that we've had out there in some time," he says, adding that the recording process has been enjoyable. "It's been great. I've been writing a bunch of tunes, and I think we've got about thirty to choose from."
Songwriting is something that is very important to Vassar. In addition to his own hits, he has also penned such hits as "Bye Bye" for Jo Dee Messina and "My Next Thirty Years" for Tim McGraw. He says that sometimes an outside artist can bring something totally different to the table than what he might have. "I think that happens all the time," he says. "Take 'Right On The Money' by Alan Jackson. He's one of my favorite writers and artists. He's just great and can write songs with the best of them. So, having him cut your song is awesome, but I will never forget hearing it and thinking 'Holy crap, that is awesome.' It's cool to hear a good version of your song, but sometimes you hear a really bad version. You just got to laugh about it then."
Needless to say, Phil Vassar sounds like a man who is enjoying himself these days. "I love it. We just keep out there playing, and keep out there writing songs, and taking it to the folks. We're having a lot of fun."