Talking with Dailey & Vincent is a pretty energizing experience. They possess a cynicism-free world view that endears them to you right off the bat, and their thoughtful, considered answers make them highly engaging conversationalists.
What’s also true is that playing music is no mere occupation for them. It’s more a lifestyle whereby they’ve managed to wed their passion to their faith. For sure, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent walk their talk, as I quickly found out when we sat down to discuss their Grammy nod for The Gospel Side of Dailey & Vincent.
CMT Edge: You had a previous Grammy nomination for “Elizabeth” from your Statler Brothers tribute record, but this is for best bluegrass album. It’s a recognition of a body of work. How does it feel?
Vincent: Just to be in the Grammys, to get a nomination, is a huge honor for us. And like you say, the body of work. It’s still surreal for me. I guess this record, being nominated in the bluegrass category, being gospel. … I just feel that the Lord has really blessed it for us and given us an opportunity to kinda brag about Him and what he’s done for us. It’s really nothing we’ve done. We know the gifts come from Him. It almost makes me cry. It’s a wonderful feeling.
It sounds like your Dobro player, Johnny Bellar, is channeling Brother Oswald on the song “Eternal Vacation.”
Dailey: That’s what Darrin wanted! (laughs) Funny story about that song is that I was home one night about 11 p.m. watching the news, lying on the couch, and my cell phone rang. I answered, and there was this big, deep voice coming over the phone, and he says, “Jamie, I hope I’m not bothering you, but this is [WSM-AM/Nashville host] Eddie Stubbs.” I said, “Hey, Eddie, how you doing?” And he said, “Young man, have you got a radio you could turn on real quick?” I said, “Well, my radio’s broken, but I’ve got my car outside.” He said, “Go hop in it. Son, I’m fixin’ to play a song that you and Darrin need to cut.” So I ran outside, started the car, turned on WSM, and he played “Eternal Vacation.” I called Darrin the next day and said, “Man, Eddie found us a song that you’ve got to sing!” That’s how that one came about.
Then you have a song like “Family Bible.” That tune has been covered 10,000 different ways by 10,000 different people. Did you guys feel any apprehension about recording it because it’s so familiar?
Dailey: I think with Darrin and I, we’re so dumb we don’t know any better! (laughs) We hear somebody sing a song, we like it. If we want to sing it, we sing it. That’s probably the most fair answer, wouldn’t you think, Darrin?
Vincent: I agree. “Family Bible,” for me, it’s meant a lot to me. It really brought me back to my childhood and being with my grandma. You can hear my emotion in the last verse of that because I was thinking of my grandma. It took me about four or five tries to be able to sing that without bawling because I just started crying. … I’m just so thankful for my family, growing up in church and reflecting back on my times at home with my family. That song is really precious to me.
Thematically, gospel songs are fairly similar. What did you hear in any given song, the thing that spoke to you and made you say, “This one makes the cut”?
Vincent: Every song, like you said, spoke to me and Jamie personally. And with any artist, when songs speak to their heart and soul, you can go out and sing those with conviction. But as far as why one song didn’t make it over the other, they have to speak to us and to our soul and be something we want to sing and have a message that we would like to sing about. We would not pick fluff songs. We may do them onstage, but as far as recording, we do things that really speak to our heart. That’s how we pick things.
The way you guys talk, music is obviously your calling. But you also spoke about honoring God with this record and how it’s a recognition of Him. Clearly, your faith is very important to you. Could you speak to how that informs the work you do?
Vincent: I don’t know how to put that into words. We’re not called preachers, if you will. That’s not something that I think I’m called to do, and I don’t think Jamie is. But as far as being out there and singing and presenting a faith, something we know in our hearts because we live it and it helps us get through tough times — presenting songs and messages that lift people up — I think that’s something we’re required to do as Bible-believing Christian people.
Like I said, we’re not preachers, yet we want to help lift people up and show love to other folks. Let them know that they’re not alone. We go out and sign autographs, take pictures and talk to people. And you can’t believe [the effect of] shaking a hand or giving a hug to somebody or listening to them talk about what songs really speak to their heart and how much it’s encouraged them to go on another day or get through a tough time. We have a lot of sick people with cancer say how certain songs or certain records that we’ve done have helped them through their treatment and given them a positive outlook.
That’s really touching.
Vincent: Oh, I’m telling you, when you got people telling you this, it’s easy to stay humble and say, “Hey, we’ve got a duty here to try to bring better and inspired songs to these people to make ‘em have a better day.” I know it’s a lot of rambling, but it’s a big responsibility knowing people are watching you that closely and [that you’ve] really been a help to them. I could sit and just bawl at testimony after testimony of how music has inspired them and helped them to move on and have a better day. It’s been beautiful.
You guys honor the old styles, but you don’t sound stuck inside some traditionalist prison cell either. I mean on this record you have drums on five of the 12 tracks.
Dailey: Shhhhh! Don’t tell nobody. (laughs)
Well, you don’t hear them as much as you feel them.
Dailey: Bingo! Bingo!
Do you feel an obligation to tradition?
Dailey: We love bluegrass but, man, we don’t want to be quarantined off into one genre or one sound. We have a whole lot of different kinds of songs we want to sing.
Vincent: We’ve been out here long enough, especially Jamie, and we’ve played a lot of festivals in a lot of different areas, and we know where the purists are who set up tents. And if we took a drummer and a piano player, we’d be burned at the stake. They don’t want it. They don’t accept it. And we don’t shove it down their throats. We’ll just go with our core bluegrass group, and we give ‘em what they want.
But when we go stretching out to the West and some places further East and further South, we take a piano player, a drummer and an extra guitar player because we know that they’ll accept that and enjoy the music and not be so judgmental. We try to be very respectful of everybody’s opinion. It boils down to what the fans want and what they’ll accept.
Yeah, some of the hard-line bluegrassers are pretty tough to please.
Vincent: (laughing) They sure are!
One last thing, what’s in heavy rotation on your iPods right now?
Better not let those purists find out about that.