Vince Gill is as unassuming and down-to-earth as the guitarist in a bar band.
He started a Monday phone interview sounding more like a favorite uncle than a country superstar. “Hey, it’s Vince calling,” he said. “How you doin,’ buddy?”
The twist is that Gill is a guitarist in a bar band, the Western swing supergroup The Time Jumpers, which plays every Monday at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley. The group will play Friday in Olympia.
Since Gill joined six or seven years ago, the Jumpers have become a national phenomenon.
Last month, the band was nominated for two Grammys. One was for Best American Roots Song for “Kid Sister,” the song Gill wrote in tribute to the band’s longtime singer Dawn Sears, who died of cancer in 2014. The other was for Best Americana Album for “Kid Sister.”
Of course, Gill is no stranger to Grammys (he has 20) or Country Music Association awards (18). He’s also sold more than 26 million albums.
But when he’s performing with The Time Jumpers, Gill is just another member of the band and, although audience members occasionally complain that he doesn’t sing enough, that’s the way he likes it.
“It’s great fun just to be a guitar player and sing a few songs and be part of the band,” he said. “Even when I’m playing my own shows that are just mine, I still just feel like a singer in the band, a guitar player in the band. That’s always been the way I enjoy it.”
Gill loves playing Western swing, the dominant music of Texas and Oklahoma in the ’30s through the ’50s, music familiar to him from his Oklahoma childhood. “It’s in my DNA,” he said.
This music is as much jazz and big band as country. “It’s played more with Western influences and fiddles and steel guitars, still with a swing beat like big-band music,” he said. “It’s really fun.”
Indeed, The Time Jumpers began as a way for gifted session players to have fun and explore some of country’s roots. The Jumpers, which has more than its share of songwriters, play both old songs and originals. Created in 1998, the group includes Ranger Doug Green, Kenny Sears and Paul Franklin.
While his presence raised the band’s profile, Gill said The Time Jumpers’ success is to the credit of all 10 members. “These are some of the best musicians in the world,” he said.
The group packs people in at its regular hometown gigs.
“The musicianship of all these guys makes it kind of a destination,” he said. “People come to Nashville to see this band, and it’s remarkable how many people from around the country show up on a Monday night to see this band.”
Among the luminaries who’ve come to listen and join in are Jimmy Buffet, Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt and The White Stripes.
For Gill himself, the Monday-night concerts are a priority.
“I try to keep the calendar clear,” he said. “If I work Sunday night, I make sure I can get home in time. My attendance has been pretty exemplary.
“The only drag is when I miss the hockey games,” he added. “I’m a big (Nashville) Predators hockey fan.”
The Time Jumpers
What: The Western swing supergroup, including country star Vince Gill and some of Nashville’s most respected session players, pays a visit to Olympia.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
Tickets: $59-$79 general; $53-$71 for seniors, students and military; $30-$40 for youth.
Information: 360-753- 8586, washingtoncenter.org.