STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Heralded by the Wall Street Journal as “The New Queen of Bluegrass,” Rhonda Vincent remains one of her genres greatest advocates.
“The image of blue grass, especially when its perceived in the movies, “Deliverance” “Oh, Brother Where Art though” did us a complete disservice,” says Vincent from her home in Greentop, Mo. “That’s not what blue grass is. That’s not the way we dress. Anytime you see it on TV or movies, it’s represented that we’re toothless or no shoes and I became a crusader against that.”
“Blue grass is one of the most intricate forms of music that you have to be so skilled to play,” adds Vincent. “Unfortunately, the image of blue grass is just the opposite. There’s this preconceived notion that they don’t know what it is. The music is very sophisticated. Once they hear that they say, ‘Oh my God I really love this!’ Somebody describe what I do as, ‘Traditional music with a contemporary flair.’ I really like that. We respect the tradition and play traditional blue grass.”
Forming her independent record label in 2010, Upper Management Music, she released her debut album, “Taken,” that same year. Featuring special guests Dolly Parton, Richard Marx, and Little Roy Lewis the album entered the Top Bluegrass Albums chart at Number 1.
“Having my own label was a good choice for me because I like to produce the music that I sell,” says Vincent. “Everything is done from the heart, not from the point of bankruptcy. What do I feel in my heart? If a song makes my heart jump then I gotta think it’s going to affect others from that very basic thing.”
“We have a new song that’s coming out in a few weeks,” adds Vincent. “It’s been couple years since I had a normal CD. To get back in the marketplace right away, having my own label we can do whatever we want to. It seems to be a single game these days, so I’m releasing a single versus an album.”
“I had a Christmas album come out last year called “Christmas Time,” says Vincent. “It couldn’t be just a normal album. I always like to make it something special or do something extra. I did a celebrity twelve days of Christmas, which was so tedious and challenging but so rewarding. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels, Willie Nelson, Larry Gatlin, Laurie Morgan. That was my big project last year.”
A fifth-generation musician, Vincent’s career spans more than four decades. As a member of her families band “The Sally Mountain Show,” she first attained success in the 70’s as a burgeoning blue grass singer, songwriter and musician.
“Dad used to pick me up after school, and Grandpa would come over and we played until after dinner almost every night,” recalls Vincent. “There wasn’t a lot going on in Greentop, but it was always hopping at the Vincent house.”
Competing on, and winning the Nashville Network TV series “You Can Be A Star,” Vincent was signed to a recording contract and never looked back. She released her debut solo album “New Dreams and Sunshine” in 1988.
Vincent, now 52, continues to flourish as an accomplished vocalist, guitarist, mandolin and fiddle player. With nearly two-dozen highly regarded albums releases to her credit, she has spent the past decade and a half enjoying her greatest success as a recording artist and performer.
The recipient of numerous awards from the International Blue Grass Music Association (IBMA) and the Society for the Preservation of Blue Grass Music of America for “Best Album,” “Best Female Vocalist, “Entertainer of the Year” and “Best Instrumental Album,” Vincent is a creative force in the bluegrass community.
“There are a lot of things that you have to have to be successful when it comes to having a great song in a highly competitive music industry,” says Vincent. “You have to have a great song. There’s a lot of stuff out there these days so the content has to be something different that they haven’t heard. Then you have the shows and you have to do the interviews. You have to do the work. I just try to stay abreast of all the things that are going on and see how it applies to me. Not everything applies.”
“My dad always said ‘Don’t let anyone say you can’t do something,’ adds Vincent. “If there is a challenge than I need to find it. ‘How do we need to do this and what are the rules?’ Not getting so hung up that you focus on the negative. Focus on the positive and how can we do this.”
In 1987 Vincent and her entire family launched and hosted the inaugural “The Sally Mountain Bluegrass Festival.” Traditionally held around the 4th of July, fans from throughout the U.S. and abroad return to Queen City, Mo. annually to experience some of the finest bluegrass you will hear anywhere. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage headline this year’s concert, which takes place June 29 through July 3.
“We have so much fun when we play live that it transfers from the stage to the audience,” says Vincent. “There is something for everyone. We have the traditional, we have contemporary and we have gospel. I think that’s why our demographics are very wide. Everybody from a baby to great grandma can come to our show. It’s a family atmosphere. Fans leave the show happy, laughing and having a great time.”
“We’re very blessed and very fortunate,” adds Vincent. I work with incredible people. The musicianship in itself, we stand together and they just amaze me. I’m really thankful. It’s a way of life that evolved into a career so it’s something that’s very natural. I’m so thrilled to be making a living doing something that I love.”