The lone date Lone Star will miss on the band’s tour with Phil Vassar is Friday (12/7) at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City. But no big deal for Vassar fans, who is more than happy to fill in the gaps.
“I promise you that it’ll still be a lot of fun without Lone Star,” Vassar, 54, said by phone from his Nashville home. “I love those guys. They’re very talented. I’ve known them for so many years but they’ll be in Las Vegas when I’m in Iowa City. I just don’t want anyone showing up thinking that Lone Star will be there when I come to town.”
What will be at the Englert is Vassar, with a collection of Christmas songs and hits. Along the way, the artist, who is one of the more amiable and engaging recording artists on the circuit, will work the audience.
“I always have a blast with the crowd,” he said. “The most fun you have as a performer is going out in front of your fans and letting things happen and reacting to the crowd. That’s not work.”
Getting ready for the tour is a job for Vassar, who is on his way to the barber. “I need a haircut,” he said. “I’ll be out for the next month. I’m doing all the little things to get my act together.”
After getting a trim, Vassar is off to rehearsal to work on Christmas songs and some of his hits.
“I love doing Christmas tours,” he said. “Who doesn’t like Christmas music? It’s that time of the year. Everybody is feeling it. I love it. That’s why I have a Christmas album. I’m a Christmas kind of guy.”
“Noel,” Vassar’s Christmas album from 2011, has a few traditional songs, including “Away in a Manger” and “What Child Is This.”
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But the original songs he penned — “I Saved Christmas,” “Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Without You” and the cheeky “Santa’s Gone Hollywood” — are the best songs on the album.
“I have no problem writing songs,” he said. “That’s how it all started for me.”
During the late ’90s, Vassar penned a number of hits. He crafted “For a Little While” for Tim McGraw, “Little Red Rodeo” for Collin Raye and “Right on the Money” for Alan Jackson.
“It was evident that I was able to write,” he said. “I just wanted to take it to another level.”
Vasser has enjoyed a great deal of success as a solo artist. “Just Another Day in Paradise” and “In a Real Love” each hit the top of the country charts.
“I never have a problem singing the hits,” he said. “If the fans want to hear them, I’ll play them. I play them at all of my concerts.”
His holiday shows are looser than his regular concerts. “There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I’m more apt to cutup with the audience. Fans yell out requests and I’m more than happy to comply.”
Don’t be surprised to see Vassar hanging out in the Corridor, since he has made a number of friends over the years in the area.
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“I love that part of the country,” he said. “I’ve been at a number of the college football games. I’ve been to a few Iowa vs. Iowa State games. I was just talking with a friend, who is going to come up to the show at the Englert Theatre. After I finish the show there, I have two weeks left on the road.”
When the tour ends just before Christmas, he will record future episodes of “Songs from the Cellar,” described on his website as “a wine-infused musical conversation.” Vassar and such pals as Tommy Shaw from Styx, Peter Frampton and Steve Cropper have jammed together in Vassar’s wine cellar and enjoyed vino on the program.
“If you’re in a wine cellar, you should drink wine,” he said.
The show, which was once a web series, will debut on PBS on Saturday (12/8).
“I’m excited because it’ll be on just after ‘Austin City Limits,’” Vassar said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Vassar is proud of his daughter, Haley Vassar, 20, who resides in New York City and also is a singer/songwriter.
“She’s doing well in her own right,” he said. “She definitely has what it takes to make it. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens. I’ve been incredibly fortunate.”
WHAT: A Phil Vassar Christmas
WHERE: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (12/7)
TICKETS: $38.50 to $68.50, Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or Englert.org
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Philvassar.com