Country music's Pam Tillis set for two Oklahoma performances

There’s something timeless about the music of Pam Tillis. During her radio heyday, she brought a new sound and style to country music. Sometimes it was earthy, sometimes it was traditional, but it was always fun.

Grammy-nominated “All the Good Ones Are Gone,” Latin-flavored “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)” and her signature song “Maybe It Was Memphis” kept her at the top of the country charts.

Now Tillis is back in the studio, working on her first album in nearly a decade. Longtime fans rediscovered her music as she gains new fans who were too young to remember when she first hit the charts three decades ago.

“My creative process is very unruly,” Tillis told Oklahoma Gazette during a recent phone interview from her Nashville home. “It’s been so long since I’ve made an album, and I keep turning things over in my head. I’m three-quarters of the way done, but now I’m thinking of doing something a little bit different. In my mind, I have a second album I’d like to get out there. So I may decide to go back and do a double album, kind of like what Vince Gill did a few years ago.”

The new album has a ’70s flavor, Tillis said.

“Beneath the surface, some of those ’70s country, rock and pop sounds will be there,” she said. “There may be some bluesy elements you haven’t heard in my voice for a while … I’m mixing in some California country styles too.”

Tillis has long been an Oklahoma favorite. Soon, she will make two tour stops here. Her first is 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at Choctaw Grand Theater, 4418 S. Highway 69/75, in Durant. The second is 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Sugar Creek Casino, 5304 N. Broadway Ave., in Hinton.

Musical influences

Tillis describes herself as a “second-generation show-biz brat.” Her father is legendary singer/songwriter Mel Tillis, who has been battling some health issues recently.

“Daddy had some surgery back in January, and it’s been a long road back,” Tillis said. “But he’s gaining weight and making some progress.”

Growing up with a famous father meant Tillis was around country music greats. Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard were common names around the Tillis dinner table.

“Of course I loved all those entertainers, but I also loved Willie and Waylon and that whole outlaw sound,” Tillis said. “Then there was Emmylou Harris, Don Williams and Southern rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd. I remember a phrase back then that said, ‘This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,’ and that’s how I felt about my favorite singers: ‘They’re not your father’s type of country.’”

Some of the first records Tillis remembers buying reflect her eclectic music tastes and influences.

“The first time I went to a store and bought a record, I actually remember buying three,” she said. “I bought ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles, ‘Brown Sugar’ by The Rolling Stones and Carole King’s ‘So Far Away.’ In fact, I think I still have them somewhere.”

Tillis admits times have changed. Today’s country radio stations have narrower playlists, and while she hopes they embrace her new material, she is grateful for the hits she has already had.

“[Radio has] been so good to me, and I still have a career and can work 20 years later,” she said. “I appreciate country radio, and as a legacy artist, there are so many options for my music than in the ’90s. I have been working very hard on this album; it is much more organic than my work used to be, but the common thread of my music shines through.”

Over the years, Tillis has won Grammy awards, acted on Broadway in the musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe and appeared on television series including Diagnosis Murder and L.A. Law. In 1994, she was named Country Music Association’s Best Female Vocalist. Many of her albums have gone either gold or platinum.

“To be blessed with a long career is not anything I take for granted,” Tillis said. “It’s the fans who put you there, and it’s the fans who keep you there. I am grateful they still come out to my shows. Every day, I look forward to all their Facebook posts, tweets and emails. That’s what keeps me going.”

Print headline: Sunday sounds; Country legend Pam Tillis is working on a new record and will soon make two stops in Oklahoma.

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