Sometimes you get the feeling that Phil Vassar spins a globe, stops it with a finger, then decides to play a gig wherever that finger ends up pointing.
He was recently in Saskatchewan in Canada, then headed to New York. Friday night he was in Wisconsin before heading to a show scheduled for today near San Diego. Then the calendar includes a date in Ohio and Alabama before coming back to the Lucas County Fairgrounds for the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off presented by The Blade on Aug. 10.
"I love to play just as much as I write songs. The goal is always to do what I want to do more than what I have to do," he said Thursday morning as his bus rolled past the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. "Who knows? Some day I might call people to play somewhere, and they'll ‘say, ‘You're who?'?"
But people have been answering his call since 1999, when he released "Carlene." A pile of hits followed, including some he wrote for other artists, including Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, and Jo Dee Messina. A lot of people have grown up listening to Vassar, including his daughters, Haley, 13, and Presley, 8.
All that traveling sometimes comes at a cost, and Haley and Presley were very much the inspiration behind his latest single, "Don't Miss Your Life," which was born after a conversation Phil had with a retiree on a plane. The man asked about Vassar's kids and told him not to be too busy in life because you'll miss those moments that really matter.
"It was probably a one-minute conversation. I've missed the first day of school a bunch of times. The kids always send me pictures, and I was looking at them, and I noticed I wasn't in any of the pictures with the kids," he said. "I miss those competitions on the weekend. My work week is the weekends. It's part of our business."
The good news is that Vassar isn't traveling as much as he did in the early days, and he's usually around Nashville the first part of the week. But Vassar isn't the type of guy to sit on the couch when he's home. He's the owner of an indie label, Rodeowave Entertainment. It's a scary time to be sinking money into the record business, but it's a natural fit for Vassar, who studied business at James Madison University.
"I can't do any worse than some of these labels are doing," he says. "Why are some of these guys spending $250,000 on an album that costs $25,000 to make? I can't tell you how many times in my career people have told me ‘because this is how we do it.' It's a weird time and a lot of fear, but if you can sell 150,000 to 200,000 albums on your own label, you make a fortune."
But don't ever expect him to give up the stage to sit behind a desk all day. It's not going to happen.
"I'm going to play as long as I can. It's a lot of fun to play music."
Brian Dugger's column on country music runs in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.