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Country Star Phil Vassar Bringing Hits, Spontaneous High-Energy Show to Covington

When country music star Phil Vassar rolls into Covington this weekend, you may spot him at Braxton Brewing Company before he takes the stage at the Madison Theater. 

"I love going all over the world and just tasting their beers," said Vassar, who plays the Madison Theater on Friday night. And yes, he's already reached out to Braxton, the popular new brewery around the corner from the theater on Seventh Street. Throwing back a beer or two is sure to loosen up the band for what Vassar calls a high energy show.

"We are just high energy, we pump it up," Vassar told The River City News. "It's different every night and it's been great. I've got a great band. These guys have been with me a long time and I think we have as much fun as the audience and that's a good thing. We love what we do and we're blessed to do it."

Vassar, 51, is well-known for his early 2000s hits like "Carlene" and the #1 "Just Another Day In Paradise". Eight of his singles have peaked in the Billboard Hot Country Songs Top 10. He's also co-written hit songs for other artists like Tim McGraw ("For A Little While"), Jo Dee Messina ("I'm Alright", "Bye Bye"), Alan Jackson ("Right On The Money"), and Collin Raye ("Little Red Rodeo").

His current tour will offer him the chance to show off some new materials that he recently completed. "We just finished up the new record at the end of the year. It's really good stuff. I love the songs," Vassar said. "I just write a record when I feel like putting it out," he said, noting the extensive touring schedule he keeps. After the Covington show, Vassar and company head across the Atlantic to London before returning to America to continue the tour. "I feel like I can write some half-way decent songs that way."

His spontaneous songwriting is helped by his home studio. "I write downstairs and I record (the songs) and put them in a pile and see what's good. Usually, the ones I finish are good and the ones I don't usually aren't," he said. "It's a process."

As for what dominates country radio today - what some deride as "bro country" from acts like Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan - Vassar keeps an open mind. "I don't think I have a problem with pop country or country-country. I think it's all good," he said. "I just have a problem with bad music. There's a difference between what's pop or country and what sucks. For me, personally, if the song is good, if it's rap or country or rock, I love all these genres. I grew up listening to Merle Haggard and Billy Joel and Willie Nelson and Van Halen."

At Vassar's show, in addition to favorites and the new stuff, fans can expect an impromptu playlist - and they can even help choose it. "We take requests. People tweet requests," he said, adding that TV monitors tell him what to play based on texts or tweets from the audience. The requests are met by Vassar's versatile band and have included a range from AC/DC to Olivia Newton-John, he said. "It keeps it interesting and spontaneous. I'm not a fan of set lists. It's always bored me."

On Friday, Vassar is joined by special guests Carter Winter. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Click here for tickets.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Phil Vassar (provided)