RINCON — Gil Grand is a native of Canada whose heart is filled with love for some of America’s greatest music.
Grand will express his affection for classic country at Springfield’s Mars Theatre on Aug. 7. His 7 p.m. concert, entitled “The Grand Tour,” will feature songs originally recorded by Conway, Twitty, George Jones, Ray Price, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers and more.
“I grew up a traditional country music fan,” Grand said. “I grew up in a household where my mom and dad played Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, so that’s in my bones. When I started to develop as a singer and a songwriter, those were my influences.”
Grand, 53, burst onto the country music scene in 1998. His debut album, “Famous First Words,” helped him receive three 1999 Canadian Country Music Association Award nominations, including Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and Wrangler Rising Star.
Overall, Grand, a resident of Nashville, Tenn., since 2007, is an eight-time Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) nominee. He is also a CCMA “Male Vocalist of the Year” and “Record Producer of the Year” winner.
“Famous First Words” produced a No. 1 single, along with several top 10s, gaining him the momentum to release two more award-winning projects.
Grand said has musical preference has been consistent throughout his career.
“My music has been traditional for 25 years,” he said. “When somebody all of a sudden decided that my (singing) career was getting to an end — as you get older and radio stops playing your music — I saw it as an opportunity to do what I love to do.”
Grand turned to touring with a focus on Conway Twitty songs. Backed by award-winning musicians, he sports a classic country wardrobe while performing.
“I approached a couple booking agencies about it and I couldn’t get anybody interested in it,” he said. "They didn’t think it would work, so I took it upon myself to rent a theater. I paid for the rental, booked it, sold my tickets and, you know what? -- it sold out.
“It was a great success and pretty soon word got around. I booked another and another, and people started calling me wanting to book the show.”
Grand has also been successful in other areas. His co-owned publishing company, Grand & Gee Music, took home SESAC’s Song of the Year award for his participation as a publisher on Chris Young’s No. 1 hit “Tomorrow” and a GRAMMY® for “God And My Girlfriends” recorded by Reba McEntire.
Grand was glad to hear that the Mars Theatre is a Mecca for classic country. His date there last year was nixed because of COVID-19.
“There’s definitely a demographic that still loves this kind of music,” he said. “Country music has changed but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to enjoy the people and the pioneers who started it all.”
Grand will arrive in Springfield fresh off a 12-day visit to Canada.
“Canada had some really tough rules and still does,” he said. “They eased them a little bit in July, actually, just in time for me to go up there and visit. That’s why I’m taking the opportunity to go up there.”
Grand hasn’t seen the youngest of his grandchildren since Aug. 9, 2020, the day she was born.
“It’s been terrible,” he said. “(Family) is a great part of our lives and I’m very much looking forward to spending time up there.”
Grand has one booking in Canada. It’s a Conway Twitty show.
“Things are starting to open up there a little — fortunately,” he said.
Like many Nashville-based musicians, Grand spent much of the past year confined to his home. He used the down time to focus on penning songs.
“It’s been very interesting,” he said. “When you take away the one part (of the entertainment industry) that is being able to be in front of an audience and perform, then you need to continue to be creative. The song writing is the part of it that I think a lot of artists gravitated to.”
Grand operates Nashville Song Plugger.
“What we do is pitch songs for songwriters to record labels, executives and producers,” he said. “That was the one thing during the pandemic where things got busier because everyone was home. Everyone was off the road.
“Artists and producers took advantage of that time to record multiple CDs and projects. They were writing and creating, and they are starting to tour with that stuff.
“If was definitely a time that we had to reinvent ourselves."
Nashville songwriters have had plenty of things to write about. In addition to COVID-19, Music City has plagued by a tornado, a flood and a bomb attack in the last year.
“We’’re trying to stay positive, though,” Grand said. “We want to write good, up-tempo songs.”
Grand prefers to write with a partner.
“I’ve always enjoyed the collaboration with other writers,” he said. “I think it’s interesting to have different people with different background to bring to the table when we are creating a new piece of music.”
Grand believes his penchant for traditional country melded with Southern rock or some other influence can produce interesting music.
“I get excited about that process,” he said.
Grand would love to score a big hit as a songwriter but he’s not going to yield to contemporary expectations to do it.
“I think you have to stay true to who you are and what you want to sing and write about,” he said. “I’m kind of over writing songs for the purpose of getting air play. I focus more now on performing and doing these (Grand Tour) shows, and working with other songwriters to try to get their songs cut with my little business.
“If I write today, I write for the pleasure of it. I always want to write my best song, and that’s the challenge.”
Tickets for Grand’s Mars Theatre performance cost $35. Only balcony seats remain.
People who desire handicapped-accessible seats should call 912-754-1118.
Country music has changed but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to enjoy the people and the pioneers who started it all.”Gil Grand, 8-time Canadian Country Music Association nominee