She’s the daughter of Country Music legend Mel Tillis and multi-media artist Doris Tillis. A singer/songwriter whose compositions have been covered in Country, R&B, bluegrass, and rock. An actor with a long list of film, TV, and stage credits. Pam Tillis sidestepped any notions of nepotism and other “isms” that women in show business often face and carved out her own unique space as an entertainer.
Tillis’ 1991 debut country album, Put Yourself In My Place, went gold and yielded two No. 1 and two Top 5 singles. Her next three albums—Homeward Looking Angel, Sweetheart’s Dance, and Greatest Hits, were all certified platinum. She achieved six No. 1 songs during the ‘90s Country explosion, including “Shake the Sugar Tree,” “Mi Vida Loca,” “When You Walk In The Room,” “In Between Dances,” “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” and her signature song, “Maybe It Was Memphis.”
“It’s a hard thing to put your finger on,” she says, describing the enduring appeal of “Memphis.” “It’s a great melody and a cinematic lyric. It’s romantic, but it rocks. And it’s a great vocal vehicle.” Not only did Country fans agree, so have several aspiring artists. Contestants on both American Idol and The Voice have used the song to showcase their talents.
“In many ways this part of my career is more fun because it feels like the pressure’s off,” says the CMA Female Vocalist Winner. “I feel much more relaxed and I can just enjoy the journey a little bit more.”
Tillis is currently finding a lot of satisfaction mentoring young performers and artists, including those in her all-female acoustic trio, The Rose Rustlers (Haley Sullivan and Carson McKee). “I love mentoring,” she says. “I find myself working with so many Millennial musicians now. They’re accomplished players; none of them need help in the talent department. I’m just trying to pass on some of the things I’ve learned from 30 years of touring and how to navigate a very tough industry.”
As Tillis stops to count her blessings, she reflects on the bonds she’s made from teaming up with some other female veterans of Country Music, including her fellow ‘90s chart toppers Lorrie Morgan, Suzy Bogguss, and Terri Clark. Morgan and Tillis have recorded and toured together as “Grits and Glamour,” and Bogguss and Clark frequently tour with Tillis under the banner “Chicks With Hits,” swapping songs and stories, as only legends-in-the-making can. “I’ve made lifelong friends from these tours,” she says. “It’s the kind of camaraderie I couldn’t find when I was the only gal on the bill with a bunch of male artists.”
The Grammy® winner and Grand Ole Opry member’s talents extend far beyond her recording career—she’s an accomplished actor with an impressive list of credits, including the films The Thing Called Love and The Neon Highway; the Broadway production of Smokey Joe’s Café; and TV shows LA Law, Diagnosis: Murder, Promised Land, Drag Race, Nashville, and Fairwood. “I definitely thrive on variety,” says Tillis, who’s even stepped behind the camera to direct half a dozen music videos.
Tillis’ latest album, 2020’s Looking For A Feeling, finds her doubling down on one of her first loves— songwriting. She wrote seven of the 11 tracks. Some of her most formative musical years were in the late ‘70s—and the album reflects that ‘70s Country Rock flavor. The many threads of her influences were loosely woven together by hit Country writer/producer Jimmy Ritchey (Mark Chesnutt, Jake Owen) on some tunes and Nashville rocker/producer Joe Pisapia (k.d. lang, Guster) on others.
The music muse is still providing inspiration and accolades. Tillis is one of the 2022 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame nominees. “It’s a huge honor,” she says. “My dad is in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He would be so proud.” After more than three decades of doing what she loves, Tillis jokes, “I guess I’m safely past the ‘flash-in-the-pan’ stage of my career. What keeps me going is learning new things, wearing new hats and trying to stay relevant. I’m still standing, and I’m still grateful.”
Phil Vassar’s reign of signature songs include 10 No. 1 singles and 27 Top 40 hits, including “Carlene,” “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “Six-Pack Summer,” “When I Love You,” and many more.
Vassar’s songwriting career blossomed in the mid-’90s when he landed a publishing contract with EMI and penned hits for Collin Raye (“Little Red Rodeo”), Alan Jackson (“Right on the Money”), Tim McGraw (“My Next Thirty Years,” “For a Little While”), Jo Dee Messina (“Bye Bye, Alright”), and Blackhawk (“Postmarked Birmingham”). He signed a record deal of his own with Arista in 1998 and was named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 1999 and 2001.
Vassar was racking up hits on the radio long before his solo recording career that has seen the release of nine albums, two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Trophies, ACM’s Top New Male Vocalist, and sold-out shows across the country.