Vail Valley music: A man in perpetual motion
VAIL – Ronnie Milsap, who plays in the Vail Valley Wednesday, is a man who appreciates variety.”Maybe I get bored quickly,” he said. “I like to keep things interesting. I prefer to move from one thing to the next – it’s always been that way for me.”It is perhaps this very quest for range that has made Milsap such an engaging musician. His distinct musical style finds inspiration in everything from bluegrass to gospel to blues and rock ‘n roll. Known primarily as a country star, he’s also recognized as one of the great crossover musicians of all time, with 40 No. 1 hits topping not only the country, but also the adult contemporary and pop charts. “I’m a person who believes that a lot of things are meant to be, are written in the stars,” Milsap said. “My career was full of those moments where it was the right place, at the right time. I’ve seen other fellow musicians who create their identity, and never stray from that. They’re pure stylists. But not me. I’m still making these records that appeal to all kinds of audiences. I can’t stay in one place!”In fact, Milsap’s latest musical foray has been into the Gospel genre. His release “Then Sings my Soul” has appeared on the Billboard Gospel charts every week since its release in March. The best thing we ever do It’s no surprise that for a man who loves perpetual motion and change, performing live is what he considers the heart of his craft. “We still love the thrill of a live performance,” he said. “As much as I love being in the studio, the live aspect is the best thing we ever do.”The very things that would frighten a layman about performing in front of a live audience are the variables that make a concert so thrilling for Milsap. “The thing about performing live is that there are no second takes, it’s all from scratch, every single night,” he said. “You could have the biggest, longest standing ovation of your career one night, but the next night, it’s a brand new audience, and you have to start from square one and win them over.” Especially in an intimate venue such as the Vilar Center, Milsap insists that the audience is just as much a part of the show as the musicians. “The electricity from the audience is incredible – and it makes a performance work both ways,” he said. “It’s the way you feed off the audience, their joy in the music, that makes an artist do things that they never thought possible, beyond what they imagined doing. And it’s a new audience every time, things never work the same way twice.”So with 40 No. 1 hits and countless other chart topping tunes, what can the audience expect to hear on Wednesday? “We make a setlist, and we tear it up halfway through the show,” Milsap said. “You’ll just have to come and see.” A superstar and an icon Milsap’s success on the charts is only a small part of his story. He lost his sight at a young age, and spent his youth at a special school for the blind in Raleigh, N.C. There he was classically trained on the violin, guitar and piano. Also excelling in academics, Milsap was destined for a career as a lawyer, until he attended a Ray Charles concert. Charles, a fellow blind artist, told him “you have so much music in your heart,” inspiring Milsap to pursue music. “I’d recently met my wife (now of 44 years), and I felt like I could do just about anything,” Milsap said. “I was just young and in love enough to take Ray’s word for it and dove into the music business.”Along the way, he cites many influential artists as shaping both his career and his life. “Charlie Pride is a big one for me,” Milsap said. “I think I learned more from him than anyone else. I watched him do interviews, handle the media and saw what a classy guy he was – had a tremendous impact on me.” Another obvious source of inspiration was the very man that convinced him to follow his musical calling. “I certainly wanted to emulate Ray Charles, a blind artist that was able to become totally internationally famous, and all because of his talent and his instincts,” Milsap explained. “Even back further than that, Flatt & Scruggs. And George Shearing had tremendous influence on me. He’s a great jazz pianist that’s also blind. The story of his life, what’s he’s done and his talent.”And though he’s found such great success on a life path that’s handed him many challenges, Milsap said he’s far from done. “I’ve had so many lives, so many incarnations,” he said. “I’m always just excited to see what’s around the next corner.” Sarah Dixon is the marketing and public relations manager for the Vilar Performing Arts Center. Send comments about this e-mail to email@example.com.