Wednesday, April 18 — Country stars Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan take the Wharton Center stage Friday for their acoustic “Grits and Glamour” tour. The two have worked together in the past, and are singing in over 40 cities on this tour. Tillis — whose hits include "Mi Vida Loca," "Let That Pony Run" and "When You Walk in the Room" — is the daughter of country star, actor and recent National Medal of Arts recipient Mel Tillis (“I Believe in You,” “Southern Rains,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy”). In a phone interview, Pam Tillis talked about what she’s been up to and where she finds inspiration for her music.
How has the tour been going?
“The tour has been going great. You know we've extended it because we've been having so much fun.”
Why is the tour called ‘Grits and Glamour’?
“Oh, it was just a fun kind of, you know? It's good to have a little name on your tour, but one of the things is we feel like it kind of describes something about us where we're both Southern girls, we grew up around the Grand Ole Opry. Safe to say, you know, we're country. I hate to sound cliched, but at the same time, you know, we like to dress up for the shows and be glamorous. We've traveled, (but) we still feel unsophisticated. It kind of describes our personalities. We're a little bit uptown, a little bit out back.”
So what kind of music are you playing for the show? Old music? New music?
“A mix. All of the above. Yeah, we like to mix it up. Yeah, the show’s just a lot of fun. The format is a little different because instead of one person coming out and opening and the other person closing, we decided to do the whole show together. So we're both out there the whole time, and we kind of go back and forth with the songs. She'll do a song, I’ll do a song, she'll do one, I'll do one, and then we do some medleys. We do some things that we thought really fit the show, that maybe we've never recorded before, but we thought would really fit. And we're test-driving some new material. We mix it up — we feel like people want that kind of variety. They come to hear the old songs, but that's not all they want to hear.”
Is there anything else you're working on right now?
“Actually, the tour got kicked off before Lorrie and I were able to record an album. So we are actually very, very soon about to go in the studio and do a Pam Tillis/Lorrie Morgan record. Very excited about that.”
Where do you get your inspiration for writing music?
“Songs are everywhere and things come up in conversation, in either yours or somebody else's, and what you learn to do as a songwriter is that you learn to keep your antenna up. Songs are everywhere. It could be a movie, something somebody says in a movie. Could be something you read in a book. I mean really inspiration is everywhere.”
Would you rather be working in the studio or would you rather be on tour?
“You know, it's like apples and oranges. Two different kinds of gratification. You know I love being in the studio, I grew up in there. I've been recording since I was, oh gosh, 17 years old, and I feel, you know the studio to me is like being in my kitchen. I love it, but you know there's nothing like a live audience. I'm glad I don't have to choose one over the other. If we could just get the audience into the studio, that would be fun.“
Who are some of your influences besides your father?
“Well, it's a fairly long list. When I was in my musical formative years, I think the singer/songwriters were really popular and that made an influence on me, but they were a different type of writer. It was a little more pop, some of the people, but it's funny because now what they do is what country music is today, really. James Taylor, Carole King, Paul Simon, Eagles, Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell, those kind of singer/songwriters were really influential to me. On the country side of the fence, though, of course I love the great ladies. You know your Tammy [Wynette] and your Dolly [Parton] and your Loretta [Lynn]. And I was and continue to be a huge Emmylou Harris fan. Dolly, Dolly, Dolly. Love Dolly. She's probably my fave, and I don't like to name favorites. And, of course, you know, I spent a lifetime learning from my dad. That was neat.”