The last time she was in town, country music diva Pam Tillis took to the stage for the Alaska Peace Officer’s Association concert in 2010. This time, she’ll be taking a break from the fast-paced “Grits and Glamour” tour to bring an evening of acoustic music to the Kenai Central High School stage.
Tillis said she enjoys touring in Alaska — though she’ll cover a lot of miles in four days travelling from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Kenai and then Juneau before heading back to continue her multi-year tour, with singer Lorrie Morgan.
“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” she said, of travelling in Alaska. “The word I use repeatedly and totally wear out is ‘wow.’ In the past we’ve had time to kick around, unfortunately this time we’re just going to have to enjoy it from the window of a van or plane, but that’s OK.”
When she takes a break from touring with Morgan, Tillis said she has more time to connect with the audience, tell stories and bring out songs that don’t get played as often.
She is perhaps best known for the 1991 hit “Maybe it was Memphis,” or 1994 releases “Mi Vida Loca” and “Spilled Perfume,” though she is a prolific artist and actress.
“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “I think in the Grits and Glamour show, we’re trying to pack in so many hits and that sounds like such a terrible problem to have right? But, between the both of us, we have a lot to cover and we have a hard time getting it all in.”
Between the two artists, 28 Top Ten hits and 12 No. 1 songs take up a lot of stage time.
Kenai crowds will still hear some of the singles from Tillis’ latest album “Dos Divas,” a 2013 duet album with Morgan. The two share an uncommon connection in that they’re the daughter’s of two country music Hall of Famers Mel Tillis and George Morgan.
Tillis and Morgan toured together with the “Grits and Glamour” tour for years before fans asked when the two would make an album together, according to info on the tour’s website.
The album is a healthy mix of contemporary sounds and the classic country style the two are known for producing. Morgan’s twang and often nasal intonation is balanced nicely by Tillis’ hugely powerful chest voice. Uptempo and silly songs like “Old Enough to be Your Lover,” are balanced out with the dramatic showmanship of Tillis’ vocal range in mid-tempo songs like “Bless their Hearts,” and while the album is billed as a duet album, both artists have ample opportunity to shine as solo acts.
On her Alaska tour, Tillis will be accompanied by Mary Sue England — who co-wrote one of the singles from Tillis’ newest album — and Aria Stiles, who recently joined the group.
“They’re both very talented ladies,” Tillis said.
While she’s busy with touring, Tillis said she has a few projects on the horizon including one with her father and two siblings that she wants to do “for posterity’s sake,” and another that could wind up being a new album.
“I’ve got just a batch of songs that I’ve kind of had in my back pocket for a long time,” she said. “They haven’t ended up on any record for one reason or another, so I think I’m just going to do a collection of things like that and put it out there. Perhaps they won’t go together thematically, but I just don’t want them to go un-played.”
For other aspiring female musicians, Tillis said she thinks it has gotten harder to make a living in the music industry.
“There’s a lot of talent out there,” she said. “It’s funny, you know you either have someone like Taylor Swift who is a phenomenon who has made enough money to keep her grand-kids comfortable, or you’re out there touring in a van.”
Succeeding in the industry requires a different kind of creativity, Tillis said, and a willingness to work hard to bring a personal message to the world.
“Then, just getting out there and hitting the road. That’s the tried and true method,” she said.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org