Pam Tillis brings her style to the Boro

February 9, 2017 GMT

Statesboro music fans will enjoy an honest, genuine country music performance Friday as the Pam Tillis Trio comes to the Averitt Center’s Emma Kelly Theater.

Tillis, the award-winning daughter of country music legend Mel Tillis, will perform Friday at 7:30 p.m.

In a telephone interview Wednesday with the Statesboro Herald, Tillis said she looks forward to visiting the area as part of her tour across the nation.“Touring is just a way of life for country artists,” she said. “I have been touring since 1991.”

Tillis grew up in the country music life, immersed in all aspects of it through her father and others.

“I said I was going to be a singer since I was old enough to talk,” she said. “It never left me. I was a shy kid, and there is a lot of comfort in country music.”

Tillis saw her first single hit the charts in 1990. Since then, she has produced 14 top-five hits, including six that reached No. 1, and has sold more than 6 million records.

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And she isn’t just a performer — she’s a songwriter, too. She has had compositions recorded by a variety of artists including Chaka Khan, Martina McBride, Highway 101, Juice Newton and Conway Twitty.

She was one of the first women in Nashville to produce her own album, and was named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1994.

While her music is primarily country, Tillis loves all music, and said she was influenced not just by her father, but by a variety of others in the music business.

“Daddy would bring home albums – Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Kenny Rogers, the Everly Brothers, Buck Owens, the Monkees and the Beatles,” she said. “A lot of country music is crossover — country music never existed in its own little world.”

She recalled a time when Ringo Starr recorded “Act Naturally,” a song made famous by Buck Owens in 1963 and recorded by the Beatles in 1965. It was also recorded in 2007 by Dwight Yoakam.

Tillis said she loves all aspects of music and is an advocate of music in public schools.

“It makes it accessible for all,” she said.

As a child, she performed in the church choir and school band and took piano lessons. Since then, she has spent her life working to pass her joy of music on to others.

“I like making people happy, taking them away from the real world for a little while,” she said of her work. “Music is healing. When people tell me what my music means to them, it’s a profound thing — a gift to me to be able to touch people in some way.”

Her songs speak to people in ways that reflect their own experiences. Some of Tillis’ top hits include “Shake the Sugar Tree,” “Mi Vida Loca,” “When You Walk In The Room,” “In Between Dances,” “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” and “Maybe It Was Memphis.”

‘Be unique, be original’

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Tillis has left her own stamp on the country music genre, and her advice to others who are trying to make it in the music world is this: “Be unique, be original. Don’t try to copy anybody. Be yourself.”

All too often, aspiring stars try to mimic other artists, but the uniqueness of a performer is what creates success, she said.

In a time when country music has taken on a distinctly different tone than decades past, Tillis reminds listeners that change within the genre is not a new phenomenon.

“Country music has always changed, incorporating the sounds of the day,” she said. “If you don’t like what you hear in the radio, change the channel.”

Today’s technology provides an opportunity to listen to any era or genre, she said.

According to a biography provided by her agent, Tillis dabbled in a variety of genres growing up, “spanning from jazz and alternative country to top 40.

“She sang demos and lent her voice to many national jingles including Coke, Country Time Lemonade and a Coors Silver Bullet with country superstar Alan Jackson,” it continued.

Tillis also worked as a staff writer for Elektra Asylum Publishing and later wrote for Warner Brothers Publishing, which resulted in her songs being recorded by some of the biggest names in music.

A varied career

In addition to her music, Tillis has performed on Broadway in New York, modeled in Glamour magazine and is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. She is also a three-time Country Music Association Awards winner, including Female Vocalist of the Year in 1994, and was nominated multiple times for the Grammy’s Best Female Country Vocal Performance — in 1993 for “Maybe It Was Memphis,” in 1996 for “Mi Vida Loca” and in 1998 for “All the Good Ones Are Gone.”

She is a nine-time Academy of Country Music Awards nominee, a two-time winner and six-time nominee of the Grammy Awards and an American Music Awards nominee. She celebrated an International Bluegrass Music Association Awards win in 2004 for Recorded Event of the Year for “Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’” and most recently a 2012 IBMA Song of the Year nomination for co-writing Dale Ann Bradley’s “Somewhere South of Crazy.”

Tickets for the Statesboro performance are $28 and can be purchased online at www.averittcenterforthearts.org, at the Averitt Center during box office hours, or by calling (912) 212-2787.