On Friday night time (Jan. 11), Mark Wills -- a rustic fan favourite for the reason that mid-1990s such hits as “I Do (Cherish You),” “Wish You Were Here,” “Don’t Laugh at Me” and “19 Somethin’” -- will make his 257th look on the Grand Ole Opry. But this one will likely be particular: It will mark his first time as an official member.
It’s a profession milestone for the Georgia native -- and one he’s glad he’s reaching now. Billboard caught up with Wills on his huge day.
“Mark Wills, Grand Ole Opry member” -- how does that sound?
I’ve all the time mentioned it’s a profession purpose and a dream come true to be invited to be the following member of the Grand Ole Opry. As a child, being a rustic music fan, and watching the nice artists and exhibits like Hee Haw and the Opry on tv, this has all the time been the top of what I needed to attain in my music profession, and right here I'm.
What are your recollections as a toddler of the Opry?
It was simply the nice degree of leisure that went on. The Grand Ole Opry has been a spread present for a very long time. There’s the greats like Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Stringbean, and Porter Wagoner. There’s such a plethora of leisure that has graced that stage -- princes, presidents and artists from a number of completely different genres of music. To be one of many guys who has a spot in that historical past and can all the time have my identify solidified with it's fairly superb.
Just like he has finished with so many, together with Chris Young not too long ago, Vince Gill was the Opry member who prolonged your invitation to hitch. What did that imply to you?
Many instances all through my profession, I believed how it might really feel to have had Porter Wagoner or Little Jimmy Dickens to ask me to be a member. I by no means actually thought on the [time] the place I might change into a Grand Ole Opry member that each one of them can be gone. Vince has change into a type of new faces of the Grand Ole Opry. He’s one of many ones that has put in a variety of time and continues to be the goodwill ambassador to the following technology of the Opry. For him to be the one to increase the invitation to me is really the best factor ever. I grew up a Vince Gill fan and nonetheless am a Vince Gill fan. So, it doesn’t get any higher than having somebody you have got idolized as a singer and any individual you have got change into pals with to increase that invitation to you to hitch their membership. It’s superb.
There isn't any rhyme or cause to Opry membership, with Chris Young and Dustin Lynch being new members the previous few years, together with veterans similar to Crystal Gayle and Bobby Bare. At this level in your profession, does Opry membership imply one thing completely different than while you first broke onto the charts in 1996?
Absolutely. I believe that as a younger artist, I held the Opry in excessive regard. But I’m not 19 anymore; I’m 45. I really feel like I nonetheless am younger sufficient to have a few years forward of me to carry out on the Opry. I additionally really feel I’m sufficiently old now to embrace extra of the custom, and actually take a look at it as a profession milestone. My first track was high 10 and my second album was double-platinum. I felt prefer it’s all the time imagined to be. I believe now, when these moments come alongside, we recognize them just a little bit greater than if they'd come alongside earlier.