by Stephen Dafoe
The story, songs and sounds of country music legend Conway Twitty are coming to the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Oct. 19 for a one-evening performance by multi-award-winning Nashville artist Gil Grand.
Grand is an eight-time Canadian Country Music Association nominee and two-time CCMA winner with Male Vocalist of the Year and Producer of the Year.
He has put together a unique show that includes more than 25 of Conway Twitty’s biggest hits, all mixed with the stories behind Twitty’s songs and a multi-media experience of rarely seen photos and interviews with people who knew him.
Grand has always considered himself more of a traditional county singer. It is something that was present in his music as far back as 1998 when he released his first single Famous First Words. And although country music has a different look and sound for a new generation, his passion for traditional country music has remained.
“Conway Twitty was my favourite country singer,” Grand said. “I definitely molded myself to his music and his vocal stylings, and I thought it was the perfect time in my life to bring a live show with this kind of music that doesn’t really exist a whole lot anymore in a live venue.”
Twitty’s songs, so many of them hits like Hello Darlin, The Rose, Tight Fittin’ Jeans, and Love To Lay You Down carry a timelessness to them that Grand believes audiences still want to hear performed live.
As a songwriter himself, Grand has a special appreciation for that aspect of Twitty’s legacy.
“I just fell in love with his voice. His ability to render a song with so much emotion and conviction is probably second to none,” Grand said. “I think he’s just a great, great singer, and I just connected with his style. They were always well-written songs. For the most part, he wrote a lot of his own hits.”
The performance is a 90-minute show. A roster of award-winning musicians attired in classic country wardrobe accompany Grand in the show. Grand punctuates his Twitty songs with stories and facts about the man to whom he pays tribute.
The mixture is something Grand believes will transport the audience to a time when Conway Twitty ruled the airwaves.
A big part of the show features candid photos of Twitty and video footage Grand has done with people like Ronnie McDowell who opened for Conway Twitty for many years.
“He [McDowell] was actually surprised at how much I sound like Conway singing these songs,” Grand said. “I never really set out to impersonate him [Conway Twitty] at all. I didn’t really know, honestly, until I went into the recording studio and I recorded five of Conway’s Number One songs just to be able to have some product on these dates. And it wasn’t until I actually went into the studio and sang in the microphone with that music that – in listening back – that I kind of sound like Conway.”
Once that realization connected, Grand started following that lead a little more, and soon most people going to the shows were saying the same thing, that he sounded like Twitty. It is something Grand sees as a bonus.
Grand is anticipating his Morinville audience will also enjoy what others have experienced with the show, an opportunity to enjoy the songs of a legend and reconnect with an era of country music that is special.
“I think country music has always been known as a story song,” Grand said. “I believe songs back then; the classic country songs were about stories. Today it’s a lot more musically driven. It’s more about being able to find the groove or something that’s catchy or hookey.”
Grand sees Conway Twitty and his contemporaries as artists who were incredible songwriters that wrote story songs.
“I think that is the appeal, and that is the difference between music today and what it was like before,” he said, adding he thinks people will feel good about seeing his show and reconnecting with that era through song and story. “I hope they come out because it’s not something that we get to see a whole lot anymore.
One Night With Conway featuring Gil Grand takes place Friday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person and available for purchase at Home Hardware and Bumper to Bumper or by visiting hellotwitty.com.