Pam Tillis comes by her old-school country sound honestly.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/1/2011 (3945 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Pam Tillis comes by her old-school country sound honestly.

The 53-year-old Grammy-winner is the daughter of Mel Tillis, whose singles were staples on the country music charts from the late 1950s to the early 1980s.

Tillis made her Grand Ole Opry debut when she was eight years old.

SUPPLIED PHOTO

Tillis made her Grand Ole Opry debut when she was eight years old.

She followed in his footsteps without coasting on his success, earning a name for herself as a singer, songwriter and actress. That road brings her to the Club Regent Casino tonight.

And despite the emergence of country-pop over the past decade, Tillis's last album, 2007's Rhinestoned, was an authentic slice of Grand Ole Opry-inspired C&W, and that's what fans can expect more of when she returns to the recording studio this year, she says over the phone from her Nashville home.

"The older I get, the more mature I get, the more I appreciate my heritage and roots. Gosh, I wish more people would go back and listen to old country music. Young kids should go on YouTube and listen to the classic old-school guys; they would be surprised how cool the music was. It wasn't all done with bells and whistles and Auto-Tune, it was real and heartfelt. That's what inspired me," she says.

Tillis made her Grand Ole Opry debut when she was just eight, but initially steered clear of the music her father performed (except when singing backup for him), choosing instead to front her own country-rock, jazz and R&B bands in the late 1970s and releasing a pop-oriented solo album in 1983 all while writing songs for other people, including Juice Newton, Crystal Gayle and Chaka Khan.

When she returned to her own recording career full time in 1991, it was as a neo-traditionalist performing a mix of country, bluegrass, rock and folk. She went on to record six No. 1 singles, sell more than six million albums and win numerous awards, including a Grammy in 1998 for best country collaboration with vocals.

She has also appeared in the stage musical Smokey Joe's Café on Broadway, earned some television acting credits on Diagnosis Murder, Promised Land and L.A. Law, operates her own record label and writes a food column for Country Weekly magazine.

"Sometimes it's so damn funny; I think it's a lot, then I look at somebody else's bio and think I'm a slacker. We all do what we can and do what God gives us. I've had a lot of support over the years and I'm a pretty energetic person. I think I get that from my parents," she says.

She had always performed a song or two of her dad's in concert and in 2002 recorded a complete set of her father's material on It's All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis.

"It was really organic -- I don't like to be calculating. I always like to shoot from the hip and the heart... I also felt confident enough as an artist. That was important for me to wait. I never wanted to ride on his coattails, I wanted to approach that project with some credibility of my own," she says.

With credibility to spare, she is hitting the road with friend and collaborator Lorrie Morgan for a series of acoustic dates that will feature both artists performing the whole show together backed by a five-piece band. Their first gig together in 2011 is a sold-out gig at Club Regent.

"I play on her stuff and she plays on mine and we chit-chat back and forth and insult each other. It's great," Tillis says with a laugh.

As for the rest of the year, Tillis is planning to dip her toes back into the acting pool for an unnamed project and record a new album or two.

And for resolutions, she hopes to spread some positivity wherever she goes, even if she admits it might sound hokey.

"I just think the world needs all the love it can use. Sometimes we get caught up in our own trips and dramas and I think we're here to be as loving as we can. I want to be the most loving and lovable person I can be in the new year. That would be whether it's in music or cooking or a nice warm smile, and that's what I want to do," she says.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca