Phil Vassar (born May 28, 1964, in Lynchburg, Virginia) is an American country music artist. Vassar made his debut on the country music scene in the late 1990s, co-writing singles for several country artists, including Tim McGraw ("For a Little While", "My Next Thirty Years"), Jo Dee Messina ("Bye, Bye", "I'm Alright"), Collin Raye ("Little Red Rodeo"), and Alan Jackson ("Right on the Money"). In 1999, he was named by ASCAP as Country Songwriter of the Year.
Later that same year, Vassar was signed to Arista Nashville as a recording artist. His debut album, Phil Vassar, was released in early 2000; it produced five hit singles on the U.S. Billboard country singles charts and was certified gold in the United States. He followed it in 2002 with American Child, Shaken Not Stirred in 2004, and finally Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 in 2006 before Vassar left the label for Universal South Records. His first album for that label, Prayer of a Common Man, was released in early 2008. He has charted nineteen singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including two Number Ones: 2000's "Just Another Day in Paradise" and 2004's "In a Real Love".
Phil Vassar was born May 28, 1964 in Lynchburg, Virginia; he was also raised in Lynchburg, where his father owned a steakhouse. In high school, Vassar was an athletic star, participating in American football and track and field at Brookville High School . Initially, his musical interests included James Taylor, Elton John, and Billy Joel, as well as R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe.
He attended James Madison University on a track scholarship, where he was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity, eventually graduating with a degree in business administration. While in college, however, Vassar had taken up playing the piano, and eventually found work as a singer in clubs. He had decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee in order to pursue a career in music; initially, he found work at various odd jobs such as bartending. Eventually, he was signed to a small publishing contract, but was unable to land any hits on this contract.
As a songwriter
In 1995, Vassar and a friend opened an Italian restaurant called Nathan's in a Nashville suburb. The restaurant regularly featured live music and songwriters' nights, and soon, Vassar himself began performing at his restaurant, performing his own material as well as cover songs. One of the restaurant's patrons heard Vassar's music and sent one of his demo tapes to his father, pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Humperdink recorded one of Vassar's songs ("Once in a While"), and soon afterward, Vassar landed his second publishing contract, this time with EMI.
Starting in the late 1990s, Vassar began writing songs which were recorded by several country music artists. Among the artists who recorded his material were Blackhawk ("Postmarked Birmingham"), Collin Raye ("Little Red Rodeo"), Jo Dee Messina ("Bye, Bye", "I'm Alright"), Tim McGraw ("For a Little While"), Alan Jackson ("Right on the Money"), and Neal McCoy ("I Was"). Of these, "Bye, Bye", "I'm Alright", and "Right on the Money" all reached Number One on the country charts. "Bye, Bye" earned Vassar his first American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award for Song of the Year, and in 1999 he was named ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year.
As a singer
In late 1999, Vassar was signed to his first recording contract, with the Arista Nashville label. His debut single, "Carlene", was issued that year, and by mid-2000 the song had gone on to peak at #5 on the Billboard country charts. The song, about two friends whose lives exceeded the expectations of her high school peers, was inspired by Vassar's own life (the male protagonist being a former sports star turned songwriter), while actress Cindy Crawford served as the inspiration for the female character in the song.
The lead-off single to Vassar's self-titled debut album, "Carlene" was followed by "Just Another Day in Paradise", which became his first Number One hit as a singer. Shortly after that song peaked, another song written by Vassar reached the top of the country charts ??? Tim McGraw's "My Next Thirty Years". This, along with Marshall Dyllon's "Live It Up", would be among Vassar's last contributions for another artist. Overall, Phil Vassar produced three more singles: the #16 "Rose Bouquet", "Six-Pack Summer" at #9, and finally "That's When I Love You" at #3. In addition, the album itself earned a gold certification from the RIAA for shipping 500,000 copies. Its success led to tours with Kenny Chesney.
American Child was the title of Vassar's second album, co-produced by Byron Gallimore. It was released in 2002, the same year in which he married Julie Wood, with whom he co-wrote "That's When I Love You". The album's autobiographical title track served as its lead-off single, reaching a peak of #5 on the country charts, and the album itself peaked at #4 on the Top Country Albums charts. In mid-2002, he also co-wrote and performed a charity single called "Words Are Your Wheels". Released exclusively through Wal-Mart stores, this song featured guest vocals from Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride and Sara Evans.
While "American Child" was climbing the charts, Arista tested another song written by Vassar, entitled "This Is God". This song was so well-received by test audiences that American Child was recalled and re-released in early 2003. (The re-issue featured "This Is God" along with a cover of Huey Lewis and the News's "Workin' for a Livin'".) "This Is God" was subsequently issued as the album's second single, becoming a Top 20 country hit. However, the album's third single ("Ultimate Love") fell one space short of the Top 40.
Shaken Not Stirred and Greatest Hits
In 2004, Vassar released his third studio album. Entitled Shaken Not Stirred, the album produced Vassar's second Number One hit in the song "In a Real Love". Also released from this album were the #17 "I'll Take That as a Yes (The Hot Tub Song)" and the #22 "Good Ole Days". Unlike with his first two albums, Vassar recorded Shaken Not Stirred with his road band. Vassar produced the album with Nick Brophy and Frank Rogers.
Vassar's first greatest hits compilation, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, was issued in 2006. This album comprised the biggest hits from his studio albums to that point, as well as his renditions of "Bye, Bye", "I'm Alright", "My Next Thirty Years" and "Little Red Rodeo". The album's also included three new songs. Two of these were released as singles, starting with the #2 "Last Day of My Life", which Vassar was inspired to write after attending the funeral of his friend Robert Byrne, with whom he co-wrote his 2001 single "Rose Bouquet". The second and final single from Greatest Hits, "The Woman in My Life" (another song co-written by Vassar and his wife), reached #20 on the country charts, shortly before Vassar parted ways with Arista Nashville.
Prayer of a Common Man
In March 2007, Vassar signed to the independent Universal South Records. His first single for the label, "This Is My Life", was released in mid-2007, peaking at #35 on the country music charts. Succeeding it was "Love Is a Beautiful Thing" This song was co-written by Jeffrey Steele and Craig Wiseman, and was previously recorded in 1999 by Canadian singer Paul Brandt under the title "It's a Beautiful Thing". By April 2008, "Love Is a Beautiful Thing" had reached #2 on the country charts, and Vassar's first album for Universal South (entitled Prayer of a Common Man) was released. A third single from this album, "I Would", was issued in July 2008 and peaked at #26. It was followed in early 2009 by the album's title track, which became the lowest-peaking single of his career at #53.
One week after "Prayer of a Common Man" fell from the charts, Vassar charted his eighteenth single, "Bobbi with an I". Released in April 2009, this was to be the first single for an upcoming fifth studio album. It peaked at #46 after eight weeks on the charts, and was followed by "Everywhere I Go."
Between 2002 and 2007, Vassar was married to the former Julie Wood, with whom he co-wrote his singles "That's When I Love You" and "The Woman in My Life". Wood's brother, Jeff Wood, is also a country music artist, who recorded one studio album on Imprint Records in 1997 and charted three singles, in addition to co-writing album tracks for Vassar and other artists. Phil and Julie filed for divorce in mid-2007. Vassar has two daughters: Presley (with Wood-Vassar) and Haley, from a previous marriage.