Bill Gaither’s first band was the Bill Gaither Trio, which he formed in 1956 when he was a 20-year-old kid in Indiana. Six Grammys, more than 20 Dove Awards and 56 years later, Gaither is one of the leading figures in Southern gospel music and a standard-bearer for Christian music as a whole. He has released countless albums and has performed with the Gaither Vocal Band for more than 30 years. The Gaither Vocal Band will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at Bangor Auditorium. Tickets are $28-$69, and are available at the box office and on Ticketmaster. Gaither spoke on the phone with the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.
Q: When is the last time you were in Maine? What do you think of Maine?
A: I think the last time I was in Bangor was probably 20 years ago. We love the Northeast. We’ve got friends in that part of the country, and just last year my wife and I were in New England. We love the food, the wonderful flavor of the place, and the upfront honesty of people. They’re not just blowing smoke. We travel all over the country and the world, and there’s a particular kind of folk in Maine that we just love.
You’ve been performing all over the world for nearly 60 years now. What has, or hasn’t, changed?
I think what’s interesting is what hasn’t changed. The basic qualities that make up this great country are the things that stay stable. The wrapper people are in, the style, that’s what changes. People are still concerned about the same things. They have so much time here on Earth to make a difference and do good. They’re still concerned about their kids and family. They’re still concerned about the stuff they believe in deeply. So while the way people dress and talk changes, the things that make human nature so much fun to deal with is pretty much the same no matter where you are.
Who are some up-and-coming musicians people should be on the lookout for?
I’m very much encouraged by some of the younger people in our field. In Southern gospel, there’s a young man by the name of Jason Crabb who is wonderfully talented, with a great voice. When I hear someone like him I’m very encouraged. The Isaacs are a wonderful country gospel bluegrass group with family harmonies. In contemporary Christian music, I think Chris Tomlin is a wonderful young man. It’s nice to see someone with that kind of character, regardless of the kind of music. I think because of my age I’m very much drawn to vocals and good harmonies, so I do have a preference for that.
What can people expect this Friday? What’s new?
I think folks will hear some wonderful vocals — with the exception of the person who is speaking, of course. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to persuade these talented young kids to spend this time with me. I think we’ll all have a really good time. The band has a lot of good humor and a we have a lot of good fun. And there are always those moments that make you think, ‘What’s life all about? What are we going to do? How can we make a difference?’ I think people are going to come out of it filled with a lot of hope. We get a lot of emails saying ‘Thank you for your music, it got me through a difficult time in my life.’ And life’s not about how you deal with the wins — it’s how you deal with the losses. It makes me feel very good to know that we’re helping people.