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Phil Vassar loves any reason to play Chicago area

Phil Vassar

Phil Vassar

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Phil Vassar, 7 p.m. June 29, Annual World’s Largest Block Party, Madison and Des Plaines. $40-$45. (312) 648-1590;

Updated: June 26, 2013 4:14PM

At his sprawling home in Nashville, Tenn., singer/songwriter Phil Vassar finds himself surrounded by country music’s elite. In a neighborhood filled with everyone from Rascal Flatts’ Gary Levox to Keith Urban to Kix Brooks, Vassar calls the setup a bizarre dynamic, especially during the summertime touring season. Yet, it just may be a certain quarterback who lives within a football throw away from Vassar that the city of Chicago may be the most intrigued by.

“[Chicago Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler lives across the street from me,” laughs Vassar, himself a former high school football player. “I haven’t seen him in forever though. It’s so funny being surrounded by these amazing singers and songwriters and celebrities. Yet, we never see each other.”

So while a friendly BBQ and a game of lawn jarts with the Cutler newlyweds may not be in the cards, Chicago remains close to the heart of Vassar, who has many a reason to spend time up here when he can.

“Chicago has always been right in my wheelhouse,” says Vassar, who will headline the annual World’s Largest Block Party on June 29 alongside co-headliner Gretchen Wilson. “So many of my really good friends are from Chicago, so yeah, I am always looking for an excuse to get up there more.”

Currently enjoying the success of his newest single, “Love is Alive,” and preparing for the release of his first new album in four years, Vassar says he currently finds himself in a delightful logjam of new music.

“We have over 30 songs recorded, and I need to break it down to 12,” says Vassar, who has topped the charts with songs like “Last Day of My Life,” “In A Real Love” and “Just Another Day in Paradise.”

“It’s kind of fun to have other artists come at you and want to record some of your tunes.”

Indeed, everyone from Tim McGraw to Alan Jackson to David Nail has found hits via Vassar’s songwriting prowess, which has since expanded into his very own entertainment label. “You can definitely maneuver things a whole lot easier when you are calling the shots,” he says. “It’s not like a tanker like these labels, where it can take six months to turn the ship east. If something doesn’t work for me, I change it. I just love the business, whether it’s the music or the publishing or the marketing or the distribution.”

And while Vassar loves the chance to play outdoors during the hot summer months, not much gets done as far as songwriting.

“It’s really hard to write in the summertime unless you get a notion to,” says Vassar. “The summertime is the time for me to get up on stage and play music. That’s when I am in my element. For 22 hours a day before a show, it’s like a caged animal on a bus. Once they free me onto that stage, its go time.”

With the addition of the first-ever country music night, the World’s Largest Block Party looks to be a hot summer ticket this year.

“Most events in Chicago don’t have the shelf life this one has through the years,” explains Father Hurley of the annual event, which helps raise money to support Old St. Patrick’s Church and the Center for Social Concerns on the Old St. Pat’s Campus. “Our church has played an important part in the life of the city and the Catholic experience in Chicago. So many people will benefit directly from the proceeds of this event.”

Tricia Despres is a Sun-Times free-lance writer.

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