Cowboys & Indians: You were performing with your friend Jeannie Seely onstage at the Grand Ole Opry last February when she extended the invitation for you to become an official Opry member. Just how big a surprise was that?
Rhonda Vincent: Oh, it was a big surprise. You see, I was at peace that I would probably never be a member of the Opry. I had dreamed of that, and it was a lifelong dream. But I’d gotten to the point where I figured I’d just be happy that I got to play the Opry whenever I could. Actually, that was my 215th appearance that night. And when Jeannie asked if I wanted to join the Opry — I was just floored. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought that would’ve happened, and especially at that moment. It was so shocking. It’s like it came from out of nowhere.
C&I: Sounds like Jeannie and the Opry folks are very good at keeping secrets.
Rhonda: That’s true. Jeannie told me afterwards that she had known for a few days but was told to keep it a secret. Well, let me tell you: Jeannie Seely can certainly keep a secret. People have asked me, “Did you have any idea?” And I have to say, I had not a single clue. And I loved that. The Opry people were very careful, too. They waited until I was onstage, ready to sing with Jeannie, before they called my mother and my husband. My mother didn’t answer her phone, so she didn’t know. But they did reach my husband and told him to make sure and turn on the radio because there was a surprise coming that he would want to hear. So he kind of figured it out. But they knew I was already onstage, and he couldn’t call me at that point.
C&I: By the way, the song you and Jeannie sang that night at the Opry was “Like I Could,” which she co-wrote with Bobby Tomberlin and Erin Enderlin. You released that as a single last year. And the music video for it that you shot with your band The Rage at Nashville’s Music City Bar — well, we have to ask: Whose idea was it to cast your own spouse, Herb Sandker, as the husband with the wandering eye?
Rhonda: [Laughs.] Yes, a lot of people have asked about that. I didn’t really think about the song content, I guess, when I did that. But I wanted him in the video to show that we were married. Because there have been these people online who make fake accounts, and they use my photo and they pose as me, and say I’m getting a divorce — and then they ask for money to help me out.
About a year ago, I got a call from the FBI and had to go in for an interview — which was very alarming. But there was a man who had been tricked by these scammers into thinking we were having a relationship for a year and a half, and he sent them his life savings. And there have been other times when other people — even one of my own friends — have been tricked into sending money because they thought that I needed it, that I had to pay for a divorce.
So to go back to “Like I Could” — I did that with Herb so people would see I was married. [Laughs.] But looking back on it now, I’m not sure it sent the right message, since it does show him going after the lady at the bar in the red dress.
C&I: It’s been said that all popular music — country, rock, bluegrass, whatever — reflects the mood of the time when it’s created. What sort of new music do we think we’ll be hearing in the months and years ahead in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic?
Rhonda: I have heard from a lot of writers and artists who are wanting to write during this time, so I think there will be a lot of songs. But my fear is they won’t be joyful, that they will be mostly depressing. Or the blues, so to speak. The blues is probably thriving during this time.
C&I: Are you aiming to offer music that’s a tad more uplifting?
Rhonda: [Laughs.] Well, I do have a song that will be on the new album I have been working on. It’s called “Music Is What I See,” and I think it’s very timely for right now. Because there’s this pre-chorus that says, “God is great and God is good to me. He gave me music, and music’s what I see.” So it has a very timely thing — because God is great, and God is good to us. I think a lot of people maybe need to hear that now.
Illustration courtesy Jonathan Fehr
From our July 2020 issue.