By MESFIN FEKADU
NEW YORK — If you ever see Vince Gill shirtless at one of his concerts, you can likely place the blame on Sting.
Bare-chested singing is a regular affair for the rocker, and when Gill was asked if he’d go shirtless for the pair’s CMT “Crossroads” special, Sting chimed in: “He will tonight. I’m going to encourage him.”
“What a thought. You know I haven’t eaten in six weeks preparing for this gig because of this yardstick over here,” said Gill, looking at Sting before laughing: “Going to look like Laurel and Hardy up there.”
“I’ve never been described as a yardstick. Is that a compliment?” asked Sting, joining in the laughter.
The good vibes between the two translate onstage during the special, which will air on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m. and was pre-taped in September. The rock and country veterans had worked together once before, at the 2004 Grammy Awards in tribute to the Beatles. Both said linking up musically was easy because they have “similar registers.
“That’s always appealing – to find guys with guts enough to sing like girls,” said Gill, laughing again.
The “Crossroads” series has featured collaborations from James Taylor and the Dixie Chicks to John Mayer and Keith Urban. This one-hour concert will have Gill and Sting performing hits like “Shape of My Heart,” “Every Breath You Take” and “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away.”
While the singers – who own a combined 36 Grammy Awards – say the collaboration was a comfortable one, they admit there were some challenges, too, when it came to covering the other’s songs.
“When you immerse yourself in somebody else’s work and the more you get to know the song, you recognize these little inflections in the melody, which you hadn’t noticed the first time,” Sting said. “It demands a lot of respect, a lot of care and attention.”
Gill knew it would be tough to cover Sting’s material, and he told the rock singer he’d need him to step in during some moments.
“I’m meat and potatoes, you know, but once I . went in there and spent the time, I started to understand how it all worked,” he said. “There’s like a couple lines that I’ve tried to learn and I just said, `Sting, you gotta sing these `cause they’re so off-the-hook great I don’t want to screw them up.’”
They also said their temporary duo was drama-free.
“We haven’t had a fight yet. Not one,” said Sting.
Gill chimed in with a laugh: “If we get into a fight, I’ll choke you with heel dust (and) run away. I’m not much of a fighter.”
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