The song is the opening salvo from his MCA Records album, Guitar Slinger, due out this fall. Gill co-wrote "Threaten Me With Heaven" with his wife, singer/songwriter Amy Grant, Dillon O'Brian and Will Owsley. "Since the song was recorded, my friend Will Owsley took his own life, so the song has a profound impact on me now," Gill laments. "In my lifetime, 'Go Rest High On That Mountain' has been the song that helped a lot of people through their grief. I think this one will in turn hopefully do the same thing. It's a powerful, powerful song. I feel like it's the crown jewel of the new record."
And that's quite a statement, considering that this album includes some of the most poignant and moving songs of his career, such as "Bread and Water" and "If I Die." But the album also features fun, upbeat songs as well, and serves as a wonderful showplace for his guitar playing. Gill wrote every song on the album, which was the first project recorded from start to finish at his new home studio.
"I feel like the emphasis has been on the songs and the songs have gotten better," he says. "They really run the gamut of what they are about, how they feel, how they sound. It's not an all-traditional record, it's not an all-contemporary record; it's all over the map, like I kind of have always been. But it doesn't feel out of step with anything I've done previously."
Guitar Slinger is the follow-up to his critically acclaimed four-CD, 43-song box set, These Days, which was certified platinum, won the 2006 Grammy for Best Country Album and received an overall Grammy Album of the Year nomination. "That never feels anything but great," he says of the album's overwhelming reception.
Gill didn't have any specific thoughts or themes in mind when he began creating the songs for Guitar Slinger. Instead, he just let his creativity flow. "I had no expectations of what it would sound like in my home studio," he says. "I've never recorded in my house before. So I discovered an awful lot about how the rooms sound, and it's a real warm record.
"I don't know what it is, but it's so different than most studios in that there are windows all the way around the room. You look out and see trees. There's such a great spirit running around in the house and in the rooms that all the musicians have raved about the vibe. It's real low key; it's not commercial-feeling at all."
Guitar Slinger epitomizes coming home for Gill for several reasons. Not only did he record in his home, but he is joined on the album by his wife, Amy Grant, and their daughters Jenny, Sarah and Corrina. "Corrina makes her debut at nine on this record in a very dark song," he says of "Billy Paul." "It's a song about a friend of mine who took his life after he took someone else's life. It's very, very dark, but I love that in music. I was always drawn to music with those kinds of things."
Despite his unbelievably pure tenor voice and his jaw-dropping guitar playing, Gill always keeps the song first and foremost in his focus. "All I ever want to be is honest, truthful and authentic," he says. "The thing I've learned as a musician, record producer and part of a cast that does what it is that we do is that the most important thing is to serve the song. It's not to show off and play the most you can play or sing the most you can sing. It's all in how do you serve this song the best and what keeps the song the real focal point of what you're doing."