"This is probably a deeper record than I've ever done," Vassar tells The Boot. "There aren't a whole lot of 'ditty' things going on on this record ... A lot has happened in the last three years since my last record, so I have a lot to write about."
For one, Vassar was going through a divorce while writing this album. As difficult as that was, he says putting his pain on paper provided a silver lining.
"That affected a lot of the writing on this record," he says of his divorce. "But these kind of experiences do make for good songs. Especially breakups ... So now I can kinda look at it differently. It was a good experience from a songwriter's point of view."
Vassar, a celebrated writer who has also penned hits for Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson, also went through a breakup with his longtime label, Arista Records, moving onto the smaller Universal South. It was a move that he says gave him more creative control over his music.
"They've given me enough rope to hang myself, I'm afraid," Vassar jokes. "And so far, so good! 'Love Is a Beautiful Thing' is doing really well. And it was great to have Mark Wright as the producer on this album. He also runs the label, so it's like the inmates having keys to the asylum."
Also in this sea of change for Vassar are more stripped-down shows. He has spent the first part of this year playing in smaller venues without his band. It's just Vassar, his piano and his interactive fans.
"I literally wouldn't have a set list," he says. "I tell stories and involve the audience more ... I take requests and just talk to the folks -- whatever they want to hear, I play. I just loved it. It was so spontaneous -- the most fun tour I've ever done."
We gave Vassar some requests of our own in his AOL Music Sessions performance. He performed three songs from 'Prayer of a Common Man' and then indulged us with two old favorites. And whether performing his brand-new tunes or the songs he's sung a million times, Vassar nails each with wild energy and the charismatic stage presence for which he's so well known. He may have taken a hiatus from the studio for three years, but this Piano Man has certainly not lost his touch.