After a long break from the country music scene, Texas-born singer-songwriter Jack Ingram is releasing Midnight Motel, his first album in more than seven years, and streaming the project ahead of its debut exclusively for readers of The Boot.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Ingram had firmly established himself as one of Texas' most promising talents: His 2005 release, “Wherever You Are,” shot to No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. In 2011, though, Ingram all but disappeared from the country music scene, leaving Big Machine Records and, perhaps unintentionally, deciding to take some time away from the industry.

“When I left Big Machine in 2011, I was still in the mindframe of a gerbil on a wheel,” Ingram tells The Boot. “I met with some labels and talked with some guys, and I wasn’t getting the feedback that I wanted. Then I started to really think that this was going to take a while.”

From there, Ingram started working on figuring himself out as an artist and musician.

“I asked myself if I ever wanted to be in a situation again where I felt like I wasn’t in ultimate control of my creative work, and the answer to that is no,” he explains. “But if I’m going to say that I’m not willing to compromise ever again, I had better get real clear about who I am rather than who I’m not trying to define myself as. Turns out that figuring myself out was the easy part.”

In making Midnight Motel, Ingram made a “handshake deal” with himself -- “Don’t write a song / That you wouldn’t sing” -- and he stuck to it.

“I started thinking about what I would play for my heroes,” he notes. “If I was in heaven with Guy Clark and Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, what would I play for them?”

To be sure, any of the tracks from Midnight Motel would make for a fine snapshot of who Ingram is as an artist. The disc is gritty and decidedly more rough around the edges than the slicked-up songs that made him a radio hit back in the mid-2000s, and rich storytelling, Ingram’s distinctive voice and impeccable instrumentation make for a solid country album that is not at all indecisive about its direction or inspiration.

Midnight Motel is set for release on Friday (Aug. 26); in the meantime, fans can stream the album below.

Listen to Jack Ingram's Midnight Motel

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