Montgomery Gentry Remain ‘Rebels on the Run’
Montgomery Gentry titled their debut CD ‘Tattoos and Scars,’ a somewhat prophetic name for the kickoff of a career of a duo that has left an indelible mark on country music and incurred its share of both highs and lows, medals and bruises throughout the past decade. The title of their newest CD, ‘Rebels on the Run,’ seems to be equally prophetic as well, as the two break free from their major-label ties and embark on a brand-new chapter with indie label Average Joe’s, a new producer and a renewed joy in the music-making process.
Along their musical journey, the hard-driving duo faced difficult personal issues including legal problems, divorce, and even cancer, yet emerged from the fire stronger, tougher, and, well, more bad-ass than ever. The Boot stopped these rebels from running long enough to chat about getting their studio mojo back, their love for the road and the challenges of Twitter spelling for a couple of road dogs who, like their fans, still live for Saturday night.
You both have endured plenty of changes in the three years since your last project. How did all of that factor into making this album?
Troy: Our last project at Sony got canned; it never did see the light of day.
Eddie: And actually we were kind of glad. Nothing against Columbia/Sony, because we were treated real good there. But we went through five presidents, and there were just too many cooks in the kitchen. When it gets that way, we know who we are, what we want to sing and who we sing to — all our friends out there who come and see us.
Troy: You try to make everybody happy, but it just kind of homogenized our sound. In hindsight, I’m glad there were several songs that didn’t make the last project that are on this project. The biggest change was the record label let us go into the studio and record our own stuff and bring the album to them. So it was me, Eddie and [producer] Michael Knox picking the songs.
Michael Knox is pretty hot right now, having produced all of Jason Aldean‘s albums. What made you decide to team with him for your new project?
Troy: We had started on a couple of things with him before. At the end of the last project, he came in to cut a couple songs, and we had such a good hang with him then that we wanted to use him again.
Eddie: We love the way he records everything, too. It was totally awesome, it was fun. It was like going back to the days of when we first cut ‘Tattoos and Scars,’ we were having a blast in the studio.
Troy: It’s been like pulling teeth the last couple of records, recording songs other people were wanting you to record. Between Sony and Average Joe’s, we had much more time to hunt for songs. Back in the Sony days, it seemed like you’d get one album and one or two singles off of it, and be back recording again at the end of the year. You’d be crunched for time trying to find songs, so you’d end up cutting stuff just because you needed to cut it. This time we were able to sit down and find every song we wanted to record, which made it a lot nicer. Because we were a lot closer to the project and it means that much more to you.
Does this album present a newer Montgomery Gentry sound?
Troy: I don’t know if it’s as much new as it is fresh and edgy in the vein of what Michael Knox does. The freshness is from us having our creative freedom back and loving every cut we went in there to record, and feeling good about what we were in there doing and not hating singing. It was a pleasure to go in and record this stuff, instead of dreading it.
Eddie: There were so many people involved in the decisions that nobody could really agree on anything. We’d say, “Well, we love this,” and they’d say, “Well, we don’t know. We need y’all to do this,” and they’d all look at each other and nobody would want to make the call because they were all scared to death of making a decision and losing their job if it was wrong.
The new single, ‘Where I Come From’ is almost a continuation of your hit, ‘My Town.’ Did you know that was destined to be your song the first time you heard it?
Troy: Yeah, it was almost like it was written for us. When we first heard the song it reminded us of that or ‘Something to Be Proud Of.’
Eddie: We’ve always sang about small towns and our appreciation for where we grew up — and our love for living life. The video is really clever. Potsie, the director, brought that idea to us. He knew we were big fans of the military and always supported our [service] men and women. He was able to bring that passion into this song and relay it into a soldier who was reminiscing about back where he came from during his time overseas. He was thinking outside the box, something fresh and different.
Troy: Charlie actually came in on our first project to sing with us on ‘All Night Long.’ He was gracious enough to come in and play fiddle and sing with us on that track. He actually came up to Kentucky when we were playing our state fair and shot that video with us. So, Charlie’s been a good friend to us for a long time.
Eddie: And we’ve known Randy for a long while, too. And I want to thank Randy also because when I went through my cancer scare, he was right there. Besides T-Roy and my brother, John boy, man, he was one of the first people I talked to. He was unbelievable. He helped me a lot.
The cancer came at such a sad time in your life, as you were also going through the demise of your marriage. How are you feeling now?
Eddie: I’m 100 percent cancer-free! I don’t have to have any treatments, so I’m ready to rock and just got to get through the terrible divorce. You know, there ain’t no divorce fun, but soon as I get through that we’ll be fine. It was hard to believe at first. First off, when they tell you, you go, “Yeah, right. This is bulls—, I don’t believe this.” Then you have to do these tests and see what’s all going on. We were on tour, and so I’m freaking the hell out. I said, “Well, how bad is it?” They said, “We don’t know how bad it is … We can’t do your tests ’til next week and then they try to figure out what’s going to happen.” You start thinking about your kids, your partner, your career, and thinking how old you are, ’cause you ain’t that damn old!
Did the recording process offer any solace for you?
Eddie: We were still touring, and I had my surgery on Christmas. Thank God for all of the people who supported me, because I found out I was getting divorced after I found out I had cancer. Let me tell ya, once you’re there by yourself and you realize it, it’s like, “Aw, hell.”
One of the songs on the new CD, the ballad ‘Empty,’ addresses that — the loneliness that can creep up on you. Was that hard to sing, going through what you’ve been through?
Eddie: It can make you think. I’ll just put it that way. It’s a killer tune. Believe it or not, I wasn’t gonna cut the song, but T-Roy and Michael talked me into it. I’m very, very glad they did.
Tell us about the special promotion with the new CD. One lucky fan gets to ride away on a custom-designed motorcycle!
Troy: This is the first time we’ve done something like this in conjunction with an album release. They’re comparing it to the golden ticket and Willy Wonka. This launch they’re doing will have one CD that will have something in it that will let one person know they’ve won this chopper from Demented, that we helped custom design. It’s gonna be really cool.
You’ve recently added a lot of new content to your website. That’s something that’s definitely changed since you first got into the business, the social media aspect. Are you embracing it?
Eddie: T-Roy’s a lot better at it than I am. I’m finally learning Twitter. I’m into Twitter. I love it! Of course, I can’t spell for s—. I was raised in the honky-tonks! Troy says spell-check just gives up and quits on me!
Troy: It’s a learn-as-you-go process. There wasn’t any of that stuff when we started out. There were fan clubs, meet-and-greets, and letters to the office. Now you have all the social media out there that some of the younger artists have grown up with. But we go to the experts.
With all the ways the industry has changed since you started, you must must be proud to still have so much success this many years later.
Troy: Oh yeah, there’s been so many artists through the years since we’ve been around that we’ve watched come and go. We’re definitely thankful to still be around. And our stuff has always been a little bit different, too. When you hear a Montgomery Gentry song, it’s undoubtedly Montgomery Gentry.
Eddie: We’ve got a lot of friends out there, and they’ve kept us in the ballgame. We don’t call them ‘fans,’ we call them ‘friends.’ We haven’t had a record out in three years, but we’ve been touring as hard as anybody has and selling tickets. That’s because of all of the friends that come see us. They’re hardcore, man. We love ’em to death. They’ve had our back since day one.
Do you still love the road as much as day one?
Troy: Yeah, we still enjoy traveling. Especially during the holidays. I love being home with the family, but after New Year’s and everything you start to get that itch, ready to get back out on the road. That’s all Eddie and I have ever known. We just love to entertain. My hat goes off to all these office folks that have to go into the same four walls every day and do a job, because there’s no way I could do it. I’ve got too much energy and am too rambunctious.
Has it gotten easier or harder the longer you’ve been together?
Troy: It’s been easier as it’s gone along. You just get used to each other and know what each other likes, their antics and likes and dislikes … it’s like a family.
Eddie: Of course, I’m getting divorced, but we’ve known each other longer than we’ve known our wives.
Do you find that a new generation of fans is discovering your music?
Eddie: We do have a real big variety of crowds. We have college kids all the way up to people 60 years old. They all just want to live life. They’re not ready to give up yet, and they like our music because we sing about the good, bad, the ugly, and the party on the weekend! There’s people, no matter how old you get, they still want to live. I mean, I’m planning on — especially now that I’m single — when I’m 60, I’m hoping I’m still chasing women … and drinking! I’m living ’til I die!
There’s talk of you and John Michael doing a project together. Is that in the works?
Eddie: That was said because we did the festival together, but it’s all MG man. John Boy’s doing his thing. We all started together, so we want to do something. Me and John only live 15 minutes apart. But what’s funny is we’re 15 minutes away from each other and we still see each other more on the road than we do at home! [laughs]
You both have kids. Do they like to come out on the road with Dad?
Eddie: They know what we do, but they don’t care about it much. Unless we’re going somewhere around a mall or Disney World or a beach. Then they say, “Hey, we want to come see a show!” “Right, right!” [laughs] They want the fun stuff!