Ever since the album on the Average Joe Entertainment label debuted in the Top 10 country charts of SoundScan, there’s been no stopping the country duo. Tours, high-profile interviews including one in the upcoming People magazine “Country Special,” red carpet appearances and a Thanksgiving Day co-hosting gig on the celebrated radio show “After MidNite” with Blair Garner, is just some of what has kept the duo moving.
Troy Gentry recently took some time out to talk to OurStage about the new album, the duo’s refreshed enthusiasm and what he sees in their musical future.
OS: I don’t want to rehash all of the negative things you’ve both faced in the past year or so”Eddie’s divorce, his cancer, your bear hunting misadventure that again received publicity”but it must be great to focus on the positive after such turmoil. The question is how did you focus on creating new music for a new label when you had so much negativity around you?
TG: I think it was that music itself. As far as the history, the [charges of falsely tagging a bear] I had tucked away and buried that a long time ago. I put that in the past.When it came back up, I put out an apology letter again… but it wasn’t an issue for me. I had apologized, I had made amends and it was in the past.
When Eddie’s cancer came up (he was diagnosed in November 2010 and was immediately treated; he is now cancer free), we tackled it head on and and we got that under control. Praise Lord he was able to get that taken care of and put it behind him. I think the music itself was what took the focus off of the past. It gave us a new focus and direction, something to look forward to in the future and concentrate on and get all of our energies behind.
OS: It must seem refreshing to return to the Montgomery Gentry sound, to take the sound back.
TG: I don’t know if it was so much taking it back as it was being given the opportunity through Average Joe’s. There were fewer hands on this project than we have had in the past, really since the early days of Sony. We had been able to go in and get the sound going we wanted and cut the Montgomery Gentry records [in the duo’s early days with Sony]. I think through the years and throughout the record label changes…that went on through our careers, more people had more hands in the pot. We were bringing music in and there were too many chefs in the kitchen. Everybody had an opinion and so many people were involved, it was hard for Eddie and I to sit down and make everybody happy and make our own sound.
Average Joe’s gave us that freedom back. They told us “We want you to go out and find the music and make a Montgomery Gentry album and bring it back to us.” That’s the first time that has happened for us in a lot of years. Plus, too, we had a lot of extra time in the transition between Sony and Average Joe’s to go out and find songs and write songs and get the best possible material for this project. In the Sony days, we did one record and by the time they had a couple singles off it, they were taking us back into the studio to start another album.
A lot of what we had were great songs…but for the sake of time, they’d load up the album. That is not good. But that’s in the past.
OS: It sounds like Average Joe’s returns you to that better fit, artistically.
TG: Yes, we wanted to find great songs and be able to do it on our own without so many hands leading us to a direction that maybe we didn’t want to go to. It felt good. Now Eddie and I have much more artistic control on what we’re recording and how we’re recording it.
OS: That’s quite an undertaking to find all of the songs yourselves. How does the process work?
TG: First we went out and we found songs. We went through I couldn’t tell you how many songs we listened to for this record. Ironically, three songs that Eddie and I have for this record were written for the last one but were veto’d. I think everything happens for a reason. It’s a great thing that they didn’t make it onto the last record, because at this point wouldn’t be able to use them.
As far as getting the songs, we just tried to [listen to] as many songs as we could that fit what we were doing [musically] at the time. We narrowed them down, almost like a song competition, to find what best represented Montgomery Gentry at this given point. It was a process of elimination, to find the best songs.
It was probably a three month process. We started right after Christmas. Actually, Eddie and I were chomping at the bit to start, so we were listening to songs in October and November, but the real song selection was January, February and March, so, yes, it was three months before we recorded.
OS: What are the three songs that you had for this album that had been targeted for the last one?
TG: “Ain’t no Law Against That,” “Simple things” and “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
OS: And they work better on this album than they would have on the last one?
TG: Yes. “Work Hard, Play Harder,” I wrote that song with two buddies [Jim Collins and Rivers Rutherford] and it was written for Montgomery Gentry. I am the writer and I know what we are looking for. This is straight up Montgomery Gentry music and how it didn’t make the last record, I don’t know. An artist writing for his own record knows what he wants to sing! Well, that’s in the past.
With what’s going on in the economy and politically, thank gosh we were able to hold this song. It actually ends up [being released] at a better tme and place for us and for what is going on in America. When people hear the song, it will have more of an impact on them and make a lot more sense (than if it was released earlier).
OS: I’ve read some of your past interviews, and it sounds like you were almost like two kids in a candy store, working on this album.
TG: We were like two kids in a candy story especially in the studio working with [producer] Michael Knox and we had some session players who have played on our projects before and some new guys. It was a lot of fun and we were very passionate about the songs we picked so we were very hands on in the studio. We were there all the time. If anyone was going to do an overdub or play on something, we were always there to hear it. It was exciting to be in the studio.
OS: So what do you see happening next for Montgomery Gentry besides supporting this album? What are you most excited about?
TG: Well, I know we are just starting in on [promoting] this album, but I am looking forward to get backing into the studio with Michael Knox again and all the cats that played on this record and doing it all over again.
OS: Wow, that’s saying something!
TS: I think it’s like a breathe of fresh air. Things can get stale when they are set in the same pattern after time after time after time. Change is good and it has blown new life into Montgomery Gentry. The creative freedom Average Joe’s us has excited us to a new level to create the album we did this time. It’s like a whole new leaf has turned and energized Eddie and I to get back out here and do what we love to do and make great music.
For more about Montgomery Gentry, their music, and their tour dates, check their Web site.
Take a look at Montgomery Gentry’s Video for their new song “Where I Come From”.