One of country music's biggest acts, Montgomery Gentry, will take the stage at Dover Downs Friday, Sept. 21 in support of their latest album, "Rebels on the Run," that promises to take fans back to their Montgomery Gentry roots with country anthems, highlighting the working class backrounds of both Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry.
Eddie Montgomery took a moment from his hectic home-life in Kentucky to talk about his start in music, the new album, touring and the current state of country music.
DP: You've been making music and playing since your childhood, right?
EM: Yeah, we kind-of make a joke about it. My mom was a drummer, my dad was a guitar player and the bartenders were our babysitters. And, Troy's dad owner the bar they played at so that's pretty much what we've always done. Just play music.
DP: So, you've known Troy your whole life then?
EM: Almost. Shoot, we've known each other longer than he's known his wife and I've known my ex-wife. It gives us a different background. It's really, really great. You play off each other on stage and you've got somebody up there going through it all with you. Because, let me tell you, it's hard work, as a single artist to get up there for an hour and a half or two hours and keep everyone's attention. This way, me and him both get a break and we play off each other. And, we've known each other so long that we know what each other is going to do or we know if one isn't feeling great or needing something during a show to, you know, rock it out.
DP: How have your musical interests changed over the years?
EM: I tell you, I grew up on the stars like the Haggards, Weylon and Willie and Skinard. And, mostly to us, we also were into a lot of local figures. We went around and seen people playing in bars because Kentucky was, at the time, a place with music on every corner every night of the week.
DP: So, what did that do for you to grow up around so many local musicians?
EM: Well, it lets you see and hear all their influences and you know, they were great teachers. They would teach you their style. Like my dad, he grew up on Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis. Chuck Berry and stuff like that. And, of course, Hank Senior. But, in a honky tonk, you couldn't just play the stuff you'd play in a country bar, you'd also have to do rock n' roll. So, growing up with my dad in that era, we would hear him play all these different styles of music and I reckon we just soaked it up.
DP: What was the best advice you got from all these local musicians?
EM: Let me tell you, my dad always gave me the best advice. My brother and I—I call him John Boy, y'all call him John Michael—would talk to my dad and he would tell us, 'Boys, if this is what y'all want to do, it's worse than any drug in the world because there's no cure for it. And, if you're going to make it, you got to eat it, sleep it and breathe it.' And, that's probably the best advice there is because that's what we've done. We ate it, slept it and breathed it. And, we rehearsed everyday and played every night. And, you know, we wanted everyone in our band to be the same. We didn't want to be weekend musicians. We wanted to be full-time musicians. And, that's the kind of people we got to play in our band.
DP: Recently, you were working on songwriting. What's your songwriting style like?
EM: You know, it's wild because it just kind-of pops in my head and I might hear what we call a hook, which is usually the title of the song. But, I might think of stuff or I might also have some friends coming over, telling something about what they've done or something that's happened to them and something will just click in my head and I'll start writing.
DP: Is there anything that's off limits when writing songs?
EM: Not for me. I think, in writing music, you can't really do that. I mean, it just comes out as what it is and it comes out of your heart and your mind.
DP: Are you surprised sometimes by the songs that your fans latch on to?
EM: Yeah, sometimes. Or, with some songs, you'll go, 'Hell, I can't believe I didn't think of that to write that.' Or, on the other hand, I wrote the song, 'One in Every Crowd' and I can't believe that hadn't been written before. But, my dad always says, 'Well, every song's been written but it's just how you write it.' You might just have a different way of saying it.
DP: So, what kinds of music do you like to listen to right now?
EM: Right now? I tell you, I like Brantley Gilbert. I like Trent Tomlinson. Those are two that I really really like a lot. But, I tell you, it's kind of wild, when you're writing songs, you usually try to stay away from listening to music. Because, if you don't, you'll hear, 'Hey, you stole that from me.' So, you have to watch it so a lot of times I won't even listen to country. I'll go and listen to, oh I don't know, it might even be hip hop or something.
DP: Do you really listen to hip hop?
EM: Oh yeah. I listen to all of it. I'm a musician. I listen to Dean Martin. Hell, when we're rocking, it might be Michael Jackson or Merle Haggard or Ozzy Osbourne. I love it all.
DP: What do you think about county music today and the pop influence that's taken over much of it?
EM: You know, I'll tell ya—some of it, I like the hell out of it and some of it sucks. And, that's just the bottom truth. And, some of it, I'll go, 'I like this. I like how they wrote that, I like the groove. And, then, some of it I'll go, this is crap.'
DP: Are you more lyrically or musically driven?
EM: You know, I think it goes hand in hand. I think you got to have that signature lick. I grew up old school that way and I look for that hook and that story. But, to me, everybody in their mind, it always comes back to that signature lick, like 'Sweet Home Alabama' or Merle Haggard's 'Working Man Blues.' It's got that signature and people latch on to it and know it the minute they hear it.
DP: So, what's different about your new album, "Rebels on the Run?"
EM: I tell you what, when we left Sony—we got signed to Sony in 1997—and, it's just like anything else. All the corporations were downsizing and Sony was downsizing and the easiest way to put it is that they had too many cooks in the kitchen and nobody could make up their minds. And, they didn't know what songs to include but Troy or T Roy as I call him, we know ourselves. We don't call our fans, fans. We call them friends and we know who are friends are and what they expect when they come and see us. So, everybody at Sony was scared. So, when we went over to Average Joes Entertainment, our record label, they told us to go make a record and just bring it to them. So, we hooked up with our good buddy, Michael Knox, went into the studio and just had a ball writing and cutting the CD. And, it felt just like when we started out in 1997 when we cut, 'Tattoos and Scars,'
DP: So, it's a throw back to your roots then?
EM: Yeah. Yeah, I would say that. I think it's raw and in your face and that's what I like. And, it's very, very real. It's not slick and it's not bubble-gum.