An exclusive interview with Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry

Duo’s new album will be out three days before Winstock appearance

By Ryan Gueningsman

For Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry – the two men who make up the duo Montgomery Gentry – going back when they knew it all is more than just a figure of speech.

The slogan has quickly become their fastest-rising chart single of the duo’s almost 10 years in the country music industry.

An album also titled “Back When I Knew It All” is set to be released Tuesday – just three days before they’re set to headline the 15th anniversary celebration of the Winstock Country Music Festival in Winsted Friday at 10:30 p.m.

More than just a slogan, the party boys of country music took the message to heart and went back to their roots when choosing songs for the new album.

“When talking with Joe Galante and the folks over at Sony BMG on this album, he was wondering if we could go back to the harder side of Montgomery Gentry,” explained Gentry in a phone interview last week. “Joe made reference to one of his favorite albums, one that did really well for us, the “My Town” album. It had a place for a country song or two in it, but it was edgy and in your face, and he wanted to get more back of that kinda sound. So, going into the studio with these songs, that was the sound we were looking to get out of this album.”

Mission accomplished.

The title track off the album is one that tells you just who Montgomery Gentry is, but it also shows they haven’t forgotten the roots that garnered their first hits like “Daddy Won’t Sell The Farm,” and “Hillbilly Shoes.”

When it comes to “Back When I Knew It All,” Gentry said as soon as they heard it, they knew it was a good thing.

“When we heard the song, we knew it was a hit for Montgomery Gentry off the bat,” Gentry said. “A buddy of ours, Trent Willmon, a writer on that song, brought the song to us and we just kinda knew it was a hit. In listening to the song, it just reminds us of the days growing up – it reminded me of all the do’s and don’ts coming from mom and dad; you know, the path of life that shoulda been taken.”

Their next single could either be a song called “Roll With Me,” or “Long Line of Losers,” both which are featured on the new release.

While this album gets back to the rough and tough side of Montgomery Gentry, their previous release, “Some People Change,” showed a softer side of the group.

“We had a lot of emotion and attachments with the songs, singing more about family and life and our faith and stuff,” Gentry said. “It meant a lot to Eddie and I because of what you can that bring to your live shows having those songs.”

The combination and diversity of hits from the duo’s past six albums, plus new material from “Back When I Knew It All” adds an entire new dynamic to a live Montgomery Gentry show.

“It’s still going to be a rockin’ show, and be in your face – a very high-energy show,” Gentry said. “For the true Montgomery Gentry fans that have seen multiple shows, the great thing about coming out with a new album is you can put the new songs into the show, so it kinda mixes things up for the fans out there – the people that have come to the concerts and seen it before. It adds new elements to the show.”

While it may be good to add new material and keep it fresh, knowing how to entertain a crowd is something Montgomery Gentry has never been shy about.

“Eddie and I, when we go out and when we hit the stage – it’s full throttle,” Gentry said. “It’s always been about entertainment for us. At the clubs back at home, all the clubs we’ve played – if you didn’t keep people entertained, you didn’t play the clubs very long.

“Eddie and I’ve always been about getting up there and trying to entertain and make people feel like they’re a part of the show and try to create energy so that they’re having fun, because we do feed off that. The more fun the crowd’s having, the more fun we’re having – and that’s what we want the crowd to do is have fun. It works back and forth.”

Plenty of fans to feed off of are in store for the two this summer as they hit the road with Toby Keith in between their own headline dates.

“We’re doing around 38, maybe 40 shows, with Toby Keith this year on his tour, which is called the Biggest and Baddest Tour,” Gentry said. “Eddie and I have been excited about getting this tour together. We’ve been talking with Toby over the last couple of years trying to make it happen, and we did this year.

“You know, Eddie and I have been around – this is our seventh studio album, and with the hits we’ve had and all the hits Toby’s had, it’s going to be non-stop hits for about three- and-a-half hours. It’s going to be a lot of great music. Toby’s got a couple of his new acts that are going to be on the bill with us as well, so it’s going to be a lot of great music there on his tour.”

Gentry explained that when they do shows with Keith, they’re actually on stage less than when they headline their own shows like Winstock.

“The great thing about when we go off to our shows is that we’ll get to play a little bit longer,” he said. “I think we’re doing just a little over an hour with Toby, When we headline, we get 90-plus minutes of music, sometimes almost up to two hours.”

Montgomery Gentry has long been known for its high-energy shows and in-your-face hits. Almost 10 years ago, they were responsible for introducing something back into the country music industry that seemingly had been missing for some time.

“I think what we did do, at the time we came out, was to bring something back to the format that’d been missing for a long time,” Gentry said. “When we were talking to music programmers and radio folks, when we first came out, they were saying it was a breath of fresh air. They were excited to play our music because it was more up-tempo, it added more of a southern rock kinda influence, and it’s something that had been missing from their format.”

“We kinda brought back the up-tempo, rocking kinda stuff back to radio, which, as far as knowing that, it makes me feel good we contributed something and helped be a part of, I guess, a new direction.”

After Montgomery Gentry came out, artists like Gretchen Wilson, Big and Rich, and Miranda Lambert also launched their careers, and many of them can thank Montgomery Gentry for their stuff being played on country radio

“I think it opened up the door for other artists saying ‘hey, my music will be accepted by country radio,’ or ‘my music will be accepted in the country format,’” Gentry said.

Some artists today cite Montgomery Gentry as a musical influence, but for the two, they go back to the southern rock sound,

“We had a lot of influences,” Gentry said. “I guess some of our top influences would be Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Waylon, Willie, Hank Junior, and those kinda folks. Alabama. We looked up to a lot of the people we were covering all the time – the southern rock kinda feel was what we were into at the time.”

Even with the southern rock feel, Eddie and Troy are excited about returning to the northern part of the country and sharing their music.

“That’s always been a great market for us,” Gentry said. “It’s amazing how many country music fans and listeners there are in that area. We were just talking earlier about that, between Minnesota and Wisconsin, there are more outdoor events in those two states alone than probably any three states combined anywhere else. Everybody just digs country music up there. There’s such a bigger audience and everybody loves to get out and come see concerts. It’s always been a great market for us and we’re excited to get back up there.”

Along for the ride again this year is their tour sponsor, Jim Beam.

“We’ve proudly been working with them going on eight or nine years now,” Gentry said. “We created a great partnership with them, and they’ve been a great help for us out on the road as far as sponsorships. It’s expensive to travel out there, so it’s great to have them as a partner. It definitely helps us out as an act on the road. It covers some of the rising costs of traveling.”

The rising costs of gasoline isn’t something that artists are immune to, but Gentry said it hasn’t hit the group too hard – yet. Between Montgomery and Gentry and their crew, they have four busses and one tractor trailer.

“When we finally start getting out and hitting all these weekends, and we get a big long run on the California coast, we’ll feel it – it won’t be long before we start feeling the costs and effects of the rising fuel economy,” Gentry said.

Maybe things like that are part of what helps “keep it real” for Eddie and Troy. Always known as a group that’s not afraid to meet and spend time with its fans, the two will go the extra step and enjoy a cold beverage alongside of them.

“A lot of that, I think, can be attributed to where we came from, and being in the clubs and everything so long,” Gentry said “We love being out there with all the people we play and entertain, and that’s kinda kept us grounded.

“Between our parents, and everybody we’re surrounded with, Eddie and I are not contentious at all. I mean, we’re people like anybody else. We put our pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else. It’s part of the mindset that I am not any better than anybody else that walks the face of this earth. I think the people that come to see the shows and stuff appreciate that.”

Winstock fans will be sure to appreciate the latest chapter of Montgomery Gentry, and welcome it with open arms. It stems to that back and forth relationship the group has with its fans.

“You’re great hosts,” Gentry said. “It makes it fun to come back. We’re excited to get back up north and play to all the wonderful fans that help make Montgomery Gentry as successful as we are, and we’re ready to tear down and have a good time with everybody.

Some of Montgomery Gentry’s hit songs

• “Back When I Knew It All”

• “Hell Yeah”

• “If You Ever Stop Loving Me”

• “What Do Ya Think About That”

• “Something To Be Proud Of”

• “Gone”

• “My Town”

• “She Don’t Tell Me To”

• “Some People Change”

• “Hillbilly Shoes”

• “Daddy Won’t Sell the Farm”