Eddie Montgomery Loves His Country, His Opry And His Honky-Tonk
After just a few minutes of speaking with Eddie Montgomery, his passions are clear—his country and his music. Montgomery’s hardy, dry sense of humor seems like it was probably picked up in the small town Kentucky bar where his dad used to play guitar on Saturday nights.
It’s his 10th year as part of the duo Montgomery Gentry, and it’s been a successful one, to say the least. In May, the duo was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and, once again, Eddie and Troy are nominated for the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year Award.
In a decade, the duo has scored 14 Top 5 hits, sold millions of albums, and remains a major force on the road. But as Montgomery speaks about family, honky-tonks, growing up, and UK basketball—it’s hard to tell that he ever left Danville, Kentucky.
PEIRCE GREENBERG: Thursday night you guys did a show in Atlanta as part of a campaign to support the troops. What was that event like?
EDDIE MONTGOMERY: It was off the hook, man. First off, before we go any further, this is the greatest country in the world. We can dream as big as we want to in this great country and the reason why is all of the American heroes, past and present. I tell ya, if I can get on stage and just sing a little bit to give back for what they’re doing for all of us here in America, I’ll do it every chance I get.
We had a lot of service members that were there last night with their family, and that was great to see. Vault and Coca-Cola have not only helped the troops but all of their families and we just want to make sure that me and T get to do our part. Plus, Vault has all these postcards sent out that are pre-addressed and everything—you can pick them up at the Vault stand-ups in the store, which is us, and just write a small letter on it and we’ll make sure it gets to the heroes. I’ll tell you right now, especially with the holidays coming up, it’s great sometimes when you’re sitting in a foxhole for 24 hours a day and somebody brings you a postcard and they just tell you how much they appreciate it.
PG: What would you write on a postcard to the heroes?
EM: I’d definitely want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me, and also, they’re letting my kids dream as big as they want to dream, and I really appreciate that I know my kids can walk out and go to the store and not have to be subject to all the stuff that’s going on around the world. I would want to thank them and tell them how much we miss them over here. And we can’t wait. The bottom line is, when this war is done—and I wish it was done tomorrow—we’re going to throw a hell of a party for them when they come back home.
PG: Shifting gears a little bit, 2009 has been a big year for you and Troy, especially with the Opry Induction earlier this year. Were you guys expecting that at all?
EM: No. It was so unbelievable. It just freaked me out—what a surprise. You only dream that—that’s stuff you only hear about in fairy tales, man.
I was born and raised in a honky-tonk family. I make a joke about it all the time. Me and my brother—I call him John boy, most call him John Michael—we were born in a honky-tonk and we were raised in a honky-tonk. The joke was—my dad played guitar, my mom played drums, and the bartenders were our babysitters because honky-tonk musicians didn’t make a whole lot.
My dad believed in it so much—it was in his heart. As we were coming up, he’d listen to the Grand Ole Opry and I remember sitting out and listening to it as a kid on the radio on WSM. I remember he used to always talk about, whenever the awards show came on, no matter how many awards you get, you haven’t made it until you get to play in and become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. When that happens, then you know you’ve made it.
My dad’s hard work and his dream, it really paid off because it had me dreaming that whole time of playing the Opry and I never would have ever thought that I could be a member.
PG: On the night of the induction you got visibly emotional. What was going through your head at that moment?
EM: I think my dad was probably just looking down on me from heaven. I’m sure they’ve got honky-tonks in heaven and I’m sure he was playing music up there. I think he was smiling really really big and jumping up and down.
PG: Is there an added pressure now that you’re Montgomery Gentry, members of the Opry?
EM: I don’t know if it’s pressure, but I want to make sure that we always stand for country music and we stand for the American Dream and we want to help more people be into country music. We want to get more people there as much as we can. We want to show what the legend is about the Opry. To me, the Grand Ole Opry is what made country music—that’s the bottom line. I really want to see it respected by the younger artists, and some might not know what it really is—they’ve heard of it, but they don’t know what it really is.
Until you get in there and walk through the Ryman and you see these pictures and you feel these ghosts. There are ghosts in there. I promise you, man, you can feel them when you walk through that hall. And to meet legends like Little Jimmy Dickens—I got to meet Mr. Wagoner, Jimmy C. Newman, John Conlee—to sit down and listen to these guys’ stories, it’s just unbelievable. When you hear these stories, it’ll just floor you.
PG: Once again, you guys have been nominated for CMA Vocal Duo of the Year. Do you put much stock in awards shows?
EM: It’s always nice when you get awards and stuff, but I’ve always been about the music first. When you do grow up in the honky-tonks, it’s about the people in the stories. The richest guy in the world can walk in and the poorest guy can walk in. The guy that just got a raise and the biggest promotion to the biggest job in the country, and then there’s the guys and girls that come in and just lost their gigs.
Somebody’s getting married, somebody’s getting divorced. And to me, when one of them people come up and say “Man, you don’t know how much that song helped me get to this point in my life” or “This song right here done this for me,” there is no bigger award than that. That’s when you realize, I must be doing something right.
PG: Also nominated in the same category is, of course, Brooks & Dunn. I know you guys have toured with them over the years. What were your thoughts when you heard they would be calling it quits?
EM: I was laughing my ass off! Do you feel those tears crying down my eyes? (Laughing)
I gotta be honest with you, I love the hell out of Ronnie and Kix both. They took us out on tour, they’ve been nothing but unbelievable to us, and they didn’t have to. They’re legends themselves. They are legends. I hate to see them really go. To me, it’s not really even a contest. They’ve been out there a lot more years. If there’s a better country singer than Ronnie Dunn, I don’t think I’ve heard it. I think they’ll get back together at some time and do some more touring, but I wish them both the best.
They’re a class act. I really do appreciate them. You hear some horror stories about other genres of music about “these people are assholes,” so I really appreciate it when you’ve got guys like Ronnie and Kix and how nice of guys they are. Anybody knows that in our business, it’s a cutthroat damn business and to see Ronnie and Kix, when we first came out, take us in and go “Yeah, man, the more duos, the more power.”
We’ve been trying to steal everything we can steal from them, brother. And you don’t want to steal from somebody that sucks.
PG: Definitely—and speaking of longevity—you guys have been together for 10 years now.
EM: Getting ready to start our 11th year, can’t believe it. And on the same label! That’s unheard of nowadays.
PG: Where does Montgomery Gentry go from here?
EM: You know, brother, we’re going to keep trying to make better music and we’re going to keep listening to these stories. We’ve always sung about the working class and America and that’s what we’re going to sing about. And let me tell you, there’s a new story happening everyday out there. The simplest way to say it is: we’re going to sing about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the party on the weekends, baby!
PG: You guys have been pretty consistent on hitting those themes—musically and production-wise, too. Do you foresee anything changing on that front?
EM: Well, we thought about doing a rap/heavy metal album. (Laughing) Well, that would suck wouldn’t it?
PG: Probably, no offense.
EM: Shoot, who knows? Of course, we believe in the man upstairs more than anything in the world so as much as we like to raise hell, we love to sing gospel ditties too. There could be some gospel stuff going on. We’re going to take it where the path leads us. Life is very short, so we’re going to love every minute of it.
PG: I know you probably get this question a lot, and I’m sure Ronnie and Kix have too, but is there any yearning for you guys to do some things solo or is Montgomery Gentry it?
EM: You know, we thought about going solo, but we’ve both got video on each other, so we ain’t. It’s funny that you ask that. We were friends before we had done any of this. This wasn’t something that Nashville just put together. Me and T were buddies, we played in night clubs—and his dad owned one of the night clubs we played in. We actually do have videotape on each other that will hopefully never ever surface.
But we enjoy singing together and I don’t know if we’re just too lazy to do solo or if we just depend on each other to cover each other’s ass, I don’t know. Right now, we’re loving doing what we’re doing. Even if one of us goes out and sings a song with someone else, that doesn’t mean we’re going to go solo.
PG: Closing up real quick here, I heard a rumor that you were a big Kentucky basketball fan. Any thoughts on the upcoming season?
EM: Brother, I’ve got my Kentucky shirt and stuff on right now. I’m Big Blue Madness! Most people get a pacifier when they’re born. I got a basketball and a bottle of Jim Beam.
All I can say is everybody better watch out. We’ll try not to run up the score on anyone. I can’t wait. John Calipari is unbelievable. He’s already shown what kind of recruiting he can do. Hell, we have more wins than anybody in the world. Kentucky basketball is back. I can’t wait and I’m not sure we’ll win the national championship this year, but next year we’ll own it.
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